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Goodbye Colorado!

Hello all:

Sorry this has taken so long to post; honestly, I've been putting it off for a while now. I can't believe the best two years of my life are already over! I suppose this will be the final entry I'll make on this blog.

My parents came to pick me up and tour the mission my last day; we visited members and people I'd been working with, and I just didn't really want to go. It was super weird seeing my parents meet the mission president!

I'm going to miss being a missionary. I love the having the title, "Elder," and the important sense of mission and purpose. I love the schedule. I love the wonderful spirit that attends that calling. When my stake president released me, and I had to remove the badge that carries the name if my Savior, and mine as His representative, it actually hurt. It's been weird these past few days getting used to being a normal person.

I've now been home and released for all of 4 or 5 days. I'm learning how to cope, but I'm still unconsciously answering the phone saying, "Hello this is Elder Watkins," and I feel funny driving without someone in the backseat. It has been great to be with my family, friends (and girlfriend) again, but I also called 3 sets of elders in the stake, practically begging to go on exchanges and to teaching appointments.

I'm nervous, but excited to move on to the next phase of my life. I hope I can remember and apply the lessons of my mission throughout each new development in mortality.

Also, I finally buckled and got a facebook account, as well as a mormon.org account, so anyone interested may follow me there:


I hope you all have enjoyed following up on my experiences in the mission field. I have been surprised when so many of you comment on what I've posted-- I didn't know I had more than a few readers! I hope we can all press forward with a missionary-like enthusiasm in our work.

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. I love this  Gospel, and I love this work. I bear my witness of that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-- Elder (whoops!)... Matthew Watkins.

My very last blog post from Colorado

Hello all:

I can't believe this is my last P-Day. What a scary thought that is! In a few short days, I will hit my 2-year mark, and return home. From what others have told me, it sounds like a very interesting time to return to the East Coast-- earthquakes and hurricanes? Sounds fun.

Though in my heart, I can't grasp the fact that I'm nearly through, my mind is very aware of the quickly ticking clock, and even the most innocuous things pellet my thoughts with how little time I have left. Here are some examples I've noticed:

I have less days left than the number of:
  • Calories in 3 jellybeans
  • Fingers
  • Hours in one general conference
  • Books in the Books of Mormon
  • Companions I've had
  • Transfers I've been out
  • Ties I have
  • Baptisms on my mission (thankfully ☺)
Trunkie? No. But very aware that I only have a few precious days left to finish the Lord's errand here. I pray I can be aware of the opportunities all around me as I finish "the best two years of my life." Next time I write, it will be from North Carolina.

I witness the world that the Gospel is true. The Book of Mormon is "the most correct of any book on earth." Our Savior lives, and He guides His Church.

" The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done. "

Of that truth I bear my testimony in the name of that Master, whose name I will wear for at least a few more days, even Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113

Touching Lives

Hello all:

Things have been going great. Pres. Maynes conducted a special training for us on Thursday. It was fantastic. This mission is definitely going to grow a lot in the next few years under his leadership. I love this mission. It's the most rewarding work in the world. The thrill or participating in the salvation of God's children is immeasurable.

Yet how quick we are to forget that feeling of that success. It's hard to keep in mind the baptisms, the reactivations, and the subsequent joy of the work while you're rejected at every turn by non-members and less-actives. But as long as we can keep those joys in mind and "remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men" (Moro. 10: 3), then nothing can keep us from spreading our fire to the rest of the world.

I've learned that it's all about desire. When a desire for something becomes strong enough, we invariably act on it. Our choices are determined by what we desire most. Many less-actives and investigators we work with have somewhat of a testimony, and a desire to repent and receive the blessings of activity in the Church, but when 9:00 Am Sunday morning rolls around, they discover that their desire to attend Church is superseded by their desires to watch TV, sleep in, take a trip, run errands, or even lounge about in laziness. Their desires for the eternal joy of Gospel faithfulness are superseded by their desires for the fleeting pleasures of the world.

For almost two years of my mission, I have been educating, instructing, and teaching pure doctrine-- giving others the" know-how" of achieving eternal life, but for some reason, it never has seemed to work. Now I know it is not a problem of simply education; rather, many do not act because they do not have a sufficient desire. Instead of simply teaching lessons and refreshing doctrinal understanding, we need help strengthen their desires to receive blessings.

On a personal level, my desire has changed on my mission. I started out with simply the desire to "be an obedient, hard-working missionary and to do my work and gain my reward." Now I have a desire to "invite others to come unto Christ" and share the blessings to eternal life. How tragic that it's taken almost two years to realize that! Luckily, I still have a few moments left. We can get a few more investigators. We can help a few more less-actives. Maybe we can have a few more baptisms.

But one thing's for sure-- we can touch a few more lives.

