Wednesday, February 24, 2010

L. Tom Perry is an Apostle of the Lord

Dear Family,

It is exciting to hear about all the things you are doing. Mom, I had to laugh about "using that archaic technology and turning my hand crazy colors." I'm sure using an old fashioned overhead projector isn't that bad. It actually reminded me of something L. Tom Perry said yesterday. As he explained how the Lord prepared the world for the restoration and how all kinds of technologies came about to support the spread of the gospel, he mentioned the invention of paper. He said "Can you imagine preaching the gospel without paper?" and we all laughed because, no, we can't. Teaching from the scriptures and giving out pass-along cards and pamphlets are two of our major activites and we could not do either without paper.

L. Tom Perry also bore powerful witness that Jesus Christ is the head of this church. Christ’s church is one of order, led by prophets and apostles. The authority to lead his church was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson is his prophet today. Elder Perry explained that the next prophet is always determined by seniority, or by who has been an apostle the longest. This means that the Lord chooses who becomes the next prophet because he chooses when these men of God move on to the next life. It was pretty funny when Elder Perry said how, as he keeps moving up the chairs, his respect for the men sitting ahead of him increases. He said "I check Elder Packer's blood pressure on a regular basis. I want to be sure he lives a long, healthy life. There is no aspiring to positions." Something else he said that I really liked has to do with accepting assignments from the Lord and loving missionary work. He said he was really sad when he was no longer the apostle assigned to the missionary department, because he loves missionary work so much, but that when Elder Packer gives him a new assignment he says "yes sir" and moves on. I really like that attitude of doing whatever the Lord calls us to do.

We also got to hear from Elder Hallstrom of the Seventy yesterday. His comments helped me see that I need to re-dedicate myself to the service of the Lord by focusing on serving others. The spirit really spoke to me about how I need to "Forget myself and go to work." It has told me that before, but I guess I didn't really learn my lesson yet. So, I'm trying even harder. I wrote the following quote from President Hinckley on my new planner to remind me: "Do you want to be happy? Forget yourself and get lost in this great cause. Lend your efforts to helping people ... Stand higher, lift those with feeble knees, hold up the arms of those that hang down. Live the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Mom, I really wanted to thank you for teaching me the importance of asking questions when you teach. Way back when, when you had me give your relief society lesson, you told me the secret to a good lesson. You told me to come up with good, thought provoking, open-ended questions; ask those questions; and then give the class members time to answer. You clearly told me not to be afraid of silence and not to answer the questions myself. That simple advice has helped me a lot as a missionary. It is a lesson that I keep re-learning, especially as I teach and as I study from Ch. 10 of preach my gospel. I'm very grateful that you taught me to ask questions.

The work in Gretna is really booming. We have three investigators with baptismal dates. Jacob and Ty are set for March 20th and Michelle is set for April 3! We are so happy for each of them, and each of them are showing significant progress as they continue to read the scriptures, come to church, and pray. Their lives are changing for the better and Heavenly Father is blessing them with greater peace and happiness. I just love this work!

I love each of you very much. Mom, I love you. Dad, I love you. Will, I love you. Sophie, I love you. Clark, I love you. Have a great week!
Love always,
Sister Bailey Mortensen

P.S. We all got to shake L. Tom Perry's hand, but the only thing I had time to tell him was that I'm from Vancouver, Washington. He seems a lot less tall than the last time we spoke. Probably because I have grown and he has shrunk. There is an Elder Bailey in the mission that is gigantic, taller than Elder Perry and a lot wider too. When Elder Perry shook his hand he said "Great Scott! What happened to you?!?" We all burst out laughing at that one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jennifer & Jacob

Dear Family,

I'm glad to hear that mom had a blast in Arizona. All the food she
described sounds amazing. It must have been so fun to visit with all
our friends and family in Arizona. Hopefully the rest of you also had
an enjoyable holiday weekend.

Mom, your comment that "that the magnitude of the blessing is
dependent on the magnitude of the purity of our motivation" really
struck me. I hadn't considered that before, but I think you are right.
I will have to keep pondering that.

