Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Restoration

Dear Family,

This week we had another wonderful lesson with Michelle. We were planning to watch the restoration DVD (which is amazing by the way), but she said she had borrowed it from her aunt last week and had already watched it. So we had a really good discussion about the Book of Mormon: what it is, where it comes from, and how it ties in with the Bible. Michelle is just awesome. In Relief Society yesterday she even told a story about how she started an anonymous "kindness committee" at work that really helped everyone be more positive. She is changing so much from the shy person she used to be. When we go see her tonight we will help her choose a specific date to be baptized! Oh, we are so excited for her!

We also had a great lesson with an older lady named Barbara. She has been taught before, but lost contact with the missionaries for a while due to health problems. So we watched the Restoration DVD to review that with her. When we asked her to pray about the Book of Mormon she said she already knows it is true! She knows Joseph Smith is a prophet and everything. So, we asked her to prepare to be baptized on February 20th and she said she would think and pray about it. I think one of my favorite things as a missionary is to hear investigators and recent converts share their testimonies. It reassures me so much and really strengthens my testimony. I know Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. I'm so grateful that God loved us enough to restore his gospel through him. This is the true church. The Book of Mormon is true. It teaches us everything we need to know to live with Heavenly Father again.

Sacrament meeting was amazing this Sunday! First of all, almost all the people we've been teaching were there. Secondly, the Branch President's son, who just returned from his mission, gave the most amazing talk on the restoration I've ever heard. And finally, Sister Nelson gave a powerful talk about enjoying the journey and pacing yourself. I really needed to hear that. Afterward, I went and sat by her at the organ (she's the organist) to thank her for her talk. Doing that really reminded me of times when I would go talk to mom after sacrament meeting. The building looks exactly like the Orchards Building and Sister Nelson even has short brown hair. Actually, Sister Nelson is a lot like you mom: she is a great teacher, full of gospel knowledge; she is fun and loving; and she has a powerful testimony. We love having her come on team-ups with us.

Well family, I love you all very much! Keep me posted on everything that is happening in your lives (like wrestling, NHD, work, school, and church).

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Dear Family,

I’m glad to hear that you had a good week with Jason and then the band concert. Mrs. Kent really is a great woman. I’m glad you were able to see and visit with her. Good job on the horn solo Sis! I didn’t hear it, but I did teach mom how to pick out the horns and she said it was good so I’ll trust her. How is Will doing? Are you all enjoying the family togetherness?

Dad, I’d love to have those two names. The history here in Nebraska really is remarkable. Just today, one of the moms in the branch gave us a ride and said how her son did a school project all about the pioneers and loved it. He even invited his whole class to visit the Mormon Trail Center. Then last night, after dinner, we discussed letting our light shine with the Mannewitz family. They decided to focus on having good language this week so that when people at school or work notice they can talk about church and how it helps them and their family. They are such good little missionaries.

We had a great lesson with Michelle last week about the atonement. She has been meeting with the sisters for a while and last week was her first time coming to all three hours of church. She’s been praying about whether she should get baptized. Well, in our gospel principles class she got her answer. She said that she felt a rush of warmth and the thought came to her mind “You should get baptized.” We assured her that that was the spirit. Just like Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 says, the spirit speaks to our mind and our heart. We are so excited for her. We know what a huge blessing baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost will be. She is already seeing how meeting with us has helped her form better habits of prayer and scripture study and even giving up alcohol. Talking with Michelle really strengthened my testimony of attending church. When we go to church we place ourselves in a spiritual atmosphere where we are more receptive to spiritual promptings. Often, answers to my prayers have come at church, either through the words of a speaker, a teacher, or the scriptures. Heavenly Father truly blesses us for going to church.

Sister Bleazard and I have been learning a lot about how the spirit speaks to us. I think Michelle really helped me see that thoughts accompanied by good, warm feelings are spiritual promptings. Sister Gingrich always said “If it’s a good thought, do it.” I think I’m getting a lot better at that. Instead of hesitating when there is someone outside I just go talk to them. Now and then I’ll think things like, “I should put that in my backpack” or “we should knock one more time” and I think those are also spiritual promptings. It may seem silly or seem like nothing comes of it, but I’d rather follow those thoughts, trusting that they are inspired, than miss an opportunity that Heavenly Father gives me.

