Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas

Dear Family,

I did make the Hersey's scripture things and they were a lot of fun. All the sisters and senior couples got one and loved it. Elder and Sister Brewster thought they were especially cute.

I'm glad you got to read my conversion story to the kids. I'm sure I'll have to add to it later, but for now it is a pretty good synopsis of how I got to be who I am today. Have any of you reflected on or written down your conversion stories?

Sister Kusnerik was sick for the past few days so I was able to take Sister Lawlor out to our area for a little while so that Sister Kusnerik could rest at the Trail Center. This helped me get to know the Millard area a little better and I think it also helped give each of us an extra boost. Sister Lawlor absolutely loved going back to Millard. We had a miracle day full of appointments that didn't fall through. Our very last appointment was with Kelsey, a 19 year old that grew up in the church but fell away and began wondering if God loved her. We met with her the first time last Sunday when her dad asked us to come because she was expressing a desire to come back to church. When Sister Lawlor came for our next appointment, we received a very pleasant surprise. Kelsey looked at Sister Lawlor and said "I know you ... from Utah State?" and Sister Lawlor replied "Oh my heck! Kelsey!" and gave her a big hug. Incredibly enough, Kelsey had met Sister Lawlor at Utah State over a year ago! What a tender mercy! If Sister Lawlor showing up for that lesson doesn't show Kelsey that Heavenly Father knows and loves her then I don't know what will. Actually, Kelsey is doing great. We've had some very spiritual lessons with her where we have been able to say exactly what she needs to hear and she has been able to feel the spirit. She's started praying and reading her scriptures and she even came to church on Sunday! She loved church. She said it was the first time that she listened to every word and was able to receive answers to her questions. I am so happy for her!

Sister Kusnerik had quite the miracle Sunday night and Monday morning. We were serving in the Trail Center when a man walked in with a Book of Mormon in his hand. After talking with him, Sister Kusnerik found out that Frank, that's his name, had received it from a friend and had been reading it but wanted help to understand what he was reading. So she taught him about the restoration, read with him, and invited him back the next morning to meet the Florence Elders. We gave the Elders a heads up that night saying that we'd call if Frank actually kept his appointment. When we came in the next morning, Frank showed up! I called the Elders really quick and told them they needed to set Frank for baptism because he was feeling the spirit and keeping commitments. They came right away and joined Sister Kusnerik in teaching him the first lesson. I eavesdropped almost the entire time and wanted so badly for them to invite him to be baptized. I had to leave part way through the lesson but told Sister Endemann that if Frank was still there when I got back I would personally go up and invite him to be baptized. When I got back I didn't see Frank so I asked Sister Kusnerik "Did you set him?" "January 15th." she said with a smile. I was so glad to hear that. What a miracle! The elect truly are searching for the truth and they recognize it when they find it.

Thank you for the skirt and the toasty toes. Both will come in very handy this winter. And thank you for the Reese's, you know how much I love those. A special thank you for each of the letters that you wrote. I love hearing from you! Keep up the great work. You are each so wonderful and I love you so much!

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas is almost here!

Dear Family,

Congrats to Joel and Jenna! The pictures from the wedding were so fun to see. I can't believe how big Evan is! And Will, I think you look goofy with that little beard. It was good to have a picture of Mel so that I can put a face with the name. Anyway, it sounds and looks like you're having a wonderful time and I'm very happy about that.

Things are going great! We met a man named Jesus yesterday. He has three kids and recently went through a divorce. He was very welcoming and interested in learning about the gospel. He's Catholic (by tradition) and not really looking to change religions right now but wants us to come teach his family. As we do, he will gain a testimony of the restoration and eventually recognize the need to be baptized by authority. We were very blessed to be able to meet him.

Another big miracle last night was meeting Kelsey. She's 19 and hasn't been to church in a while even though she was raised in the church. She realized a few days ago that she is lonely and not happy and wants that to change so her dad suggested she meet with us. When we visited her last night she said that she wasn't even sure if God was really there. We listened and related experiences where we had felt lonely but then prayed and felt God's love. We bore testimony that God does love her and will answer her prayers. Several times during the lesson we all had tears in our eyes. The spirit was definitely there to confirm the truth that God loves us. When we asked her how she felt and she said "good" her dad asked "Do you know what that is?" and she answered "The spirit?" "Yes." I really did feel a portion of Heavenly Father's love for her and look forward to going back and helping her continue to rekindle her testimony.

Here's a quote that President Kunz shared with us that I'd like to share with you. President David O. McKay, declared: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service” (Gospel Ideals 1953, 551).

I'm really looking forward to talking to all of you on Saturday. I'm not sure when I'll be calling but it will definitely be after noon (NE time) since we're having a brunch at the Trail Center. But, before I talk to each of you I'd like you to think about a present that you will give to our Savior in the coming year. I will think about it too and we can tell each other on Christmas. Okay? I hope you all have a wonderful week! I love you!

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Omaha is my home-aha

Dear Family,

It sounds like you are all getting excited for Christmas. Going to Utah for Joel's wedding should be a blast and a half! You'll have to tell me all about it.

I was transferred back to Omaha this week! It feels sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good to be back at the Trail Center with all the sisters and senior couples. Honestly, as we drove closer and closer to the Trail Center, I got more and more excited. It was that wonderful feeling of entering familiar territory and then arriving at home. I love it here! I'm serving in the Millard ward with Sister Kusnerik and she is a lot of fun. Everyone agrees that she is very similar to Sister Bleazard in personality and mannerisms, which is funny because I've been companions with both of them. She's from Chicago and joined the church about two years ago. I love hearing her powerful testimony. She also makes me laugh a lot. The other big news is that I am now a Trail Center Trainer with Sister Evans. That means we give trainings every Saturday morning and coordinate the schedule and other stuff at the Trail Center. Sister Evans is helping me learn the ropes and it's funny because neither of us was called to serve in the Trail Center until the middle of our missions. I'm not really sure what to do or how to help the sisters here but I know that Heavenly Father does so I'll just keep seeking His guidance. One thing that is going my way is that I love the Trail Center and I love the sisters.

We had a baptism on Saturday for Mark. His wife Dee Dee started coming back to church about 4 years ago, but he comes from a Catholic background. Many sisters have taught him in the past but I guess Sister Kusnerik really connected with him. She was also raised Catholic so her testimony probably hit home. Also, she just came out and asked him one day "What's the deal?" and he said he had never prayed about it. He didn't like when the sisters challenged him to do things so he'd say he did them even though he didn't. Well, one day as he was driving, he finally prayed. He felt the spirit so strongly he had to pull over, and the idea to be baptized on 12/11/10 kept coming to his mind. When he told his wife he wanted to get baptized she thought he wasn't serious, but when he told her the date, she started crying 'cause she was baptized on December 11th 35 years ago. Isn't that amazing! So, Mark was baptized and it was a wonderful service. The Relief Society room was filled with ward members (there almost weren't enough chairs). Then he was confirmed on Sunday and received an early Christmas present, the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost truly is the greatest gift we can receive in this life. It guides, comforts, purifies, cleanses, warns, teaches, and does so many wonderful things to help us on our journey back to Heavenly Father. I felt very blessed to participate in Mark's baptism and confirmation and witness the joy that he and his wife have experienced as a result of living the gospel.

We did get snow and a whole lot of wind on Saturday. Thankfully, we were in the Trail Center that afternoon so we weren't out in it. I can deal with and actually enjoy snow, but the wind is killer. Most of the snow has blown away or melted by now. My first day back in the Trail Center was very exciting. Not many people came (probably because the weather was so bad), but I didn't care because I was so happy to be back. I was so eager to help with anything that I jumped at the chance to finish Sister Worthen's tour when she had to leave. The Florence Elders had brought a less-active lady and her husband in for a tour and I was able to talk a lot about the temple and making it our goal. At the end, as always, I asked them who they knew that would like to have missionaries come visit and the lady mentioned a friend that had visited with Elders before. So, after they left, I called him and he gave me his address so I could have the missionaries go see him again. I was so excited! My first day back at the Trail Center and I not only got a referral, but was able to contact him and he accepted the invitation to meet with missionaries! I guess I didn't have to be too worried about being out of practice, it all came back pretty quickly. Actually, it's not that different from missionary work out in the field. We are just blessed to have a ton of visual aids and faith promoting stories to bring the gospel principles to life.

So, how is missionary work in the Mortensen household? You know there are plenty of great missionary opportunities during the Christmas season: DVDs, parties, the nativity display, and whatever else your creative minds can come up with. I also want to remind you what President Harold B. Lee said in 1964, "Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members." The members that you home or visit teach or work with in your callings need reminded of gospel truths just as much as anyone else. I hope you will recognize the wonderful blessing that it is to share the gospel, the most wonderful gift we can give, with those around you. You will grow so much closer to your Savior, Jesus Christ, as you invite others to follow him as well. Just follow the spirit!

I love you soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lots of people to teach

Dear Family,

I'm glad you are enjoying this Christmas season. We are too. Church yesterday was probably the highlight of our week. In the second ward, Jerome passed the sacrament for the first time. Bro. Noorlander coached him through it and he did great. I feel very blessed to get to see him progress so well in the gospel. Also, Ezra's family made it to church even though they were kinda sick. I'm so happy for them. In the first ward, we had a ton of the people we teach come to church! Sandy and James, Michelle, Bro. Hornbacher and Anna, the Favazzas, Jeb and Leif, and Sis. Cave. The fun part was that a lot of them came a bit late and the door to the chapel kept opening to let more of the people we love file in to sacrament meeting. I know it's not good for them to be late, but they came! And even better, Toni bore her testimony! That was a huge miracle! She's been going through a lot so it was great to hear her share how prayer and the gospel and the ward members have helped. She bore simple and powerful testimony that this is the true church and the Book of Mormon is true. I was absolutely beaming. What a wonderful fast and testimony meeting.