New (and final) companion

Hello All:

Transfers were on Tuesday. I'm staying here in the Eagle Valley Ward with a new companion, Elder Isac Valdes Tolentino, from Coahuila, Mexico. He's been out a little longer than a year, and his English is only slightly better than my Spanish. It makes for a good companionship; we get to translate for each other a lot.

The work is going great. This past week, it has really picked up. We taught 22 lessons, and had a few families with whom we've been working for a while attend church on Sunday! We've also picked up a few former investigators missionaries taught here a year ago. The Spirit is with us, and we're excited to see the blessings that the Lord has for the people in this area... and for us, too! =)

Pres. Maynes came to our area on Sunday to perform interviews as he does every other transfer. Mission Presidents are really good at a lot of things, but they're best at expressing sincere love. He gave us some good instruction to help us become the best we can be this transfer, and we both have personal goals to work on.

Here's a bit of Scriptural insight I gained as I read in the Book of Mormon this week:

Certainly we all remember the fantastic missionary companionship of Alma and Amulek. I want to emphasize for a moment the way Amulek refers to his "trainer" and "senior companion" when he speaks of Alma in Alma Chapter 10. As he recounts his angelic ministration, and the blessings that always attend someone who houses missionaries (v. 7 and 11), he refers to Alma with great respect and reverence, calling him "a prophet of the Lord," "a holy man," and "a chosen man of God."

Not long afterwards, times get very rough, very quickly, and Amulek sacrifices everything he owns for the Gospel of Christ: "all his gold, and silver, and his precious things... for the word of God, he being rejected by those who were once his friends and also by his father and his kindred" (Alma 15:16).

Following their mission, the believers' martyrdom, the total rejection of God by the city of Ammonihah, and the establishment of the Church in nearby Sidom, Alma compassionately "took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord" (Alma 15:18).

Seven years later on another mission, this time to apostate Zoramites in Antionum, Amulek refers many times in his preaching to Alma in Chapter 34:

And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do... (v. 3)
And ye also beheld that my brother has proved unto you... (v. 6)
My brother has called upon the words of Zenos... (v. 7)

No longer does Amulek refer to Alma solely as "a prophet of the Lord," "a holy man," and "a chosen man of God," but rather, his "beloved brother."

To missionaries, Elder Jefferey R. Holland gave this advice:

These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives.

I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more... If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us-- by the Spirit and by our friends. (Preach My Gospel, p. 185)

As missionaries, home and visiting teachers, leaders, and friends; whether within the membership of the Church, or with our non-member associates, I hope we can all follow the example of Alma, strengthening and comforting our brethren and sisters. Then we will no longer be just their Bishop, their home teacher, or their missionary, but their "beloved brother" ... or sister. We must love those we serve. Like Alma, may we all seek to listen, learn from, and love those we are "called to serve" or to serve with, in whatever station we may be in, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Noble Family Baptism

Hello all: We baptized Amanda and Haley on Sunday! (see pictures attached) E. Palma baptized Haley, and E. hunter returned from frisco to baptize Amanda. What a powerful Spirit accompanies baptisms!

Also, Pres. Maynes came and spoke in our ward-- it was completely awesome! I felt like we were getting a sneak peak at our upcoming Zone Conference. One fact he shared is that two years ago, our mission was averaging a yield of
one baptism from every 55
new investigators. Now, that number is up to one from every 10. That shows how far we've come as a mission.
I also have learned a very important principle-- a very great secret (at least, in my eyes). Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel focuses on Christlike Attributes, and we are encouraged to continually seek to self-improve; our personalities, patience levels, and desires all need constant renovation. But for a long time I've thought that simply acting like the person you want to be will make you become that person inside as well. I suppose many people think the same way. And so we bite our tongues in a moment of anger, hoping absence of ill-willed words will create an absence of ill-willed thoughts. So also do we express the loving concern we hope to eventually feel. But this approach, unaided, is terribly slow and less-effective than we often appreciate. Sarcasm, impatience, and judgment often remain in our minds and hearts, even though we have the good sense not to accept or express them. I found my own insight in the Book of Mormon. Alma 31:5 tells of Alma's missionary game plan for reclaiming the apostate Zoramites:

And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.

As I pondered on that, I remembered how Alma's missionary grandsons, Nephi and Lehi, reclaimed half of the Nephite lands simply by preaching the word (Hel. 5:50-52).

Then, when the Gandiantons "entrenched themselves in the land," those righteous Lamanites "did
use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth" (Hel 6:20). Finally, when every other tactic proved unsuccessful, "they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites."