This week, a miracle happened. A younger couple, Jennifer and Jacob,
moved into the branch! Jennifer joined the church when she was 21 but
hasn't been for a while. Her husband Jacob isn't a member but wants to
take the lessons and support his wife in coming to church! Isn't that
great! They are an amazing couple. Jennifer is so friendly. She had us
over for lunch on Tuesday, she went to the Relief Society activity on
Wednesday, and they both came to church on Sunday. Jennifer even made
hundreds of cupcakes that she gave to all her neighbors for valentines
day. She is the sweetest! Then, on Sunday night, we had a lesson with
her and Jacob in our Branch President's home. To our surprise, Jacob
doesn't really know if there is a God. So instead of teaching all of
lesson one, we just stuck with the first principle: that God is our
loving Heavenly Father. We really felt the spirit and were able to
testify a lot about Heavenly Father's love and about the power of
prayer. We hope to get to know Jacob a little better and help him gain
that faith that Heavenly Father is there, that He loves Him, and that
everything can be made right through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We
really feel that he has been prepared to receive the gospel.

I also heard that Krista, an investigator that I worked with in
Ralston, got baptized on Saturday. Here is what President Kunz
reported about it:

"Krista was baptized Saturday, she is a young adult finishing up
college in Lincoln but she is from Omaha. Her boyfriend (Travis)
introduced her to the Church and she has studied with missionaries
off-and-on for over a year. She was concerned about her family's
reaction to her joining the Church, but on Saturday and Sunday, many
of her family came to support her baptism and confirmation. She bore
her testimony yesterday in Sacrament meeting expressing how further
knowledge of the gospel makes her feel more complete. Krista said
that the missionaries answered all her questions and that the Spirit
has bore witness to her that it was all true. Krista's life has been
changed forever, she will never be the same, she will grow in
testimony and strength and will receive all the covenants available,
and as of now, because of her baptism has the potential to reach the
Celestial Kingdom - what a marvelous miracle!"

I'm so happy for Krista! She is an amazing person and I know her
decision to join the church will be such a blessing for her and
especially for her family. A year from now, she and Travis can be
sealed in the temple!

I have one more bit of really exciting news. Next Monday, L. Tom Perry
is coming for a mission conference! I am so excited. We will get to
hear from an apostle of the Lord about how we, as missionaries in the
Nebraska Omaha Mission, can be better! I'll be sure to give a full
report next Tuesday.

By the way, Nebraska has the most beautiful skies. I was entranced by
the sunset on Sunday night. The sun was like a warm, orange flame just
below the hills. It sent a pillar of yellow up into the blue sky that
was streaked with orangeish-pink clouds. I loved how the colors came
together. To me, it was a reminder from Heavenly Father that He loves
me because He made this beautiful earth for me to enjoy. It was

I hope you all have a great week!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow & the Celestial Kingdom

Hello Family,

I'm glad that you all helped mom to have a wonderful birthday. To me
it sounded pretty fantastic. And even more exciting is the trip to
Arizona. I know that will be a blast!

Thank you for your thoughts on baptism as a gate. Oddly enough,
President Kunz's email this week was titled "Baptism is the Gate."
Here are some of his thoughts that I'm sure you'll appreciate.
"Baptism is the gate, the entrance, the door to the path toward
eternal life. But like any gate, it requires a key to unlock it
(faith) and effort to open it (repentance)." Cool huh? President Kunz
is so wise and so inspired. I really appreciate his leadership and
know that he was supposed to be my mission president.

Last Sunday we were having dinner with a family in the branch and they
told a really funny story that happened that morning. I guess they
were getting ready for church when someone mentioned mormons. The
youngest boy (about 8 years old) says "Mormons! I've heard of them!
They are the ones that settled Utah!" Naturally, their whole family
looked at him sideways, wondering if he was kidding. But he was
completely serious. Then the oldest boy told him "You are a mormon."
"No I'm not, I'm a latter day saint!" Isn't that the funniest! This
kid, who has a really strong testimony and understanding of the
gospel, didn't know that our nickname is "mormons." We all laughed
really hard over that one!

On Thursday night, we went to the Trail Center with Michelle to watch
the Joseph Smith movie. I LOVE that movie. It is so powerful.
Afterward, we bore our testimonies that Joseph Smith was a prophet of
God, and Michelle completely agreed with us. She already has a super
solid testimony. And she finally set a day to be baptized! April 3rd!
It's a ways out because she's pretty cautious, but she could easily be
baptized sooner. Hopefully she will become more confident and
comfortable with what she knows as we continue to teach her. Then she
won't be so timid and will feel ready to make this covenant with God
and receive the promised blessings.