I'm sorry that I don't have time to write much more. I used the time to type the attached file. It is a Christmas Present so please don't read it until you open gifts. I love you and hope you are all very happy.

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Family,

Tell Lisa congrats on her mission call! That is wonderful and she will love it! I guess that means our missions will overlap just a little because my new release date is April 15th.

We finally saw our first snow flakes this morning. It is a very light snow, almost like the frozen version of a mist. Still, it makes me excited for the Christmas season. We are planning on decorating a tiny tree in our apartment today. We will make popcorn strings, apple and orange slices, and a foil star. It's funny how such little things bring such joy.

Sister Warner and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving! She consented to come to the Turkey Bowl and actually had a good time. It was really cold but we ran around a lot and one of the men brought hot chocolate, which I am actually learning to enjoy. We had two dinner appointments and both were super delicious. The Orrs expressed a lot of gratitude that Bro. Orr was able to survive a huge semi accident that week. His truck was the second in a 13 semi pile-up on the interstate. Needless to say, his truck was totalled but he walked out with just a few bruises. We read the scripture in Mormon that says God is still a God of miracles because it seemed appropriate. And, miraculously, Bro. Orr came to church on Sunday! He has always had the attitude that there is no point in trying to convert him, but he actually came to church. I think that expressing gratitude really does lead to miracles, just like President Monson said last conference.

Thanksgiving dinner with the Rosenlunds was also a blast because their 6 kids are so cute. And they were able to invite Cretia, a less active member that hasn't had a real Thanksgiving dinner in 6 years. She really appreciated it. All in all it was a wonderful holiday.

On Saturday, we helped the Kori family rake the mountains of leaves in their front yard. Their little four year old was wading through them, but because they are all such good workers we got it done fairly quickly and still had time to read from the Book of Mormon. They were very grateful for our help and it just made me so happy to serve them physically and spiritually.

Last night, we had an intense lesson with Sandy and James. We've been teaching Sandy for over a month now and she's kinda stuck because they are living together. She can't get baptized until they separate or get married and he can't get married again until he gets his previous marriage annulled. It's kind of a mess. But thankfully, James was very open with his concerns and why he feels it is too hard to separate. He has experienced a lot of loss in his life. My heart really went out to him. I tried to help him feel how much Heavenly Father loved him. James wants to do the right thing, but just thinks it is too hard. We did our best to help him feel that God will help him keep the commandments and that so many blessings will come if he does. You can tell how much it is tearing him apart and I know they would both feel so much more at peace if they would separate until they can get married. I always feel so good when I finally humble myself enough to repent and do things the Lord's way rather than my own way. Sure it is hard, but I am so much happier when I obey. In the end, James and Sandy said they would pray about separating. As Sister Warner and I reflected on this lesson this morning, we realized that the lesson wouldn't have gone so well and James wouldn't have felt the spirit and love of God if we hadn't been living the mission rules. We could not have testified of these priciples and have the spirit bear witness of their truth if we weren't living them ourselves. A lot of power comes when we know and they know that we are living the same principles that we are asking them to live. I know that repentance and forgiveness and the healing power of the atonement are real because I have experienced them again and again in my own life. I know that the only way to have true peace and lasting happiness is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ can heal anything. Absolutely anything. I know Heavenly Father loves me and will help me. I know He wants me to be happy and live with Him again. I know that I have the potential to become like Him because I am His daughter. Knowing these things gives me peace and courage to do what Heavenly Father asks me to do, especially when it is hard. I wish I could explain all of this more clearly to those I teach so that they can enjoy the peace that I enjoy by living the gospel.

Thanks for always sending me emails. I love to hear how you are doing. Enjoy this special Christmas season by trying to become a little more Christ-like.

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ezra's baptism

Dear Family,

I can't believe it has snowed in Vancouver but not Grand Island. I'm sure we'll get some soon, but so far it is just cold.

Our nine year old buddy, Ezra, was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! I wish you could have seen the huge grin on his face after each of these ordinances were performed. He is just the cutest kid. He has such a sincere desire to follow Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He wants to do what is right because he knows they love him. One of my favorite quotes from him is that "Heavenly Father created everything! Everything we want, need, and love." He says that all the time and I just adore his high-pitched little voice. He is also being a really good example to his family, who are finally starting to come back to church. His mom cried at his baptism and his dad even said the opening prayer. His twin brothers are only two and very rambunctious but they also behaved very well at the baptism. It was a great event.

We are still teaching the Kori family and struggling to help Brother Kori understand the need to be baptized again. On Saturday, he had to go to a meeting but told us to teach his family and then come back on Sunday to see him also. We watched the Restoration DVD and invited them to be baptized. The kids and their mother said they would like to be baptized but needed to talk with Brother Kori about it. When we came back on Sunday they hadn't discussed it yet so we brought it up. Still, Brother Kori doesn't understand the need for authority in performing a baptism. We explained with analogies and discussed Acts 19 where a whole group of people are re-baptized, but mostly we testified that the priesthood was restored through Joseph Smith. Finally, he said he would watch the Restoration DVD and pray to ask if the priesthood was restored through Joseph Smith. He also said he will think about being baptized again. We hope that Thomson, a member that works with him, can help him understand.

William, the guy who recognized us last week, came to church again. Also, we had a lesson about repentance and he said he wants to set a day, after the holidays, to be baptized! We were so excited! He has been researching about the church for years and he finally wants to take this step and become a member of it. He has even started cutting back on smoking. The fun part is that we didn't really do anything. He already knows all the principles of the gospel so anything that we teach is just a friendly reminder of what he already knows is true. In our lessons, we mostly just listen to him talk things out and bear his testimony. He came to the decision to be baptized all on his own. Heavenly Father really does prepare people, sometimes over the course of many years, to receive the gospel.

So, things are going wonderfully well in Grand Island. I'm hoping that the wards here have a Turkey Bowl. I love that Thanksgiving tradition and had a blast last year! Sister Warner doesn't want to play but said she doesn't mind watching. Then we have a couple meal appointments with members and an appointment with the Kori family. It should be a great day!

Well, thanks for being so supportive! I love each of you very much!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heavenly Father answers specific prayers specifically

Dear Family,

Thank you so much for sending me weekly updates. It's so good to hear from you and know what is going on in your lives.

Our big miracle this week is a man named William. About a week ago, one of our investigators asked us to drop off a bag of clothes to the salvation army. Well, we finally put it in our plans on Thursday night and went there Friday afternoon. On our way out, we ran into some members and had a good little chat with them. Then, just as we were getting in the car, I see this man jump out of his van and walk towards us. I got out of the car and he called out "Are you LDS?" "Yes." I said with a puzzled look on my face. William smiled and told us how he had just moved from Twin Falls (where Sister Warner is from) for a job and was wondering if we had some scriptures he could read since his quad was still in a box somewhere. All we really had to give him was a Book of Mormon but he still insisted on showing us, in my copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, that he has an ancestor who is listed in section 75. We talked a lot about church history and then I finally had to ask, "Have you been baptized?" He kinda chuckled and said "No. The Word of Wisdom is something I still struggle with. Smoking." We thought "No way, that's it. You know more about the church than I do." Apparently he did a side by side comparison of the Catholic church and the Mormon church in college and gained a testimony then. He came to church on Sunday and was already in 2 Nephi of the Book of Mormon we gave him. William is amazing! The really great part is that on Friday morning I prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to those who were prepared or that he would lead them to us. Sure enough, he sent William right to us. And to think that He organized it all for us to be there at just the right time. I am always amazed at Heavenly Father's ability to lead us where He needs us to be.

Sorry it's short. I love you and pray for you.
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 8, 2010

Double Baptism!



Dear Family,

I'm glad you are all in for a family temple trip when I get back. It will be a real treat. I turned in the form that the mission office sent and made a note that I'd like to extend my mission. I've also informed President Kunz so hopefully they sort all that out.

We had a double baptism on Saturday! It was great to see Jerome (70s) and Nyayien (8) be baptized! Bro. Whitehead is the friend that introduced Jerome to the church so even though he is about 80 years old and kinda frail he baptized Jerome. It took him four tries and some help from Bro. Pyper (who baptized Nyayien) but they did it! You should have seen the huge grin on Jerome's face afterward. He was so happy. Nyayien was also really happy and full of energy. I really felt the spirit. The spirit was especially strong as Sister Warner and I taught the restoration while those who were wet changed. I felt so warm as Sister Warner recited the first vision. I know that was the spirit confirming the truth. I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ. I really felt that as we bore testimony. At the end, Jerome bore his testimony. He read it from a paper he had typed up and it was so cute. He talked about God and the Savior, but my favorite was at the end he simply said "Therefore I believe. Thank you." I love his simple but firm faith.