How powerful is the word of God! Over the past while, I haven't been using my study time most effectively. With Church, District Meetings, Zone Conferences, Transfers, Interviews, and other activities eating many of my morning study times every week, I often simply rush through a chapter or listen to a talk and call my study good. But it doesn't really sink in. And so I've been experiencing the frustration of wondering why I'm not progressing very far spiritually. Boyd K. Packer summed up my point like this:

"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." (Preach My Gospel, p. 19).

I know it sounds weird, but if we study-- really study our Scriptures, we will start to change and improve. We will receive revelation, and experience a mighty change of heart. As I've applied this lesson, I've found my thoughts more focused, my attitude happier, and my spirit cleaner. My desires and my heart have changed. I'm growing much better than I was. I hope I never forget that lesson from my mission-- study, study, study!

-- Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission

Trying a different approach

Today for P-Day, we went fishing ( for those of you former Zone Leaders, yes, fishing's approved). We went to the Gypsum Ponds, more accurately known as Gypsum Puddles. At first we were excited, because fish were literally jumping out of the water every few minutes, but our enthusiasm quickly died when it became apparent that leaping out of the water was their own way of saying, "This bait looks and smells like irradiated Silly Putty-- go get something else!" After 4 grueling hours, we hadn't even had a half-hearted nibble.

Suffice it to say we will use different baits next week-- hot dog, gummie candies, actual worms, pieces of bread-- anything but the goop stuff we've been using.

Anyways, as I sat, pole in hand, surrounded by uninterested fish, I got to thinking about the similarities between our wasted P-day fishing excursion, and our usual missionary work. We learned today that in fishing, if one approach isn't working, you need to try something else. Our 4 hours of persistence with the same bait got us nothing but a sunburn.

Likewise, in missionary work, you get so into the rut of your own personalized "script" and memorized door approaches that it becomes really awkward to try something new-- much harder than taking off the goop and skewering on the worm-- but surely it must be worth the effort. I believe the Spirit taught me that I need to experiment with and improve upon on my door approaches and teaching techniques.

So there's some personal revelation I received on how to better "save" people. Ironic that my altruistic revelation came while trying to impale an innocent creature with a barbed piece of metal wrapped in deception. Oh well, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Hope you all have a good week! If you go fishing, make sure to bring a variety of bait types, and if you share the Gospel, don't memorize it-- let the Spirit guide.

Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113
Sorry this will be so short-- gotta head out-- lots to do.

Well it looks like the snow pack on the mountains all around us is finally melting away. This is a combination of good and bad.

God news is spring is here, and the hills and valley are erupting in vibrant colors of green as the world gets the moisture so long frozen in 9 feet of snow on the peaks.

Bad news is the rivers are going to swell far over their banks and some houses are likely going to flood. We had fun helping out in sandbagging one are in particular.

Now that many of the mountains are passable, E. Palma and I decided to head up for a bit of fun Here's our pictures of the event. We pretended to push each other off a very real cliff, went to go see the volcano (yes, that's right-- volcano) right above Dsotsero, and scared our office staff by sending them a picture of us in a wrecked (not ours) car.

Hope everything's going well at home. Love you!
Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113

Hello all:

Not a whole lot of time to write this week. Just wanted to post pictures of Coby's baptism from Sunday. It was a pretty special experience-- a lot of members showed up to support him, and the Spirit was really strong. He understands the basics of the Gospel really well, perhaps better than most of the adults we teach. But then kids are that way-- they don't often try to over complicate things and "look beyond the mark." I used to think it was cutting it close to baptize kids at 8-9 years old because they maybe wouldn't have a good enough comprehension to understand the covenant they are entering into.

But now I realize that they are the best candidates for baptism-- we need to get them taught the Gospel and baptized before they turn into adults and subsequently forget how to understand the Gospel as it's truly meant to be understood.
I hope to develop the faith and childlike simplicity of the Gospel that Coby showed on Sunday. Maybe then I could be the type of missionary that I long to be.

Hope everything goes well!
Elder Watkins

Hello all:

I wish to describe what has happened over the past 9 months in the mission field, using as my text Helaman 3: 24-26:

And it came to pass that in this same year there was exceedingly great prosperity in the church, insomuch that there were thousands who did join‍ themselves unto the church and were baptized unto repentance.
And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the [missionaries and mission president] were themselves astonished beyond measure.

And it came to pass that the work of the Lord did prosper unto the baptizing and uniting to the church of God, many souls, yea, even... thousands.

Just as the ancient Nehpite church, this mission has taken off and reached levels of success we had never thought possible under the dynamic leadership of Pres. Maynes. As we've relied on the Lord, our baptisms and less-active reactivations (both being conversions) have soared, even into the thousands. As we've relied on the Lord and sought His help in doing this work, we've seen the miracles of missionary work.