Thank you for sharing that talk Sister Dean gave on service. Service is another thing that Sister Bleazard and I are trying to focus on. I do remember telling you how selfish I felt at college. I was frustrated that my only purpose in life was me. And you said not to worry because we go through selfish and selfless phases in our lives and that my selfish phase wouldn’t last forever. Well, I’m glad that I get a break from that selfish phase as a missionary. We really are focused completely outward. Our purpose is to “invite others to come unto Christ” (PMG Ch.1). Everything we do is about serving those around us and helping them be happier. Our gospel principles lesson on Sunday was about charity and the teacher said “Charity is a never ending search for someone else’s happiness.” I thought that statement was very profound. It really does sum up charity.

I also want to share a service/charity related connection I made recently. In Mosiah 5:13 it says “how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served … and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” That got me thinking, if “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3) then we get to know God (have eternal life) by serving Him. Then I remembered Mosiah 2:17 which says, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” That means that serving others is serving God and coming to know Him and having eternal life.

Serving others = serving God -> knowing God = eternal life

So serving others is HUGE. It is in serving others and loving them that we become more Christ-like, more like our Heavenly Father, more “at one” with them. And as we become like them, we know them, and we are prepared to inherit eternal life. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, thanks for keeping me updated on family life. It’s so good to hear from you. I love being a missionary, I love Gretna, and I love Sister Bleazard! We work hard and have fun at the same time!

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, January 11, 2010

Frigid Nebraska

Dear Family,

I’m glad to hear that you are all getting back in the groove of school and work. It has been really cold here in Nebraska and there is so much snow. Even the native Nebraskans say this amount of snow is ridiculous. Instead of transfers being on Thursday, the snow delayed them until Friday. Sister Smith and I took one of the new sisters (fresh from the MTC) out all day Thursday. I can’t imagine what those new missionaries thought, arriving to Nebraska when it is below zero, the wind is blowing, and there are several feet of snow on the ground. The sister that came with us said she learned persistence and diligence, probably because we still went out and talked to people in the freezing cold and didn’t stop talking to them unless they ran away or shut their door. Well, that’s missionary life. We just bundle up, pray with lots of faith and Heavenly Father blesses us.

Exciting news: I was transferred to Gretna! I went from the second smallest area in the mission to the largest. It was a little sad to leave good old Ralston LaVista, but I am loving Gretna. My new companion is Sister Bleazard. Oddly enough, we are the only sisters in the mission from Washington (she’s from Pasco) and the only two sisters who were trained by Sister Gingrich. We are getting along very well. In fact, I think Sister Bleazard and I balance each other perfectly. She has a very passionate personality while I am more reserved. She loves leading and I am completely content to follow. Also, she is overflowing with enthusiasm and confidence which I am able to feed off of. We are both very excited to work hard and see miracles happen.

The members here in the Gretna branch are incredible. They participate in missionary work so much. They not only feed us, but pay for our apartment and everything in it. They come with us on team-ups all the time. And because we are so limited with the miles we can drive, they give us rides a lot too. I am so grateful to be in such a supportive area. We are able to work together in harmony in sharing the gospel and I love it!

We had a great lesson with Heather on Saturday night. She is a single mom and the daughter of a couple in the branch who joined the church recently. Apparently she went to church last week and felt very comfortable. We taught her the restoration lesson and it was very powerful. She is very close to the spirit and described it as a peace where you just know that everything is going to be okay. I love that description because that is often how the spirit feels for me. She accepted a baptismal date and everything. Then on Sunday, she didn’t come to church. Her mom said she kinda freaked out and decided she wanted to take things slowly and learn a lot more before making a decision. Sister Bleazard and I were disappointed to hear that. I guess Satan starts working on people as soon as we leave. I can understand wanting to learn, but it’s not like we will let people get baptized if they aren’t ready. We teach them so that they will know everything they need to know and be prepared to make that covenant. I thought we explained that to Heather, but maybe not well enough. I wonder what we can do to make people more comfortable with preparing to be baptized.

I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father loves us and has a plan for each of us. He is just waiting to bless us if we will just be obedient. He will help us to do things He asks us to do and shape us to become who He wants us to be.