It was also really exciting to have our investigator, James, attend the baptism. He turned 76 that day and I think that is a great thing to do on your birthday, attend a baptism. He has now gone 3 whole days without smoking and is feeling so happy because of it. He started smoking when he was 10 so this is a big deal. We've been doing everything we can to help him. When we taught him the no smoking program it took us a long time to convince him to get rid of his cigarettes. But with a lot of convincing from us, a member of the ward, and the spirit he finally crushed his packs of cigarettes and threw them away. He's been sticking with it ever since and it is amazing the change that has come over him. He is so happy to finally be conquering Satan. And he knows the only way he's been able to make it this far is because the Lord is helping him. He's praying and doing everything in his power so the Lord is making up the rest and helping to diminish that desire to smoke. What a miracle!

Remember the Sudanese family we read 1 Nephi 1 with? Well they are doing great. We taught them the gospel and invited them to be baptized and the dad said he would talk with his wife about it. He actually brought up the question of "is it okay to be baptized again?" before we even invited him to be baptized again. So we were able to explain the need for authority and then invite their family to be baptized by God's priesthood authority. It went really well. I loved what the dad said at the end, "Now we and all mykids know what we need to do." He was so grateful that we had taught him and his children the gospel, the simple steps we need to take to live with God again. It was amazing!

I have one quick insight to share from this morning's scripture study. ALma 37:34 says "Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls." Believe it or not, missionary work is exhausting and you pretty much never get a break. In that sense, I'm sure it is good practice for being a mom because you are always on the clock. But even though my body is tired I should "never be weary of good works." If I am meek and lowly enough to ask what Heavenly Father wants me to do next, even though I feel I've just done a good job and deserve a break, and then I keep working to do what He asks, then I will find rest to my soul. I really would rather be tired physically and at rest spiritually than to be resting physically and tormented spiritually. So I'll do my best to be dilligent and work effectively, even when I'm tired. I just love the insights I get as a missionary! Who knew that working hard would result in true rest?!?

Well, I love you all very much! Keep being the amazing family that you are! I think almost all of my companions want to meet you guys because I'm always telling them how great you are!

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween

Dear Family,

I'm glad you had a good Halloween. I did too. We had stake conference in Kearney Nebraska and two of our investigators came even though it's 45 minutes away! In fact, we rode with Bro. Cunningham and Sandy and were able to teach a lesson during the car ride. It was definitely a unique lesson, but a good way to spend the time. I really enjoyed stake conference because it mostly centered on the importance of temples. I liked what President Sleight said "That which isn't sealed to you really isn't all that important." That really helped me get my priorities straight. I may not be with those I am sealed to while I'm serving a mission, but I still think about and pray for you every day. You are a big reason that I am here in the first place. Without your examples and encouragement I doubt I would be able to do this, but with that love and support it is a lot easier.

So, would you all like to have a family temple trip when I get back? I'm really excited about the idea. I know it would be a big strength to all of us.

All us missionaries had to be home at 6pm for Halloween but we still had a good time. It was weird to be in so early. We made a lot of phone calls and got everything organized. Actually, Sister Warner did most the organizing; she enjoys that kind of thing. We also had a little movie night because Sister Warner had never seen "Joy to the World" and since we're going to start handing out those pass-along cards soon, we figured she better know what she will be offering.

This week, my testimony that Heavenly Father knows each of His children was strengthened. We were walking down the street when we met this girl (about our age) and her little boy outside her apartment. She said she has been wondering what God wants her to do so we shared what Joseph Smith did in that situation and recited the first vision. After that, she invited us in and we were able to answer more of her golden questions. It turns out her name is Heaven and that she and her husband have been wanting their son to grow up with God even if they aren't sure He is there. We reassured her that He is and that He loves her and gave us showing up randomly of an evidence that He truly is mindful of her and her family. We are so excited to keep teaching her.

Another experience we had this week got me all excited to have family scripture study when I am a mom. We went to our appointment with Kori's family and decided to just read 1 Nephi 1 with them. Nayma and all four kids sat on the couches with us and took turns reading (except Magda 'cause she's only four and Nayma 'cause she's still learning to read English). It was so cute to hear Marigan (11) help Mabarak (8) and Myssa (6) sound out some of the bigger words. They all are very good readers and really understood what was happening in the story. It was one of those kodak moments that they put in the Ensign with the whole family gathered with the missionaries studying from the Book of Mormon. Oh it was precious. I'm sure my future family scripture study won't usually be so peaceful and precious, but at least I know what I'm shooting for. Moments like that make it all worth it.

Next Saturday is Jerome's baptism and he is so excited for it. He even wants to bear his testimony as part of the program. Nyayien (an 8 year old we've been teaching) will also be getting baptized so Sister Warner and I are excited for this double baptism!

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful start to this beautiful month of November. I love you lots!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Too many miracles to write about

Dear Family,

Thanks for the email. I'm so glad that things are going well. I had to laugh when mom said that she loved Clark and I "warts and all." We are pretty similar, but I think you'd be surprised at how social I'm becoming. Talking with everyone is part of being a missionary and it's started to come more naturally for me. In fact, Sister Warner pointed out that she would like to get better at initiating conversations with people even though it's easier to just let me do it. It was exciting for me to realize that I've progressed from that stage of letting my companion talk to being the one to talk without even knowing it.

In Sunday School our lesson was on the priesthood and I learned some interesting things. Also, President Kunz gave a great description of how the Aaronic Priesthood prepares young men for the Melchizedek Priesthood. He said "the Aaronic Priesthood prepares a young man or an adult convert to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood focuses on the temporal aspects of the gospel and includes the ministering of angels and the gospel of repentance while the Melchizedek Priesthood is primarily focused upon the spiritual aspects of the gospel including church administration and spiritual blessings. The Aaronic Priesthood is referred to as the preparatory priesthood." I think it is so wise of Heavenly Father to have young men prepare, bless and pass the sacrament. This responsibility really does prepare them to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. And then, when they go on missions, they have so many opportunities to exercise that priesthood by giving blessings all the time. Heavenly Father definitely knows what He is doing.

Wow, we've had an amazing week! I think it all started with training on Wednesday. Both Sister Warner and I came away with renewed excitement to concerate ourselves to the Lord and His work. We were encouraged to have a 40 day fast from anything that keeps us from having the spirit with us. Some things on my list to give up were: long showers, reading mail on days other than p-day, icecream, naps, and being even a minute late for personal study. I go over my list with Heavenly Father every morning and night. As I was praying that first night, the spirit reminded me of a scripture that describes what we are doing. Helaman 3:35 says "Nevertheless, they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sactification of their hearts, which sactification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God." I love it! That is what I want: clean hands and a pure heart! And I get that by being humble and faithful, by praying and fasting, by giving up what I want for what He wants, by yielding my heart to Him. As a result of this repentance, we have been guided by the spirit and miracles have occurred.

We have 7 people with a baptismal date! In the second ward we have 5. Jerome (11/6) came to church again and loved it again. Deb (11/13) has been faithfully reading the Book of Mormon and just needs a ride to church (she's in a wheelchair at a nursing home so it's a little tricky). Angel (11/20) enjoyed the goofy little coloring sheet I made to help her and her younger sisters understand the plan of salvation. Ezra (11/20) came to church and loved being part of the primary program. And James (11/27), an old man that we tracted into, said he believed the Book of Mormon was true before we even gave it to him. In the first ward we have 2 people with baptismal dates. Tabu (11/6) is hard to get a hold of and needs to come to church. And Frank (11/27) is a bubbly middle-aged man that grew up Catholic but hasn't gone to church for years. We taught him a brief restoration lesson and he said he felt good about what we shared and would prepare to be baptized.

If that isn't enough miracles, we also had 7 investigators come to church! Jerome, Ezra, Christina and a Sudanese family that we taught for the first time on Saturday night! We met Kori, the dad, at Thomson's house when he answered the door and immediately invited us over to teach his family. He invited us before we could even ask him. It was amazing! He wasn't there for our appointment, but we found them all at home Saturday night and were able to teach him, his wife, and his two boys (11 and 8, he also has two younger girls that were sleeping) the restoration. They said they would pray, read the pamphlet we left, and come to church and they did! It was so exciting to see Kori ... and then Missa ... and then Marigan ... and then Magda ... and the Mabarak ... and then Nama walk into sacrament. They were a little late but I went to sit by them and explain things. They really enjoyed the primary program but the kids were too tired to stay for sunday school and primary. I have never had so many people come to sacrament meeting!

Okay, I think I have time to tell one last miracle. Bro. Cunningham took his girlfriend to the Trail Center on Saturday where Sister Minert gave them a tour and invited her to be baptized. Sandy said she would if she felt it was true. She came to the first ward on Sunday and we had a lesson with her after church. Bro. Cunningham had already shown her the restoration DVD but we reviewed it anyway. She feels like this is where she is supposed to be and described the spirit as the comfortable pressure on her back. She said she would think about getting baptized on November 27th. So we are excited for her as well.

I am just so amazed at how much Heavenly Father blesses His children. I know that He loves us. I know that we will be happiest as we follow the example of our Savior and keep His commandments. I am so excited to be serving as a missionary and help people take those steps closer to our Heavenly Father. It truly is miraculous!

Love,
Sister Mortensen

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

Dear Family,

It sounds like you had a good time at the pumpkin patch. The cool thing is, I did too! The Second Ward went to a pumpkin patch Wednesday night for the ward activity and we had a blast! So many less actives and non-members came and were able to make friends! I especially loved seeing Wally and Dale, our two recent converts from the nursing home, there in their wheelchairs. They usually bicker or complain, but they sat by eachother the whole night, talking with other members and watching the little kids have all kinds of fun. I even got roast a couple marshmallows for the first time in a long time. We really enjoyed it.