But it isn't enough. In our inspiring trainings on Friday. Pres. Maynes told us that we need to "catch fire." Jesus Christ told His Apostles, "I am come to send fire on the earth" (Luke 12:49). What kind of fire? It's the fire of the burning bush. It's the fire of the Pentecost. It's the fire of the incarcerated Nephi and Lehi (Hel. 5:43). In other words, it's the fire of the Spirit.

He cited example of many prophets and missionaries who "caught fire" with the Spirit and could not be restrained. Like Enoch, who preached with a loud voice, and, "and all men were offended‍ because of him," and thus exclaimed, "a wild‍ man hath come among us!" (Moses 6:37-38). Or like Jeremiah, who couldn't hold his tongue, though all people ridiculed him, and he was thrown into the stocks!

"Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But ‍ was in mine heart as a burning‍ fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not" (Jeremiah 20: 2, 8-9).
Not to mention the scores of other prophets and Apostles who caught that fire-- Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Peter, Paul, John, Alma, Helaman, Mormon, Moroni, Nephi, Samuel the Lamanite, and of course Abinidai (him, perhaps in a more literal sense).

I've been out now "a little over a year" (the mission lingo for "a pretty long time"), yet, I still feel I'm just starting to get it. I've only felt myself "catching fire" just recently, and I wish I could restart my mission for the beginning knowing what I know now. I would be so much more effective then.

But then I suppose every missionary feels that way. I will just have to make sure these next few months, I really keep that fire going, and don't let it die down. So let everyone be offended, and let them call me "wild man." Let them throw me in the stocks (or at least point angrily to the "No Soliciting" sign). I will not be still, and my voice will be heard, testifying to the world of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the Book of Mormon, or the Restored Church, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom they all testify.

I pray I will never back down in embarrassment or shame, nor ever again become nervous or hesitant to share my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Watkins

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

We're going to the mountains

Transfers! They're always so hectic! On Tuesday morning, I went to transfer meeting, and got sent out to the Eagle Valley Ward in Eagle/Gypsum/Dotsero and the surrounding towns Out West. I am certainly in the mountains. Each tiny town we cover has a maximum population of only a few thousand, and many have much less. We don't get many miles on our car, though, so we often end up biking within the towns. I've decided I hate biking in the mountains! I also really noticed the oxygen difference between here and Denver-- we're sitting comfortably at 6800 ft or so. It only takes a little bit of exertion to start panting and gasping.
On the way back from the transfer location last week, our rear left tire blew out on the freeway. That was fun. Hopefully we can get some new ones in from Denver tomorrow. As it is, we have to go really slow on the tiny spare.

My new companion, Elder Palma, is from Peru. He has been out about 9 months.
I've really enjoyed serving here so far-- my Spanish can keep up with... well, a good portion of the lessons and appointments. Some people speak a little too fast, but I can make out a lot, and my Spanish has definitely improved this past week.
The ward here is... really different from the Denver/Aurora area I'd been serving in for more than 18 months now. Everybody in the towns know each other, and we run into ward members multiple times per day. People here seem really friendly, and it has the small town feeling I've never experienced before. The ward is really nice, and very close knit.
Here are some pictures-- the whole place is absolutely beautiful, but especially the Glenwood Springs Canyon.
Well, I'm out of time. I hope everyone had a great Mothers Day. Hopefully, I can find a bit more time next week.

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

Voy a hablar español

Hello all:

I haven't updated in a while, mainly because there hasn't been a whole lot going on. Well, not things are changing. I got my transfer call last night from Pres. Maynes-- I am leaving the Hearther Ridge South area and headed to serve in another area with a new companion. He has also changed my calling-- he asked me to serve now as a Spanish-speaking missionary. I'm pretty excited. I've always enjoyed using my Spanish occasionally on my mission, and it will be cool to start really putting it to use. Don't know if it will be an all-Spanish area, or a mixed companionship. I guess I'll find out tomorrow morning at transfer meeting.

I've felt really good about these past two transfers her. A member gave us a 50-lb bag of rice at the beginning of March, and over 3 months, we've successfully depleted the supply. We've eaten rice almost every day. I've eaten more rice these past 3 months than these past 20 years combined, I'm sure. I love the stuff. Fist thing I'm doing in my new area is getting another big bag, and going to Goodwill or Arc to find a cheap rice cooker!

Oh yeah, and I'm happy for the baptism and missionary success we've had, too. That's always nice =)

I hope that everything's going well where y'all are. I keep hearing about whirlwinds and "earthquakes on divers places." Stay safe, everybody! Keep praying for the work of the Lord-- He needs everyones' help!

