Monday, July 26, 2010


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!

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!

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)
-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!
Sister Bailey Mortensen

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Happy 4thof July!

Dear Family,

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July yesterday. Sister Itri and I also got to watch some fireworks Saturday night because they were right outside our window. So, I didn't feel too bad about missing Bishop Wood's arsenal this year.

The highlight of our holiday was, of course, seeing Kevin and Beth be baptized and confirmed. They are so great and we are so happy for them to finally have their sins washed away and be on the path back to Heavenly Father. Their two girls, Tara and Beth, were super cute. After the baptism, Sister Itri was showing Tara a picture of Christ being baptized and Tara grabbed her nose and said "My mom plugged her nose." She cracks me up. I'm so grateful that I get to be a part of all this and help Heavenly Father's children take these steps back to Him. The joy on people's faces as they come up, out of the water is difficult to express. Beth said afterward that she felt clean and like a burden had been lifted. That is the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that we can be cleansed, that we can change and become more like our Savior because he showed us and provided the way.

Our Relief Society lesson yesterday (in the family ward) really spoke to me. Ali (the teacher, who also served her mission here at the Trail Center) told a great story about running a marathon in Utah. She started out going downhill pretty fast and felt great and excited to get a good time. But when there were about ten miles left, it was uphill and her legs were in a lot of pain. She wanted to give up or at least stop and walk. But then, she saw her family on the side of the road, cheering her on. Her brother (also a runner) even came and ran those last miles with her. She said if it wasn't for him running by her side that she probably wouldn't have made it. But she did, and as she crossed that finish line, she felt so good. It was the greatest feeling! She compared that to our life and how, when we might want to give up, we can trust that our older brother and Savior is there to help us through. She also said that if we could get even the tiniest glimpse of how wonderful eternal life will be, we would do everything in our power to get there. Returning to our heavenly home will be the greatest feeling! It will be worth it. To me, the moral of the story was "Don't give up. I'm here. It will be worth it." So, I will keep going, trusting my Heavenly Father and my Savior and keeping that finish line at the fore front of my mind so that nothing will keep me from getting there.

Sophie, Holy Guacamole! You wrote the longest email ever about dance festival. It was great though. I'm glad it was such an uplifting and testimony building experience. I especially enjoyed hearing your "voice." You have always had a way with words and I enjoy hearing your stories. Did Clark have as much fun rock climbing as you did? I hope you and mom have a stupendous time at girls camp and I look forward to hearing all about it.

Sister Bailey Mortensen