This weekend I gained a lot of insight about the power of covenants. In both wards the talks were all about temples, and then after church we went to see Bro. Hornbacher. He's about 60 and started coming back to church when his 11 year old daughter decided to get baptized a few years ago. He used to feel guilty going to church, but when he promised her he would support her, he didn't feel so guilty because he was just coming for her. Well, naturally the talks and classes started sinking in and he is realizing that he can't sit on the fence, that he needs to change so that he can be truly happy. He's tired of being pulled in two directions, tired of fighting. As he was sharing these things, I realized that true peace comes from keeping promises, especially promises with God because He is bound to bless us when we keep them. This led me to read Elder Christofferson's talk "The Power of Covenants" from the May 2009 Ensign. I love this talk. In it, he points out that keeping covenants strengthens us in three important ways: it brings blessings, it increases our faith, and it permits Heavenly Father to let his power flow into our lives. My favorite quotes are "In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact" and "Come what may, we can face life with hope and equanimity, knowing that we will succeed in the end because we have God's promise to us individually, by name, and we know He cannot lie." Re-reading that talk was a huge reminder that all we really need to do is make and keep covenants so that we can receive the Holy Ghost and the many blessings that come with that precious gift. That is the essence of the gospel. We exercise faith, repent, and keep covenants so that we can have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion to guide and strengthen us in keeping God's commandments and serving others. It is "beautifully simple and simply beautiful" (I think Elder Nelson used that phrase to describe temple ordinances). I know that Heavenly Father will continue to bless us, not only with the direction we need, but with the power we need to follow it, if we will just keep our covenants with Him.

I'm not sure if I've told you yet, but I'm planning on extending my mission. That means I'll come home mid-April rather than early March. Also, I propose that we have a family temple trip when I come home. Clark will be old enough to do baptisms then so we can all go as a family! I can just picture all of us together in the temple and it makes me smile with tears in my eyes. What a wonderful experience that will be! Please prepare so we can enjoy it together. If you feel really ambitious, we could even do our own family names! I know that preparing and then attending the temple together would strengthen our family so much.

Jerome is amazing! He drove the 50 or so miles to church yesterday and ended up staying for over four hours. He came at 9am to attend the second ward (since that's where he lives) but after Sunday School he wanted to go to the first ward with his friend, Bro. Whitehead. So he ended up staying for 2 sacrament meetings and 2 sunday school classes. What a trooper! He has strengthened my testimony that the elect really are out there just searcing for the fullness of the gospel and when they find it they live it.

Ezra (9) and Angel (11) are now both set for baptism on November 20th. They are both just wonderful kids that understand the gospel and are excited to get baptized. They are also both the oldest in their less-active families. As long as their parents really do support them and bring them to church they will grow strong in the gospel and continue to be great examples. I love teaching families with kids because they understand the simple principles of the gospel right away.

Well family, I love you very much. I pray that you are healthy and happy and living the gospel 'cause that is the key to true happiness.

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall

Hello Family,

I'm glad you had a fun party for Haley. Tell her I'm so happy for her and I know she will love it! I guess this means the ward will still have a sister serving a mission. That's cool. Leslie, me, Haley, and then who I wonder.

Our biggest miracle this week was Jerome. He's probably in his 70s and gave us a call after Bro. Whitehead gave him our number. He grew up Catholic but stopped going years ago. I guess Bro. Whitehead loaned him a book that helped him recognize the truth of the restored gospel, because he told us in our very first conversation that he believes the mormon church is the true church. That statement blew Sister Warner and I away because neither of us have ever taught someone that is so prepared. In fact, he asked us how he could become a member of the church before we even got the chance to invite him. He was very excited to learn that he could be baptized as soon as October 30th. And when we gave him a Book of Mormon, he wrote on the inside cover "From Sister Warner and Sister Mortensen. Baptism: October 30th." It was so precious.

We also had a great lesson with Candi this week. She's a single mom of three boys: Jared (7), Jordan (10), and Zach (14). She's never been to church or really known about God. In our first lesson we just taught her and Jared about God and prayer. When we came back we brought Sister Orr along and made a special effort to invite the boys to participate. Jordan was gone and Zach didn't want to but Jared and his cousin, Devon (15) sat in for our lesson on the restoration. When Sister Orr shared her conversion story and how she felt such peace the first time she walked into the church, the spirit was very powerful. She said she even heard someone whisper "You've finally come home." It was so great to have her come and share her testimony. We just love having members come along because their testimonies add so much and strengthen mine as well. I wasn't sure how much Devon got out of the lesson because he was reluctant to answer our questions, but after the closing prayer, he asked "When are you coming back?" That really impressed me that he wanted to learn more.

It turns out that hearing investigators pray is still my favorite thing as a missionary. Fairoz is a very soft spoken woman from Sudan that has three cute little kids. We gave her a Book of Mormon in arabica couple weeks ago but were having trouble getting a hold of her again. Well, we stopped by last night and she said she had read some of it but didn't understand. We reviewed the restoration and read some of the introduction with her to answer her questions. We also invited her to be baptized and she said she would if she knew the Book of Mormon was true. She also agreed to say the closing prayer. In that prayer she asked God for help to understand the Book of Mormon and thanked him for sending us. It's moments like that that make missionary work worth it.

The same night we taught Fairoz we taught Elizabeth's family. They are also from Sudan and joined the church about 2 years ago. Four of the six kids have been baptized. Nyan just turned 8 and Bishop wanted us to review the lessons with her so we are having a lot of fun having them teach us. We played telephone to depict the apostasy last week and this week we acted out the plan of salvation and the gospel. At the end, Nyan said the closing prayer. It was short and sweet: "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the sisters coming over. Please help me to keep the promises I will make when I am baptized. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." I just love their family. They get it. They have testimonies and they live the gospel. Plus they are a lot of fun.

I hope everyone is doing well.
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, October 4, 2010

General Conference

Dear Family,

General Conference was incredible, wasn't it?!? Elder Uchtdorf definitely made me laugh. His talk about focusing on the basics was also very inspired. I've come to realize that the basic principles of the gospel will solve any problem and answer any question. That's why we don't usually here anything that "new" at General Conference. The same gospel principles that applied before are still applicable today so the leaders of the church will just keep reviewing them so that we can continue to improve. I like to think of the gospel as a helix that we go up, almost like a spiral staircase we climb. We go around and around the basic principles of the gospel again and again, but each time we get a little higher and we live that principle at a more elevated level. First we have faith in Jesus Christ, then we repent, then we are baptized, and then we receive the Holy Ghost. But that is not the end. We must repeat these priciples at the next level. We must exercise more faith. We must continue to repent. We must renew our baptismal covenants by taking the sacrament. And then we receive anew the promise that we will "always have his spirit to be with [us]." Each week we should repeat this process. As we go through this process of living the gospel again and again we will get closer and closer to Jesus Christ. It is something we must continue to do until the end of our lives. I have complete confidence that the atonement of Jesus Christ can heal anything. We access the power of that atonement by living the gospel.

President Monson's talk has inspired me to be more grateful. I liked the message that he shared from Christ feeding the multitude with 7 loaves and a few fishes. While the apostles only saw what was lacking, Christ recognized what they had, gave thanks, and preformed the miracle of feeding all those people. It shows that giving thanks leads to miracles. So I am going to say a prayer of gratitude each night before I go to bed. It will be nice to review how Heavenly Father has blessed me each day and feel his love.

One thing I was hoping to gain from conference was a witness that President Monson is the Lord's true prophet. I thought it would be cool to have an experience I could share with people that I teach about how I know that he is the prophet. I already know in my head that he is and I've had moments where I've also felt that in my heart, but I wanted that testimony to grow stronger. That testimony has grown, but not because some miraculous manifestation like I might have been hoping for. Rather it came as many of the other speakers bore their testimonies that President Monson is the Lord's chosen prophet. When they spoke those words I felt good inside and I almost heard the spirit whisper "Yes, of course he is the prophet, you already knew that." This experience served as a reminder that a testimony doesn't come from witnessing miracles, it comes from the withness of the Holy Ghost to our souls and most often that is like a still small voice or a calm, peaceful reassurance. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's true prophet.

Let's study the priesthood together. To help Clark prepare for the Aaronic Priesthood and Will for the Melchezidek Priesthood I thought we could study it together, as part of family home evenings and our personal study of the scriptures. Each week I'll try to put a little something that I learned about the priesthood in my emails. And I'd love to hear your insights as well.

Thank you so much for supporting and encouraging me as a missionary. It sure helps to have a loving family back home cheering me on.

Family, I hope you know that I love each one of you. I wish I could be more involved in your lives but realize that the best thing I can do for you right now is serve the Lord with all my heart. If there is anything I can do or help you with, please email me. It is a joy to hear from you. I hope you are doing well.