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

Chris's baptism

Hello all:

Not a lot of time-- we got a really late start on things this P-Day, and the library is packed! But that's OK because there's not a whole lot of stuff to report. Zone Conference was great-- we had a great training on "burying our weapons of rebellion" and dedicating ourselves to being worthy of the miracles God wants to give us. I've realized that over the past few months, my "greenie fire" has been slowly petering out. I'm still pretty obedient and work a lot, but my inner enthusiasm has decreased a bit. I made a commitment to never let that happen again-- I've done OK at maintaining the zeal that I had going into the MTC, and I don't plan to lose it now! I love my mission, and I love being a missionary-- it is by far the best things in the world I could be doing right now, and I believe there are still some people out there that are waiting for me and my companion to find them.

Also, here's the picture of the baptism a few weeks ago. Chris is doing well, and is starting to sound more and more like a Mormon. =) He already has set a goal to perform baptisms for the dead next month, and will be ordained to the Priesthood soon. I've never seen a ward jump so quickly into the transition from us to the members-- that's the great benefit of having many solid fellowshippers-- when the investigator has friends in the ward at baptisms, then his conversion won't expire with our transfer. I hope more and more members can get involved in helping recent converts-- they really need the friendship and help.

Well, gotta go-- hope y'all have a fantastic week!

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

Hello all:

Hope everyone enjoyed general conference! I really liked a lot the talks that were given. As usual, the Priesthood Session was marvelous. How wonderful it is to hear the words of the modern Prophets and Apostles! I especially liked Elder Bednar's talk on revelation. Anyone who feels they don't receive answers to prayers should read that talk again, and again, and again.

This week, I wish to relate an experience from last April's General Conference-- one year ago. In mid-March, Elder Andersen and I were tracting, and making a special effort to apply prayer and revelation to finding where the Lord would have us go. We selected an area we called "the boot." We only had 45 minutes or so before an appointment in the area. When we'd tied up our bikes at the top of the street, I jokingly remarked to my companion, "Now which way should we go--right or left? Now think hard-- someone's salvation may be at stake!" We headed to the right. Nothing special, we thought.

Then we met Courtney. She was sitting outside drinking some hot chocolate, wearing a robe. She actually looked kinda sick (as we would later find out, she was fasting). We had a great discussion with her, teaching the principles of the Restoration. But at the end, she said, "I'm sorry boys, but I don't think I'll be interested in hearing more." She went on to explain that she had gone on a religious search when in her 20s after the Spirit had whispered during a service at her church that her church wasn't Christ's. After searching almost all the religions, and receiving a spiritual prompting each time that each one was not His, she concluded that Christ's true church must have fallen from the earth due to wickedness and pride, and that hopefully one day God would bring it back before the Second Coming. "You see boys," she said, " I don't just choose a church to attend-- I can receive personal revelation from the Spirit of God Himself!"

Well, as one can imagine, we were pretty excited, and begged her to apply that same test she's given to every other church, to ours. She declined, but accepted a pamphlet. That Sunday, she changed her mind, and tried to attend Sacrament Meeting, but got lost trying to find the chapel. She called us, and we invited her to the Sunday morning session the week following.

She arrived, saying very little-- just curt and polite. We sat down, and the session began. The opening prayer was offered, and we started to hear sniffles. By the time the Tabernacle Choir had finished the first verse of "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth," Courtney was bawling. Elder Andersen and I brought the tissues, and exchanged glances, "Well, she's either a nutcase, or the Spirit's really working on her."

When the session ended, she turned to us and said, "I apologize for breaking down like that at the beginning. It's just that... that was the first time I've ever felt the Spirit in a Church building before." After long pause, she continued, "Boys, when I came I was scripting out how I would politely decline your invitation to even attend another Mormon meeting, but... after this... I think I want to know more about your Church."

So we taught her. She came to Church again. After Sacrament Meeting, she remarked "Good thing I went to yourl Conference thing first, because this is the most boring Church service I've ever attended!..." and then quietly added, "but the Spirit's here, too."

She loved what we shared with her-- she gobbled up what we said like we elders gobble up pizza. She wanted everything, and she wanted it now. A million questions tends to slow down the lessons, but it's great because you know the investigator's sincere. We wasted no time in asking her to pray about the Book of Mormon and the Church. She seemed hesitant, and finally said she didn't want to. We were completely confused. "Courtney," we asked, "after all your experience in personal revelation and learning truth from God, how can you not believe that if you ask God in faith, He will let you know?"

She responded, "Every time I've asked that question in other churches, I've received a no, and I like this Church. I don't want to receive another no." Being more bold than I would ever feel comfortable, I responded, "Courtney, if God tells you this, too, is a false Church, you need to know. But we know that it is the Church of God, and that if you have faith, He will let you know that as well."