Luckily, we made it to the Trail Center before our cars were grounded
(due to snow) and we were able to spend the night and go to President
Kunz's training in the morning. He always gives such good trainings,
and this month it was about our potential to become like God. He had
Sister Kunz stand up and he said that every time he sees her he thinks
of her as his queen, because that is exactly what she is. Because they
have been sealed in the temple they can become a King and Queen with
eternal increase just like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.
That idea really hit home. That is what I want, I want to become like
God. I want to be sealed in the temple. I want my future spouse to see
me that way and so I better start by seeing myself that way. I am a
daughter of Heavenly Parents with the potential to become like them.
Remembering that is so important. It helps me make good decisions that
will lead me to that exaltation and eternal life.

There is a room in the Trail Center called the Memorial Room that has
a beautiful view of the Winter Quarters Temple and the Pioneer
Cemetary. As I stood there, silently watching the snowflakes fall, I
was filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the pioneers who sacrificed
so much to pave the way for us. Gratitude for our Savior who
sacrificed himself so that we will live again and have the opportunity
for eternal life in his presence. Gratitude for the restoration of the
gospel, which gives us everything we need (the ordinances and
priesthood power to preform them) to prepare us to return to God's
presence. The white, sparkling snow made everything so clean, so
crisp, so beautiful, and so soft. I think it was a glimpse of how the
celestial kingdom will be. Full of light and peace and joy and love.

Well family, I love you all very much. I pray for you. I hope that you
will continue making good choices so that we can all enjoy the peace
and happiness that comes from living the gospel and one day all return
to live with our Heavenly Father. It will be AMAZING!

Sister Bailey Mortensen

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tennis shoes & turkey sandwiches

Dear Family,

My story for the week happened Tuesday night as we went to an appointment with Sister Jeppesen as our team-up. Before getting out of the car we always pray and it was my turn. I guess Sister Bleazard really wanted me to hurry up with the prayer because she saw a guy walking at the end of the road and wanted to talk to him before he disappeared. As soon as I said amen, she hopped out of the car and took off running after him. This is actually a fairly common thing for us because we are determined to talk to everyone we see. Our team-ups have even started joking about needing to wear tennis shoes when they come out with us because we run so much. Anyway, we caught this guy just before he went into his house. Sister Bleazard "GQ'd" him (asked him a golden question) and we started talking about having a modern prophet. It was pretty funny because we had to pause between sentences to catch our breath. He looked at us like we were a bit crazy but asked if we'd like to come in and warm up. Then his mom came to the door and told us she grew up in the reorganized church (now Community of Christ). She let us in and got out her copy of the Book of Mormon (one of those old paperback ones with angel Moroni on the front). She said she had never really read or understood it and wondered if we could explain it. Of course! So we had a great lesson about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and she really felt the spirit. She even agreed to work toward baptism! After leaving, our team-up, Sister Jeppesen, turns and says "You guys are amazing!" She was really sincere with that compliment and it felt really good to hear.

Sister Bleazard and I were also very pleased with how the lesson went; we felt very unified. At one point, Sister Bleazard came up with a great analogy for praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true. And later, I built on that same analogy. It went something like this:

When I was little and wanted a snack I would ask my mom to make me something to eat. She was very happy to help, so she would ask what I wanted. "I dunno" was my usual reply. Then she would list off some options:
"Cheese and crackers?"
To every suggestion I would say no and, naturally, mom would get frustrated. But, if I had been specific and asked for a turkey sandwich, mom would have made it for me without complaint. It is the same way with prayer. When we ask Heavenly Father specific questions, He is able to give specific answers.

Now, imagine that mom made me the turkey sandwich that I asked for, but I change my mind and decide that I'm not hungry any more. Wouldn't that be aggravating? Yes. Would mom be as likely to answer my requests in the future? No. Why would she go to all the trouble if I'm not even going to eat it? Again, it is similar with prayer. If we aren't willing to act on the answers God gives, why would he answer our prayers at all. We need to show Heavenly Father our willingness to act. Joseph Smith didn't just ask which church was right, he asked which he should join, showing that he would follow through on the guidance God gave.

Pretty good analogy huh?!? And we just came up with it on the spot! I really enjoy teaching the gospel. It is such a privilege and blessing to be a missionary and serve the Lord full time. I get to share the things that I know and hold dear with everyone I see and help them find the same joy and happiness that I have found in living the gospel. I know Heavenly Father loves us. He is our Father and wants us to become like Him and receive all the blessings and joy that He has. If we will just obey we can live with Him forever in eternal happiness.

I love you all so very much. Have a wonderful week!
Sister Bailey Mortensen