Love,
Sister Mortensen

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Darlene's Baptism



Dear Family,

Darleen was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! I was so happy and excited for her! Laurie even made the trip from Omaha to come and speak. She gave a great talk about baptism from 2 Nephi 31:20. I was so proud of her and also of Darleen and her husband Denis. I think Denis really felt the spirit at the baptism because now he wants to come to the Spanish Branch in Grand Island (he was baptized a while ago in Guatemala). It was a wonderful event. I think one of my favorite things has been watching Darleen's faith grow. She already had a lot of faith, but ever since she prayed to ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet and felt the spirit bring that comfortable reassurance that he was, her faith has grown tremendously. We had a lesson about tithing on Tuesday night and we promised that the Lord would provide for her and help her get a job if she paid her tithing. Well, as she got back in her car to leave the church she found the $80 that she had lost a week or so ago. Our next lesson with her was also at the church and she brought her tithing money with her and got a tithing envelope all filled out so she could pay it. When she gave it to Bishop on Sunday, just before her confirmation, she was very happy and even leaned over to me to say "I've been holding on to that all week" showing what a relief it was for her to finally actually pay it. I really love and admire Darleen for having such great faith and trust in Heavenly Father. She is a very strong woman.

Funny story. We met a dog named Simon this week who gets his walks on a tread mill. It was one of the funniest things I've seen; this big hound dog with his leash attached to the tread mill just marching along, apparently trying to lose some of those extra pounds. Sister Warner and I got a kick out of that.

Another funny story. We were out visiting our friend Thomson when some rain clouds started rolling in. Before we walked to the next person we wanted to visit, I asked him and Sister Warner if they thought I should get my jacket from the car. Sister Warner said no, if we got wet we'd get wet and it probably wouldn't take that long. Thomson said "You know, it is going to pour now." But I ignored his warning and we started walking. We hadn't even gone a block when the heavens opened and we got soaked instantaneously. It went from two drops to sheets of rain in one second. I'm not even exaggerating. So we ran back to the car, completely drenched, and tried to visit people that might only let us in if the weather was insane. Well, the rain stopped not long after that but we still ended up wading through a few puddles and marching around with squishy shoes until dinner when we could change. The sun and the wind actually dried us off fairly quickly. Nebraska has the weirdedst weather.

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Elder Ellis Visits

Dear Family,

I'm glad you enjoyed Stake Conference. What a blessing it is to hear from General Authorities like Elder Kevin Pearson. Yesterday, Elder Steven G. Ellis came to our zone conference and it was incredible! I felt so spiritually recharged and rejuvinated. He talked a lot about faith and miracles and seeking the Lord's will. It was powerful and motivating. I'll try to summarize some of the main points.

Are you having fun yet? If not, you need to repent.

Do the best you can ... your very best.

faith = power
obedience = price
love = motive
the spirit = key
Christ = reason
joy = reward

When Elder and Sister Ellis were called as mission president and wife in Brazil Sister Ellis didn't want to leave because the Houston temple was about to be dedicated. Pres. Faust chuckled and said "It will be there when you get back." She learned that "Sacrifice isn't loss - it's merely preparation for something better." They were able to attend a temple dedication in Brazil with their whole family because their youngest daughter just turned 8.

D&C 44:2 says when we assemble ourselves together (at church or general conference or whenever) and exercise faith, th Lord will pour out his spirit upon us. And the spirit does all kinds of amazing things. It edifies, sanctifies, testifies, comforts, guides, teaches (one on one), warns, reminds, reveals, and converts. So take every opportunity you get (especially general conference coming up) to have the spirit poured out on you.

Isaiah 55:8-9.says the Lord's ways are higher than our ways. If I got anything out of the conference yesterday it was to stop trying to do things my way and just have faith to do it the Lord's way. Again and again he put his right hand horizontally up above his head (representing the Lord's ways) and his left hand horizontally down by his belt (representing our ways) to remind us to trust Him who knows best. He cannot lie so His promises are sure and we can trust Him completely. As we do our best to make our ways His ways we will get higher and things will go better.

It is all a matter of faith. If we exercise faith and the Lord will's it, miracles will happen. We are not on our own; this is the Lord's church and we are His authorized servants. We serve the God of miracles. What miracles did you ask for today? Think bigger, think His thoughts (which are higher than our thoughts). And how do we get more faith? We do things that require faith. We study, pray, obey, repent, invite, and work (read the gospel principles lesson on Faith ... it is way good). "When you are on the Lord's errand, you'll have the Lord's support." -President Monson

All in all it was an incredible conference and I'm very grateful to have gone and been inspired and strengthened. The spirit was very srong. It gave me the renewed enthusiasm I need to work even harder and exercise my faith to see miracles.

I am so happy for Darlene Gomez. She is the most solid investigator I have taught. Just this last week her dad died, her husband left her, she quit her job, and she got kicked out of her apartment. And despite all that she is still staying super strong in the gospel. Isn't that amazing! Because she is moving to St. Paul she will be baptized in the 2nd ward so we had a really good lesson with her in the 2nd ward's relief society president's home. Darlene told us that she was wondering if she should push her baptism back but that one morning, she woke up and felt like she should do it anyway. She has invited her family to come to her baptism this Saturday and it sounds like most of them will (and she has a huge family). She came to church in the first ward on Sunday and met tons of people in both wards. Everyone was super supportive of her and her upcoming baptism. She met a ton of people and they were all so loving and welcoming. She even bore her testimony of the Book of Mormon in our Gospel Principles class. She is incredible. I love her so much.

Oh yeah, tranfers happened. Sister Bonelli is now serving in the Ralston LaVista Ward and Sister Ith was transferred to the Lincoln University Singles Ward. My new companion is Sister Warner. She's from Twin Falls, ID and is studying elementary education at BYU-I. She is super nice, super organized, and super great at teaching. We got to teach Relief Socitey at the last minute and it went very smoothly even though all we had time to do was read through the lesson. It is so fun to have a companion with whom I feel truly unified as we teach. I think that comes as we focus on those we teach and on the spirit. If we really listen to the spirit and follow it's promptings then the Lord will orchestrate the lesson so that the people hear exactly what they need to hear. We don't know these people nearly as well as He does so it is imperative that we seek and follow His guidance in order to help them as He would. This morning in companion study we discovered a couple verses that we hope we can become more like. In Helaman 10:4-5 the Lord says "Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld that thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee (not our words, but His words), unto this people. And thou hast not feared them (step outside our comfort zones: not care what they think, but what God thinks), and hast not sought thine own life (we set aside all personal affairs, see Matt 16:25), but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments." Now listen for the amazing blessing of seeking the Lord's will. "And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." Isn't that incredible! I kind of take that to mean that even when we ask the Lord for miracles, if it is according to His will, they will happen. That is a great example of faith and seeking the Lord's will. I want to be like that. I want to promise people blessings that the Lord himself would promise and then see those miracles/blessings come to pass ... not because I promised it, but because that is what the Lord wants for them. It is such a good feeling to know that I have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I love what the missionary handbook says at the very beginning: "you have been called by a prophet of God and set apart to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. You have been called to 'invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.' How great is your calling! You have been recommended as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel." I feel very priviledged to serve the Lord full time during this period of my life. I get to be His hands, His feet, and His voice in reaching out and serving and lifting His children. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing!

I love you all very much!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, September 13, 2010

Turns our everyone is related


Dear Family,

Thanks for all the updates. Congrats to Sophie on her cross country run. I really do admire anyone that can run that far that fast. Tell Clark I would love to try some "Clark's Cookies." Now to mom: the idea of falling asleep to the sound of waves was very tempting. I realized that I haven't been camping in a long time and I miss it. But it's getting dark earlier so I get to see stars before we go in for the night and that is a treat, especially since Nebraska skies are huge. We went to the hospital (the tallest building in Grand Island) a couple times this week to visit people on the 7th floor, and looking out those windows made me realize how flat Nebraska is. We could see forever!

Actually, our visits to the hospital were inspired by Heavenly Father. As we were leaving one day, we saw Bro. Guererro sitting in the family suite. He had told us that his sister was dying, but we were still surprised to see him. When we went in to visit with him, we saw Randie and Lino, a couple we had tracted into, sitting in there as well. We were surprised to discover that Lino is Bro. Guererro's nephew. We've been trying to contact Randie and Lino for a while now but they've been really busy. So, we said a prayer with them and left them a copy of the Book of Mormon along with a Plan of Salvation pamphlet. I also volunteered Sister Bonelli's singing talents, so she might be singing at the funeral on Tuesday. Anyway, the next day, we visited Bro. and Sis. Mendez, some semi-recent converts we've been working with, and guess what? Bro. Mendez is Lino's cousin! But wait, it gets even better. Last night we decided to check on a former investigator named Bambi. She opened the door and told us how life has been crazy because a relative has been in the hospital and just died. We thought "no way." So we asked who it was and it turns out that Bambi is Randie's sister. So, pretty much half the people we are teaching are related to Bro. Guererro. The best part is that Bro. Guererro is an amazing missionary so we know that he will be a big help in getting these relatives to progress in the gospel.

Our lesson with Bambi was especially good. Bro. Smith was with us and did a great job jumping in to help Bambi see how the Plan of Salvation related to her and her family. When we had pretty much finished explaining the plan he even gave us the perfect segway into the baptismal invite. So we invited her to be baptized and she said yes! When we suggested October 9th she said she'd think about it. We are very excited for her and for her two kids. Hopefully they will want to get baptized with their mom.