Reluctantly, she agreed. When she came to Church the next Sunday, she was beaming. She had asked. After reading but a chapter of the Book of Mormon, she knelt and asked our Father in Heaven, "is the Book of Mormon your word given through Joseph Smith, a true prophet?" From her head to her heels, she felt the warm confirmation of the Spirit of God whisper a wonderful "Yes," the first "yes" of her life.

Three days later, she set a baptismal date. A few days after that, we received a prompting that we needed to call her because she was reading anti. I shrugged off the prompting. When we went over for the next lesson, she had indeed been reading. 3 hours at Barnes & Nobles, and two anti books. When she told us, we cringed, fearing the worst. W began our mental preparation for her questions about polygamy, exaltation, the priesthood, and other junk people are always throwing at us. What we heard was not what I expected, though.

She said that as she read those books, she felt an awful darkness and sickening feeling come over her, which didn't leave for quite a while. She said that, as a law student, the arguments against the Church were nonsensical and trivial. Plus, not one of the authors and contributors ever invited the reader to pray and ask God concerning the validity of his work. One of the fondest memories of my mission is Courtney proudly declaring, "I have asked of God, and I have received and answer, and all the books in the world cannot take that away!"

She was baptized on April 20th.

Yes, a mission is hard, but it's the people like that who make you feel it's all worth it. It feels so great to be part of someone's walk towards Christ. it is awesome to see people make sacred covenants to follow the Savior. I love this work, and I love everyone here. I know that this work is true. I know that God is in it. I don't see His hand in it all the time, but on a few occasions, I can see both hands.

Likening the scriptures unto ourselves

Hello all!

Nothing much today-- just wanted to share this quick insight:

When I was in the MTC, our teacher, Bro. Jenkins, told us about how we can use the Book of Mormon to answer investigators' concerns (see Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel). I was dubious about some of the questions that it says the Book of Mormon can answer, like "How can I find work to support my family?" and "How can I help my teenagers avoid drugs and immorality?" I raised my doubts, and was surprised when he answered these questions by "likening the scriptures" unto real-life modern-day situations.

I've read through that Book several times now, but today, I actually took a while to ponder on a selection, and likened them to myself. The selection was Mosiah chapters 18-24. What initially seemed like just the latter end of the record of Zeniff now became so much more. Those short 7 chapters clearly teach:
  • The Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel-- faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (18:7-10)
  • The baptismal covenant (18:8-10)
  • The necessity of authority to perform priesthood ordinances, such as baptism (18:13, 18; 21:30-35)
  • The proper manner of baptism-- by immersion in water (18:14-15)
  • How Christ's Church must bear His name (18:17), and
  • What membership in Christ's Church requires (18:8-10, 19-30; 23:13-18)
It also points out in Chapters 22-24 an interesting contrast-- both the righteous people of Alma's congregation, and the wicked though eventually penitent people of King Limhi, go through the same trial (they both fall into bondage to the Lamanites [see 22:23]), but endure with different levels of faithfulness, and escape with different results.

Limhi's people spend many years in involuntary servitude (19:29), fightt 4 major, destructive wars, in the which thousands of lives are lost (20:6-7; 21:6-13), and are severely humbled by grievous trials (21:2-5, 13-15). After finding humility and contrition, they have to provide for themselves a precarious escape from their captors (21:36 - 22:16).

On the other hand, Alma's people are faithful, patient and diligent. First, they rely on the Lord when the Lamanites come upon them, and as a result, the transition to slavery is hard, but no lives are lost (23:25-29). They immediately turn to the Lord, and though He doesn't immediately free them from bondage, He does immediately help them bear their burdens and find peace in a difficult circumstance (24:14), and immediately assures them of an eventual deliverance (24:13). The promise of strength to bear is fulfilled (24:15), and people respond with cheerful hearts. with such optimism, it seems almost no time at all before the word of the Lord comes again, promising deliverance "on the morrow" (24:16-18). Their deliverance is completely miraculous-- no inebriating watchmen, or a fantastic rush out of town-- just simply a peaceful departure while the Lord keeps the guards deeply asleep (24:19-20). Immediately outside the city, they stop to give thanks to God (24:21-22).

The people of Alma learned their lesson in less time, with less loss, and with less trial than Limhi's people, whose hardened hearts required many wars and trials to find humility.

We, too have both ways before us-- will we choose the easy way, or the hard way? Will we learn what we need to learn, and do what we need to do when invited? Or will we force the Lord to continually hammer us with trials before we cry unto Him for deliverance, and admit our wrongs?

Do we "submit cheerfully" and let our burdens be "made light?" (24:14-15).
Or do we mourn and resist shouldering our burdens (21:3-13) and finally beg help (21:14) ?
Do we feel that the Lord responds quickly and kindly to our prayers, as to Alma's people?
Or do we find that He is "slow to hear our cries because of our iniquities" (21:13-15) ?
Do we hear the Prophet's counsel and follow it (23:27-28) ?
Or do we instead pester our leaders with complaints and suggestions (21:6) ?
When the Lord helps us out of tough situations, do we pause in our exit to "lift up our voices in the praises of our God" (24:20-22) ?
Or do we make a mad dash for the quickest road out of town?