I love you all so much!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, January 4, 2010

Feliz y frio

Dear Family,
I can’t believe that Joel and Kenny and John are engaged! That is so weird to think about. Especially since they all got home so recently (at least it feels that way). Well, I congratulate them and wish them the very best. I’m especially excited for Joel because Jenna was a lot of fun at her birthday crab boil. I can’t believe that all Julie’s kids will be married! I’m sure that will be just one of the few interesting changes for me to come home to.

I love that you put my name tag on the fridge along with "La hermana es feliz y frio". That pretty much sums me up: a very happy and cold missionary. Okay, I’m not cold all the time thanks to our car, the people we visit, the layers you sent, and our apartment. But it has been sub-zero pretty consistently. And we even got a few more inches of snow. The big difference between here and Washington is that the snow never melts. It just piles up. It makes me very grateful for all the modern conveniences we have to stay warm. I cannot imagine how the pioneers survived here at Winter Quarters. Two or three families would live together in just a one room log cabin or sod house. And yet they were so grateful to even have that. There is so much for us to learn from the pioneers so I’m grateful to be serving in such a historic area.

This week I learned that we, as missionaries, are gathering scattered Israel. I just finished reading the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi and the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob so it has kind of been on the brain. Then, Sister Smith and I met this man at the library who is of Jewish descent. He saw us emailing and eventually asked “Are you amish?” That made me laugh, but also led to a great little discussion about how we are missionaries sharing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. We asked if we could come teach him and he agreed. When we visited him later in the week to teach about the restoration he understood it really well. He has gone to a few different Christian churches and found a lot of hypocrisy. So he completely agreed with the apostasy. Still, he has heard some weird things about “mormons” and was pretty apprehensive about learning more. But he kept saying yes to our invitations. At first he was like, “I don’t know if I’ll read the Book of Mormon” but when we asked him again he said “okay.” He even told us “something is telling me not to say no to you. I just can’t say no.” It was a really neat experience. We came out of that lesson in awe. Wow! We really are gathering scattered Israel and God truly does prepare His children to receive the gospel.

We also had a really good lesson with Krista this week. She has been investigating the church for a year and knows it is true, but her family is against her getting baptized. She is about our age and started investigating because she is dating a member named Travis. They are both so good. After a lesson about how the temple blesses families Krista expressed her concerns about joining the church. I wasn’t sure what I could say to help her, but Heavenly Father did and He filled my mouth. I told her how good she was and how I could tell how much her family cares about her and how much she cares about them. Then I said “This is the best thing you can do for your family.” Those words definitely didn’t come from me because I have never thought that before. But it is so true. When I said that, it really rang true. Living the gospel and attending the temple is the best thing any of us can do for our families … past, present, and future. In the temple our families are sealed together for eternity. To me that is so comforting, to know that I will be with you, my family, forever. Our greatest growth and our greatest joys come from our families, so of course Heavenly Father wants us to live in families after this life. I’m so grateful that He has provided the way for us to receive that most wonderful blessing of being united for eternity. I know that the greatest blessings come from keeping temple covenants.

One last thing I’ve learned this week. President Kunz taught us in a training that

love -> faith -> obedience -> blessings

If we want blessings we need to be obedient. If we aren’t as obedient as we should be, it’s probably because we don’t have complete faith that we will be blessed for being obedient. And faith comes from loving the savior. That’s why he said “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Love for the Savior leads to faith, which leads to obedience, which brings blessings. All through the Book of Mormon it says “Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.” (Jarom1:9 and other places). I never really noticed the word “inasmuch” until now. As much as we are obedient, that is how much we will be blessed. If we are 60% obedient we will get 60% of the blessings. So, if you want more blessings, be more obedient. And if it’s hard to be more obedient, you need to exercise more faith. Do those little things that build faith like praying, expressing gratitude and reading the scriptures. And if building faith is difficult, try to recognize Heavenly Father’s love for you. Remember those times when you have seen Him bless your life. Know that He loves you and is always there for you. He wants you to be happy, to become like Him, and receive all the blessings He has for us. Catch the vision that you are His child with the capacity to become like Him. Also remember the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That is the greatest manifestation of God’s love. The more we understand the atonement, the more we will love our Savior and exercise faith in him.

I love you all very much!
Sister Bailey Mortensen