Guess what? General Conference is coming and I am super excited! To help you get the most out of it I recommend that you come up with 3-5 "inspired questions." They can be questions about gospel principles or about things you have personally wondered. Just write them down and pray to ask Heavenly Father to answer them for you during general conference. Then take note of the answers during general conference. I have done this for a couple years now and every time, Heavenly Father gives me very specific answers. One year I asked "What one thing should I focus on improving?" because I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things I could improve. Well, Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk called "The Great Commandment" saying that the one thing that will most improve our lives is charity. Was that a specific answer or what?!? I just love it! Sometimes the answers don't relate directly to what the speaker is saying, but the spirit is able to speak to you individually. So, give it a try. I know that Heavenly Father will answer your inspired questions if you will sincerely ask and seek for them. He loves you and wants to guide you.

Well family, let me know what I can do for you. I love you tons!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All is Well

Dear Family,

It sounds like you're all having a good time getting started with school again. I'm excited for all of you and what the coming year will bring. I just can't beleive how quickly you are growing up. Clark using a locker and Sophie taking Chinese. It's a little mind blowing. I'm very happy for you though.

We have had a wonderful week! Yesterday was particularly great because we spent almost the whole day teaching. The highlight was definitely going to teach Darlene. Laurie (who referred Darlene, and was a recent convert I taught in Ralston) was there with her boys so it was a real treat to see them again. Also, Darlene invited her cousin, Craig, and her friend, Leah, to join in the lesson. We planned to teach the Word of Wisdom and when I saw that we had two new people I wondered if we should just start with the restoration instead. Well, we ended up reviewing the restoration briefly and transitioning into the Word of Wisdom. It was a lot like your demonstration at mission training. When I asked Darlene if she believed Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon was true, she said "yes" both times. That, of course, made us very happy, and Laurie even gave a little cheer, saying how proud she was of Darlene. It was the perfect way to lead into the Word of Wisdom because that commandment was given to Joseph Smith. It turns out Darlene has already been trying to live the Word of Wisdom. The only question she had was on what types of tea should could have and when we told her just herbal tea she gave away all her tea (to Craig). Then she gave Leah a high five because Leah is already living the Word of Wisdom. So, now we will be teaching Leah as well and Darlene is on track to be baptized on September 25th! It was a great lesson, and having Laurie there to testify was especially helpful because she is Darlene's best friend. It also felt good, as we left, to have Laurie recognize how much I've grown as a missionary. I'm not the timid little girl I was in Ralston.

I love you all very much!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 30, 2010

Language Learning

Dear Family,

I can't believe how quickly all of you are growing up. Sophie is going to highschool and Clark is going to middle school! Yikes! That just blows me away! I know that Sis will love having Julie for her seminary teacher. I loved having mom as mine. It meant I was better able to apply things to my life because I had mom always there to remind me, even at home and not just in the classroom. I saw what she taught not just in word but in deed. I think it is so important that we have that combination. It was also fun to give mom those knowing looks across the pew when someone would quote a scripture mastery verse from the pulpit. I'm very excited for Sophie to be studying the gospel in depth every day. What a blessing it is to know and love the scriptures. I love the time we spend each morning in personal and companion study. It's fun to share insights and plan lessons for our investigators.

Our trio actually went to seminary a couple days ago. The teacher asked us to come recite Joseph Smith History 1:15-20 because she knows we recite it when we teach. We actually only recite a small portion of those verses so I was a little apprehensive about doing the whole thing. Thankfully I did learn it in seminary, so I was able to brush up and it came back fairly easily. We were able to share with those seminary students how significant the first vision is and how powerful it is to recite Joseph Smith's own words about it to our investigators. It brings the spirit every time. I certainly felt the spirit as I recited it that morning and know that Joseph Smith really did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know they called him to be a prophet and restore their true church to the earth with all the principles and ordinances and authority that we need to live with God after this life. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church of Christ, restored to the earth after centuries of being lost. How blessed we are to know these precious truths. I love every opportunity I get to share them with others because they are then able to find greater peace and happiness.

Lately, we have been teaching a lot of people that don't speak much English. I think Sister Ith and her Mandarin skills have inspired some of that. She runs after every asian and non-white person she sees, probably hoping that they will speak mandarin. Instead we have found a lot of Sudanese investigators, a lot of Spanish speakers for the Elders to teach, and a handful of people that speak Laotian. Still, it has inspired me to brush up on my Spanish skills and even learn more languages when I get home.

Last Sunday, we decided to check on Bro. Abhon, someone on the ward list that we hadn't met. Well, when we got near his house we started talking to this group of Sudanese men that were walking down the street and one of them turned out to be Bro. Abhon. He was baptized in San Diego almost a year ago and moved here for work but didn't know where the church was. So it was definitely inspired for us to go find him. He is such a strong member. When we went back to teach him, he had his Ensign, his triple combination, his gospel principles manual, and his baptism program out for us to see. When we asked him and his friend why it was important to go to church, he said "to renew our baptimal covenants." He just gets it and I love him. Already he has come with us to teach a lot of our investigators. He speaks both english and arabic so he is the perfect team-up for Najwa, who speaks mostly arabic. Najwa is a Sudanese lady with a cute two year old son that we ran into on the street the other day. She is so sweet. Every time we come over she offers us water bottles on a tray, and last time she even had some home-made african cookies. They tasted amazing and I had at least four (partly because Sister Bonelli can't eat flour). She believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet as soon as we told her about him. So we invited her to be baptized right then and she accepted September 18th as her baptismal date. She is amazing. We are hoping the arabic Book of Mormon that we ordered comes soon.

We are also teaching a Sudanese lady named Nychai. Elders were teaching her before we Sisters came to the area and she also is set for baptism on September 18th. She speaks noware (not sure how to spell that, pronounced: no "R"), but her boyfriend Peter translates for us and there is a Sudanese family in the ward that speaks it too. Peter is Presbyterian and doesn't want to change, but by the end of our lesson, Bro. Abhon got him to say "I will think about changing and coming to church with you."

We also had a really great lesson with the Spanish Elders yesterday. Darlene and Denis both came to church! Then after church, the Elders did a great job resolving some of Denis's concerns. It turns out that he never really prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. He just liked going to church and feels like all churches are good. Well, the Elders, and even Darlene were able to explain to him why the praying about the Book of Mormon is so important. Darlene is excited for her baptism on September 18th and is just amazing. She reads the Book of Mormon on her own and came and enjoyed church. She is more into it than Denis, and he is the member. Hopefully, he will get on board and they can become an eternal family. We are all very excited for them.

We had a baptism on Saturday! Anna was baptized and the spirit was very strong. President Kunz suggested that, while she changed out of her wet jumpsuit, we teach the restoration and invite the audience to follow her example and be baptized. Well, the only non-member in the room already has a date to be baptized, so I invited anyone who wasn't baptized to be and anyone who had already been baptized to come take the sacrament and renew their baptismal covenants. I even quoted and 11 year old named Anna who said "Not going to church is like missing your own baptism." I know that is true. I know that we need to take the sacrament worthily each week to receive again that remission of our sins and hte promise to always have the spirit to be with us. All the talks were very powerful and the spirit was so strong it was almost tangible. I just love baptisms!

Things are going amazingly well! I love you all very much! Have fun with school or work (or in mom's case, both)!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 23, 2010

Surprise!

Dear Family,

I'm glad you enjoyed your last few days of summer. The weather here is finally cooling down a bit and we sure appreciate that.

So many incredible things have happened since last week! The most surprising was to have Sister Ith join our companionship. She is from Singapore and came here from the MTC to wait for her visa. Hopefully it will come in the next month or two so that she can go to her initial assignment of Taiwan. When President called Friday morning to tell me I would be training a new missionary I was shocked. She came later that afternoon and I am so grateful. Having a new missionary in a trio is so fun! Sister Ith says that although coming to Grand Island, Nebraska was a pretty big disappointment (naturally ... she was looking forward to Taiwan) she is adjusting well. She says she feels happiest when we are teaching, so it is a good thing we teach a lot. Already, she is learning to love the people we teach. She is so good at bearing her testimony and sharing personal experiences that back it up. She also chases people on the street even though she is nervous about talking with them. She has brought Sister Bonelli and I renewed energy and enthusiasm for the work. Her mere presence inspires us to be our very best and miracles are happening as a result. None of us are big talkers so we all get a decent amount of time to teach during lessons. Also, it's fun to utilize our different strengths. I love being in a trio!

I got the highest compliment of my mission yesterday in sacrament meeting. I was assigned to speak on President Monson's talk about service. I was also going to accompany Sister Bonelli as she sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" for the intermediate hymn. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about all that. Well, it all went very smoothly (we got a bazillion compliments), and after we sat down, Brother Adams (who was conducting) thanked us and then shared a little story about us. He said his wife had been asking him to turn the dining room table for a while. That way she could get through more easily with her walker. Well, one day, he came home and saw it and the rug turned just how she wanted it. He asked her why on earth she did that ... she could have injured herself. She, of course, replied that she didn't. She said the sisters came by and asked what they could do to help. We turned the table (a very small favor in our eyes) and gave her a big hug and told her we loved her. It meant a lot to both of them and was very touching. Sister Bonelli and I had tears in our eyes because the spirit was very strong. Then Brother Adams said the most amazing thing. He invited everyone, even if they had been apprehensive in the past, to invite their friends to be taught by the missionaries while they were priviledged to have sisters serving in the ward. It was powerful. It was certainly the best compliment I've received as a missionary.