As I ask myself these same questions, I realize that many times, I'm like the people of Limhi-- I only learn my lessons after inner wars and personal bondage. How much better to emulate the example of Alma and his people-- faithful, diligent, more trusting, and happier. Why do I always seem to want to learn the hard way?

I hope I and all of us can try harder to be more like Alma's people, and less like Limhi's. I pray we also can find deeper meaning in the Scriptures as we apply them to ourselves and our day, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Foot in Mouth

Hello all:

Sorry I haven't been updating my blog very frequently-- this is one of the less-exciting areas I've served in. We hope to have a baptism this Saturday, though, and another one or two to shortly follow.

Got transfer calls late last night-- Eler Westerlund is heading out to a new area, and I will be getting my new companion soon. We're expecting exciting things this next transfer-- miracles. President Maynes had the mission give some new trainings this past week-- instead of the traditional weekly "discussions" of up to 45 minutes each, we now are instructed to stop by for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times each week. In addition to hopefully doubling our current weekly lessons numbers, it should hopefully help to teach only one or two principles at a time, with a digestion period of a day or two. This will hopefully be easier than throwing a thousand unfamiliar doctrines and a baptismal commitment at them all at once, cramming it all into a short 45 minute discussion replete with questions to gauge comprehension (and a half-hour allotment for those talkative investigators).

Interesting experiences from this week:

Doctrine & Covenants 33 repeatedly states, "Open your mouths, and they shall be filled." But sometimes, what fills your mouth is not the Spirit, but your foot.

In my sacrament meeting talk on faith yesterday, I tried to make the point that our faith must be in Jesus Christ, and not on anything that could fail. To illustrate, I brought up several examples of where you wouldn't want to place your faith. Without thinking, I threw Santa Claus into the list, and pointed out to the entire congregation that being a fictional character, he's not someone we should have faith in. Only afterward did it occur to me that Primary kids attend Sacrament Meeting. Luckily, the sister following me began her talk with a testimony of the reality of Kris Kringle, but I still got a few parents remark to me that next time I want to tell their kids there's no Santa Claus from the pulpit, I may wish to confirm with them first. Oops-- I guess missionaries won't be speaking in Church again any time soon.

We tracted into a lady that night who said she was some sort of "Born-Again Ministry of Faith and Fellowship Community of the Risen Lamb Evangelical Western Methodist Church" or something like that (and I thought our name was long!) She said she was busy having a Bible Study. Without missing a beat, I asked if we could join her. After a few seconds of startled surprise, and another minute of concerned, whispered consulting with the group inside, they finally agreed. But they were really tense-- kept on glancing at us with worried faces, terrified we were going to start spouting demons or something. I was laughing my head off inside. But it went pretty well-- we had a good discussion on tithing and charity (not sure how it tied into the assigned reading of Galatians 6, but OK).

Then they started praying-- that was... interesting. Imagine a group of people holding hands chanting stuff and "rebuking stinginess in the name of Jesus" (hallelujah!), and commanding "the spirit of willing donation to enter me and completely posses me" (amen, hallelujah!) Repeat this about 7 times, getting louder each time. OK, so that part was kinda strange; I kinda value my agency, and don't really want to ask anything to posses me. Pastor T was pretty talented-- she was repeating her chants and hallelujahs at rapid-fire pace, while having a discussion with her daughter. Definite talent. Then they prayed for us, that we might have learned something there, and we left in good spirits. Definitely an educational experience. Gotta love those holy-rollers.

Well, gotta head to another appointment. Hope everything's going well, especially all of you who are taking finals. Keep up those prayers for Japan.

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

Heather Ridge Ward

Hello all:

Well, I guess you all deserve an update about my new area. I'm now serving in the Heather Ridge Ward, South Area. I'm back in the same district in which I started my mission-- the Crestmoor District. I am with a great Samoan missionary-- Elder Westerlund. So far, over all the dinner appointments, I have managed to keep up with him, and on a few occasions, even out-eat him. This is a significant feat, and I do take some pride in the accomplishment of keeping the mouth-stuffing pace with a Polynesian missionary. Downside: half my pants don't fit anymore. 3 transfers in a car in Foothills and one week stuffing myself here has taken its toll on the scales.

We have some great work going on here-- several investigators that area getting very close to baptism. I am excited for the success we expect There's likely going to be 2 baptisms over the next two transfers, and hopefully more on the way.

I've been getting more and more anxious as my 18-month mark approaches. Time is ticking by faster than my 24-speed can keep up with it. This is my 5th to last transfer. Considering how quickly the last 3 went, I'm really worried that I won't be able to get done all that I want to do in that amount of time. I'm nowhere near the level of missionary I want to eventually be, and I have so little time to rise to it.

My frustrations in that light remind me of the story my seminary teacher, Bro. Bonham, told me about his high school days. He ran track, and when the season began, he seemed to hit a wall. No matter how much he practiced and exerted himself every day, every week, he consistently ran the same time every single race for 4 consecutive races. Frustrated, he went to his coach, and voiced his disappointment. The coach listened, then quietly took out his records of the races, and gave them to Bro. Bonham. Each week, his running time decreased by a few fractions of a second. His coach then leaned back and said, "You may not have seen your progress. On that big shot clock, you only see the minutes and seconds. But I see the growth in between."

I have thought of that story a lot on my mission. There have been many times I have felt like I've hit a wall, and that all my studying, all my praying, and all my efforts have been in vain. And I have often felt discouraged by the seeming lack of progress and growth in my investigators and less-actives, and in myself. But I have been gratefully surprised when every once in a while, the Lord lets me know of the progress behind the scenes, and I get a glimpse of the growth currently invisible to my eyes. I just have to remember that "by small and simple means are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6).

Also attached: Marcos (an investigator I taught in the Orchard Ward) was finally baptized by the Assistants. So glad to see him make that covenant.

I hope you all have a great week this week in your various locations. I love you all!

Baptism pictures

Hello all:

Nothing to report except I'm being transferred on Feb 8th. No idea where-- guess I'll mention it next week.

Here's some picture memories of my time here with Elder Mooney in the Foothills Ward:
  • Nicole and Christian's Baptism last week
  • My grandpa making an approved visit
  • Elder Mooney loves A&W Root Beer, too =)
  • Tracting near Halloween
  • "Disobedience"-- We just had to stage this scene-- don't worry, the controllers were not plugged in =)
  • The District with the Kemptons (we still miss them!)
Well, I'll report again from my new area. Until then, I love you all, and hope all goes well!

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

Baptims galore


Hope everything is going fantastic back home.

News: Baptisms, baptisms, baptisms! Our entire district has been on fire this transfer with baptisms! (This usually happens during the first few months of the year, but I'm still excited.) We baptized Crystal in December, and we will be baptizing a mother and her son this Saturday, the 29th).

Unfortunately, this third transfer in the foothills ward is drawing to a close. I will be sad to leave this place-- it has so much potential still, and the ward is amazing. But likelihood is that I will be headed out on Feb 8th to a new area (feel free to surprise me, President! ).

I'm so grateful for the amazing opportunity I have had to come out here in Colorado and serve the Lord. I can't believe I'll hit my 6-month-left mark so soon! Almost half of this district is from my MTC group, so our impending departure looms ominously over us all the time. I feel frantically obsessed with using every spare moment that I have left to be as effective as possible.

And here's a fun tidbit... I've been having some fun with my camera:

  1. Me daydreaming-- I'm obviously only half there =). Elder Money is obviously worried.

  2. And, as I said, our house is obviously haunted.
Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113

First real snow

Hello all:

No entry last week. Sorry-- no time last week. Almost no time this week, either. Here's a quick report:
  1. New elder living here-- a ZL from my MTC group-- Elder Eric Smith from Pink Hill, North Carolina. Pres. now has both NC elders living under the same roof. Can't wait to send "y'all" a voice recording of him-- he and his accent make me feel like a Yankee. =) I've started to pick it up a bit, too-- yikes!

  2. Snow! Snow! Snow! The first real snowing that we've had all winter has finally happened. Makes the work a lot harder when you're not allowed to drive anywhere.

  3. Zone Conference: It was today and it was great, as always. Sad, though. The sisters from my MTC group bore their testimony because it was their last one. Gah! People from my MTC group are going home really soon! It's Elder Mooney's last Zone Conference, too. Aye! I feel so old...

Not much else to report. Hopefully I'll have pictures to send to y'all soon. I did want to address one subject of great importance. The church, as many know, have a fantastic website,Mormon.org. It is such a great missionary tool, and has been extensively renovated. The Church has started a new ad campaign (see Elder Russell M. Nelson's most recent conference address). It's called 'I'm a Mormon." It allows all adult members to create online mormon.org profiles (think like a blog or facebook profile) where members can share about their lives, and a bit about the gospel. We are visiting the site with every member in the mission and helping them set up profiles. I ask every member who reads this to set one up for him/herself this week, and link their mormon.org profile to their facebook, linkedin, myspace, blog, or whatever account to it so their friends can see it. Let me know the results, too!

Well, love you all. Have a great week!