We had an excellent lesson with Darlene and Dennis on Saturday. Darlene is actually best friends with Laurie (in the Ralston LaVista Ward) and it turns out that Dennis was baptized in Guatemala. Darlene felt the spirit, which she describes as comfortable, as we watched the Restoration DVD. Then we invited her to pause and ponder in prayer after asking if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She offered a beautiful, sincere prayer thanking God for sending us and asking Him to show her the way and let herknow if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She paused for a good twenty seconds before closing her prayer. Afterward, she said she felt "good" and promised to come to church. We invited her to be baptized on September 18th and she accepted after we explained that she could know it is ture and be ready by then. It was a spirit filled lesson. Sister Ith did a great job promising the blessings of baptism and expressing the love, excitement and joy that we and Heavenly Father felt at her decision to be baptized. We are all very excited for Darlene. I'm grateful that Sister Ith could be part of such an incredible lesson and see pause, ponder in prayer work on her very first try.

Next Saturday, Anna is getting baptized! She is a sweetheart. Her boyfriend, Chris, will be baptizing her so their whole family is very excited. We are so blessed here in Grand Island. I'm amazed at how quickly I'm able to learn and love my new area each time I am transferred.

I love you! Keep up on your Book of Mormon reading and all the other good things you are doing. And yes, you should tell people that I'm doing grand in Grand Island.
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grand Island really is grand, even if it's not an island

Dear Family,

Thanks for the update. Sounds like Sophie and Brandon are having a successful business. I can't believe Sophie is starting high school soon, but I'm way excited for her. Has she been preparing for cross country?

It sounds like Joel's wedding is going to be a blast. I got the announcement and it was super cute. When I got it I also realized that I haven't been at any of my cousin's weddings. Oh well. Let me know how it goes.

Grand Island is still a funny place but I like it. I guess it's a decently sized town. People say I'm from WaRshington and drive really slow but they have two Wal-Marts. Everyone is very friendly. There are a lot of Hispanic people as well, so dad can be proud of me for speaking spanish a lot.

On Tuesday, we invited Ann, who was set for baptism on Aug 21st, to pause and ponder during her prayers. We asked her to pray specifically to know if Heavenly Father wanted her to be baptized on the 21st. She said she would do that on her own over the next few days. Well, when we followed up on Friday, Ann said the answer she got was no, that she's not ready to make that commitment yet. At first we were afraid that she was going to drop us. But as we continued listening, she explained that she still wants to work with us towards baptism, but that she recognizes that she needs to work out some more things with God first. Apparently she had been having some really good discussions with Heavenly Father on her porch late at night. Her experience reminded me a lot of Enos. She prayed for a long time and learned to love and look forward to her time to talk with God. She was finally able to talk about things she had been burying inside for years. I think it strengthened her faith a lot. It also showed her some areas where she needs to repent and ask for His forgiveness. She continues to amaze me with all the progress she is making. She may not be getting baptized this week, but we know she will be ready soon. I was reminded that faith and repentance need to precede baptism so I'm glad that Ann is taking those steps very seriously.

Anyway, I hope you all have a good week.
Love,
Sister Mortensen

Monday, August 9, 2010

Far, Far Away on Nebraska's Plains

Dear Family,

Sophie's Super Suppers look amazing! I am very impressed with how professional the brochure and everything looks. I wish I could have some super suppers ... actually, the members feed us very well out here. I've been spoiled recently with a lot of Iowa and Nebraska sweet corn (on the cob ... yes, I like it again).

I'm glad you had a good time at the fair. It looks like I'll be going to the Nebraska State Fair near the end of August! That's right, I've been transferred to Grand Island, Nebraska and the members we live with are just a few blocks away from the state fair grounds. So, we'll have to go one of these p-days. My new companion is Sister Bonelli. She's from southern California, was studying vocal performance at a community college, and has a wheat allergy. That means I get to eat her toast/bread whenever we go out to eat! She's great and has really helped me get more familiar with the area and the people. Singing with her is way fun because she has such a beautiful voice.

To answer mom's questions: the release date on my ministerial certificate says 01 March 2011. I'll probably extend my mission for another transfer though. And I've decided that I'd prefer flying home over you picking me up. Since I am now far, far away on Nebraska's plains I no longer serve in the Trail Center. But when I did, we would be in there about 4 days out of the week for half a day. Apparently, I just missed seeing the Welch family by five minutes last week. I got a nice note from them though. Do you remember seeing Katie (who plays trombone) in Nauvoo last year? Well this year she saw me at the Trail Center and I took her and her friends on a tour. I thought that was a fun little coincidence.

Tell Julie thank you for the package of clothes. I got it Thursday morning and opened it during our long drive out west in the transfer van. I wore my new skirt and shirt on Friday and it was so fun to wear new, cute clothes. It kept me smiling all day!

We are teaching some great people out here in Grand Island. Ann is preparing to be baptized on August 21st and should be able to quit smoking by then. She's probably in her late 40s, has a husband and 2 kids, and has been meeting with the sisters for a little while now. I love teaching her because she'll start bearing her testimony spontaneously. Apparently she was really angry with God in the past because she felt like he had taken her loved ones (her parents) before their time. Every time we go over she'll say how much happier she is since she started reading the Book of Mormon and praying and having us teach her. She says everything used to be gray, but now she can see the color. Now she can laugh and find joy in the little things like taking her dog for a walk. She even came to church for the first time in years, and even though she didn't have an amazing experience, still wants to keep coming. I just love hearing investigators and recent converts share their testimonies and pray to express gratitude and love for their Heavenly Father and the gospel. It is the greatest thing.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer! I love you and pray for you daily.

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thanks for all the presents



Dear Family,

Thanks for all the presents. I am already enjoying the new clothes and the Reese's. Kristen A. sent me "The world's largest Reese's." It's like eating a sandwich. Tell Grandma Claire I will use her birthday money to go to the zoo today. I'll probably send her a thank you card after I go so I can tell her about it. Sister Itri was sneaky enough to buy me a NEBRASKA shirt without me noticing, so that was a fun surprise as well. And, Sister Worthen and Sister Itri made me some blueberry pancakes and eggs for breakfast.

It was a good birthday. We taught Annette (age 16). Some of her family are members of the church, but her sister (Ally, age 12), who was baptized last spring, is the only one that comes regularly. Annette is deaf so we've been learning some sign language. Elder Palmer taught us a lot as we rode in the transfer van back from our meeting in Sioux City. It is so fun to learn new things! So, our lesson on Saturday went really well because we were actually able to communicate with and get to know Annette. When we didn't know a word we just finger-spelled it and she taught us how to sign it. It was kinda slow but she was patient and really appreciated our efforts to involve her. When we asked her to come to church (in sign language!) she nodded with a half smile. Thankfully, Meagan, a member of the ward that can sign, just got called to young women's and agreed to interpret for Annette. It was really fun to see them conversing during sacrament. Meagan said it was really tiring to do for three hours straight, but that she enjoyed the opportunity to use her education. She also said that Annette seemed to feel the spirit. We just love Annette and hope that we can better understand how to help her.

That picture of you three canoeing is awesome. I'm going to try and attach some pictures too.

Tell Haley Hatch congrats on the mission call. She will LOVE it!

I love you all very much!
-Sister Mortensen

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pioneers


Dear Family,

I'm so glad you had a good pioneer day! Spending time with family is definitely the way to go. It was exciting to meet Jeff and get his little report that all is well with the Mortensen clan. It sounds like everyone had a blast in Colorado doing crazy Colorado things. Those memories of catching mice and riding a four wheeler and driving for the first time are unforgettable. I can picture Sophie as a good little motocross racer. If she wants to try that a good contact would be Travis Chambers and his family. I remember that he really enjoyed that sort of thing. I can't believe Will got run over by a jet-ski! That's crazy! I'm glad he's okay. Hopefully you all make it safely home.

I got my first birthday present this morning when we came to the Trail Center to email! Sister Itri and I are very excited to listen to Men's Chorus. So thank you from both of us!

Our pioneer day was fantastic! We went to the Kanesville Tabernacle for a little bit to mingle with members and see "the Pancake Man." Then, we had an excellent lesson with Ann. She's a young single adult that just got her life in order and started coming back to church. She is full of the missionary fire that comes with repenting and seeing the atonement work in your life. That process automatically makes you want to share the joy of repentance and forgiveness with everyone. We love her so much! Then, we took Anthony on a church tour and reviewed the restoration. He also stayed for Meredith's baptism. I'll give all the details on that in a sec; first I want to talk about an amazing lesson we had with Beth and Anthony.

On Tuesday, Beth came on her first ever team-up to see Anthony. It was amazing because they are both amazing! Anthony expressed how he is reluctant to pray and Beth jumped right in with her testimony of prayer. She shared how much the gospel has helped her and her family, saying that if it weren't for the missionaries, she and Kevin might not be together any more, but that the things we've taught have helped them become better, happier people. She shared how she overcame her addictions to meth, alcohol, and finally cigarettes. And she explained how good it felt when she was baptized. She said something like this: "When I came out of the water it was just like the Joseph Smith story. You know, with the pillar of light. I felt that warmth." I was so happy and proud of Beth. Hearing the testimonies of people I've worked with is incredible! I think my favorite part was when she talked about her favorite scripture. Anthony said he didn't want to come to church and feel out of place. Beth's response to that was to share her testimony of church along with Jacob 2:18-19. Sister Worthen had read those verses with Beth and Kevin several times, reminding them to put God first so that He would put them first. After reading "But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them." Beth testified that she knew that promise was true because she had seen it work for her family. She explained that Kevin had been out of work for months and months and was really frustrated with that. It meant that Beth had to work nights at a really hot, sweaty plant to support their family. Well, because they trusted Heavenly Father and came to church, He blessed them. Just a few days after his baptism, Kevin got a call from his previous employer asking him to come back to work. And Beth knew that that blessing came because they put God first by seeking for the kingdom of God. I was so impresssed with her testimony and with her scripture knowledge. I mean, she just recently started reading the Book of Mormon and that this was her first time helping teach. Sister Worthen would have been so proud, because she really did emphasize that scripture with them. I could hardley contain my happiness. I wanted to run over there and give Beth the biggest hug ever!

So, Anthony came to Meredith's baptism. I think it was really good for him to see how happy she and everyone else was. Her love for her family, for us, and for the Savior was so apparent. She is only 11 years old, but she is very close to the spirit. There's just something different about her. She is setting such a great example for her family to follow by being baptized. She is the pioneer of her family so we thought it was appropriate that she was baptized on pioneer day. After her baptism, while she was changing, I played the piano a little bit and people wrote notes to Meredith. She changed really fast and then came and gave Sister Itri a hug. She looked around for me, and when Sister Itri pointed out that I was at the piano, Meredith lit up and ran over to give me a hug too. She is so adorable. I know that Heavenly Father loves her and is happy with her choice to be baptized. Her family felt that too and even commented on it as we showed them the chapel. I love the joy that comes into people's lives as the accept and live the restored gospel.

So, those are the highlights. It has been an incredible week. I love you all so much. Remember as you take the sacrament that you are basically being re-baptized. Reflect on the sacrifice of our Savior and promise him that you will be better. I know that we can be cleansed each week as we repent and re-new our baptismal covenants by taking the sacrament. We are so blessed!

Love,
Sister Mortensen

Monday, July 19, 2010

Campfires, nylons, & the Spirit

Dear Family,

I'm glad to hear you had a fun camping trip. It would be nice to sit around a fire with all of you, laughing and relaxing and having a grand old time. The other day, we were talking to a man that was smoking some meat outside his house. He wasn't super interested in the gospel but I loved talking to him because I was able to bask in the smell of firewood burning. When we got back to the car, Sister Itri was like "gross, I smell like smoke" but I was thinking "mmmmmmmmm ... it has been too long since I smelled like campfire." I'm sure Sister Itri loves a good campfire too, just not while she is a missionary.

We got exciting news from Sister Kunz on Saturday. We don't have to wear nylons! Not from June 'til August anyway! We still need to wear them to church, the Trail Center, and the Temple, but otherwise we are nylon free! You should have seen the sister's faces when Sister Kunz made that announcement; everyone was beaming with shock and excitement. The funny thing is, I feel so comfortable in nylons now that I'll have to get used to not wearing them.

On Tuesday, we met Sioux City missionaries at a training for the Council Bluffs and Sioux City Zones. So, we have two new sisters, Sister Evans and Sister Myers. Sister Evans has also been serving for about nine months so we will probably go home together. It was a great training, all about teaching people, not lessons. I needed that reminder because it's easy for me to teach the same lesson over and over without adjusting it to the person's needs. Asking questions and listening are the keys to getting to know our investigators needs, interests, and concerns so that we can address them with a gospel principle. Basically I need to be a better minister and not just a teacher.

Sister Itri and I were talking one night about how great it is to have a companion with you all the time. It's nice that we are never alone. There is always someone there to motivate, encourage, inspire, strengthen, protect, and converse with. And really, this is the only time of our lives that we will have this experience of constantly having a companion with you. It led us to realize what a blessing it is to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. He is literally with us all the time, as long as we are living worthy. What a great gift from our Heavenly Father! Servants of the Lord are never alone. We can always turn to and rely on the Holy Ghost to guide us through life's obstacles. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Cute little Tara made us laugh quite a bit at church yesterday. I wish I could have taken a picture of her "singing" the hymns with her mom, Beth, during sacrament meeting. It was so cute to see her smiling and making her own little sounds as her mom pointed at the words. Then, in Relief Society, I gave Tara my gospel principles book and she found the picture of Christ ordaining his apostles. She put her hands on her head and said "My mom do that!" with a big old smile. I smiled back and whispered "Yeah, your mom got confirmed. She has the gift of the Holy Ghost!" She catches on really quick for a three year old. I decided then and there that Sister Worthen and I need to come back in about a year and see Kevin, Beth, Grace, and Tara get sealed. I can't picture anything much happier than that!

We've started teaching a black man named Anthony. He's been through a lot in his life. But he's dug himself up and out of these awful situations so that he can one day live what he calls "a normal life." He wants to get married and have a family and a nice little house and be happy. We told him that that's what Heavenly Father wants for him too, and that as he lives the gospel, God will bless him. He doesn't want to come to church and be the only black man, but Sister Bender told him how welcome he is and that he can sit with her and her family. She also was able to share how much the gospel has improved her life. Our whole lesson just showed me how much the gospel blesses families and that because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can change. We don't have to be stuck in the same situation or life-style that we grew up with, we can improve and progress. I am so grateful for the hope that the gospel gives me. I asked Anthony how he felt after hearing Sister Bender's conversion story and he said "content." I would also say that the spirit helps me feel content. Instead of feeling empty or hungry I am filled with peace, love, and hope. I feel certain that everything will be okay, even when I have no idea how that is possible. I love hearing people describe how the spirit feels for them. I love helping them learn to recognize and act on it. One of my favorite things as a missionary is to hear people describe the spirit or to see their eyes light up and their faces soften as they feel the spirit. If I was only allowed to teach one lesson, it would probably be on how to recognize the spirit. That way I'm not just feeding them a fish, but teaching them how to fish.

11 year old Meredith is excited for her baptism on Saturday and so are we!

By the way, Sister Itri took "a cute little family from Provo" on tour at the Trail Center sometime last week, and they turned out to be Dr. Lewis and his family. He is the chemical engineering professor at BYU that I did research for two summers ago. It was weird to see someone I knew at the Trail Center, but exciting all at the same time. It reminded me of those times when we ran into Mr. Nelsen and his family on Spring Break. Fun, fun.

Thanks again for the email. I came up with one more birthday gift idea: church music CDs. I hope you all have a great time on vacation!

Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our Purpose

Dear Family,

I'm glad girls camp was a hit. I didn't know you were going camping in Idaho or going to a family reunion in Colorado. Sounds fun. You'll have to let me know how it goes.

Birthday gift ideas (you don't have to use all of them, but hopefully some are small or fun or even home-make-able):
-a pair or two of garments
-a short sleeved, non-cotton, button up shirt that I preferably wouldn't have to tuck in (I realize that's a lot to ask)
-a skirt? (my black one is getting a little worn but I'm sure it can last)
-super-sticky post-it notes
-a basic plan of salvation "game" where the kids have to put all the pieces in order ( I like when there is a stick figure with a spirit and a body)
-nylons
-a space saver vacuum bag (so that my bedding will shrink when I pack it)
-pictures of you guys (ones I can hold in my hand)
-Reese's, craisins, etc.

We've been setting people for baptism like crazy! On Friday we set Lisa+Richard (July 24th, family ward, newly-wed couple), Meredith (July 24th, family ward, 11 and super cute), and Melissa (Aug 14th, singles ward, her boyfriend took her to temple square and she loved it)! On Saturday we set Don (July 31st, family ward, Sister Worthen and I stopped teaching him but his heart has softened and he wants to be baptized)! And yesterday we set Tiffany (Aug 28th, singles ward, has been going to church for several months and is almost done reading the Book of Mormon)! All of them are excited and looking very prepared for their baptisms!

I gave a talk in the family ward this Sunday. I was asked to share things I've learned on my mission or my favorite chapter from Preach My Gospel. All throughout the week I kept thinking about Chapter 4 and how important the Spirit is in missionary work. Then, after teaching Don on Saturday, a new, semi-related topic came to mind. Don asked about becoming one with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. He said it could be pretty easy for him to convince himself that he was close to God and Christ but if he doesn't feel the spirit, then he must be wrong because Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one. If he really is one with one or two of them then he must be one with all three. We tried to explain that the gospel (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) is the way to become one with the Holy Ghost, with Jesus Christ, and with God. It was after that lesson that I decided to change my topic. I suddenly realized that the gospel is the what, the why, and the how of missionary work. We share the gospel so that people will live it and become like Heavenly Father. But we are only successful in this as we live the gospel ourselves. We are not the teachers, the spirit is, and if we aren't living the gospel we can't have the spirit and it cannot teach. So, my new topic was "our purpose," which is to "Invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Really this is just an extension, or more specific way of stating Heavenly Father's purpose, which is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." As we help Heavenly Father fulfill His purpose, we are fulfilling our purpose and we are happy. It is all about becoming more like Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ. The gospel is the process we go through to get there. By living the gospel we access the power of the atonement and the Holy Ghost and we become more and more like Christ. One of the most amazing things about it is that the more we help others come unto Christ, the closer we get to him. He spent all his time focused on others, so as we serve others we become more like him. And we must qualify for and rely on the Holy Ghost to truly be able to help those around us. We don't know them nearly as well as Heavenly Father does so we need His help. If we will listen to and follow the promptings of the spirit, we can be an instrument in His hands in bringing His children home. I love being a missionary!

I love you all so much!
Love,
Sister Bailey Mortensen