Thursday, October 29, 2015

Surprise Text Message Pictures!

It totally makes our day when kind, thoughtful people think to take pictures of our missionary to send to us!!  These pictures came today.  The Elder's went head to head with the High Council Representative in trying to eat donuts with no hands at their ward Trunk or Treat activity.  Apparently, they lost, but sure had a great time doing it!!

Thank you again to our kind, anonymous friend for sending pictures and making us smile!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Missionary Thoughts

Description:'s been an interesting week!

I think that some of the initial excitement of missionary work has started to wear off. Now don't get me wrong, I still love missionary work, and I count every day I spend out here as a blessing, but some of the day-to-day routine parts of missionary work aren't quite as exciting as they used to be. I guess it's inevitable that the excitement of anything new will fade, but I think the important part is if you can still find things to enjoy about something every day, and you still have a passion for it, then it's something you can love even though the initial excitement is gone, and it can still be a great experience!

I also had the thought that I've always had a certain perception of missionaries, and I never really felt like I matched up with those perceptions.  But, I'm coming to realize it was the perceptions that were wrong and not me. Elder Dixon and I try to imagine certain older members of the ward who are really respectable doing dumb things on their mission, and we can't, but we're pretty sure they did. I just can't imagine Elder Holland as a 19-year-old doing dumb things in the mission field. It also made us wonder if we'll be that respectable one day and that missionaries will think we could never do dumb stuff when we were younger. Makes you think! haha

We have a missionary from Africa who is one of my zone leaders. His name is Elder Pienar. He's white, and when people ask him how he came from Africa and is white, he tells them he grew up in the shade.  He's a funny guy!

It's getting cold enough that in the mornings and evenings that I could definitely use a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt in the next package.  The rest of the time it's been very nice though!

We had a dinner appointment this week where the family was watching the Utes game and eating ribs. They told me it couldn't be helped if I watched some of the game, so I unfortunately got to witness the Utes lose at one of my dinner appointments.

Sunday, we had an awesome sacrament meeting with two priests giving their testimony on missionary work, a missionary about to depart in five days, and a returned missionary who had just gotten home a few weeks before. It was a really good sacrament meeting!

If this email sounds a little different than most, it's because I'm using the microphone option on my iPad. The writing style might be a little different, but I can write a lot more and in a lot less time!  And speaking of time, I’ve gotta run!

Love you all lots!

Q&A – 10/26/15

1.) What's on today's agenda? --The usual for today! Laundry, shopping, sports, etc.  We did stop off at an orthopedic doctor this morning to get Elder Dixon's foot checked out because of the bike accident, and it turns out that he has some tendinitis in his right foot.  Nothing too serious, he just won't be playing basketball on Mondays for a week or two.

2.) How is the MP3 working for you? --The Mp3 is working awesome!  I really appreciate that you sent some decent speakers!  I was just expecting one of the little can speakers, but it's been REALLY nice to listen to music with good quality audio!

3.) Do you get the opportunity to play the piano much?  --A decent amount.  I've played a musical number for zone conference twice, and they tried to convince me to sing at one, but I went with the piano instead, haha.  I play sometimes at district councils, and if I ever wanted to, I could play while we're at the stake center for sports on P-day.

4.) How often do you have district meetings or zone conferences?  --District council is once a week on Wednesdays.  We have one zone conference a transfer, where the AP's and President Snow are there, and one zone training, where the whole zone gets together, but the AP's and President Snow aren't there.

5.) Dad is hoping for some details about Elder Dixon's "little crash" - he loves a good missionary bike wreck story.  ;)  --As far as the crash goes, long story short, one moment he was on the bike, the next moment he wasn't.  Haha.  He was riding no hands down the sidewalk, and his handlebars got caught on a bush so they yanked around and he crashed.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Very Healthy & Very Happy

It's been a good week! The work has really been taking off in our area! People are just popping out of the woodworks that want to be taught, and it's been a huge blessing! We're super excited to keep working and in another couple of weeks I think this area will really start to take off! Fingers crossed I'm around to see it!
For when a regular size glass of strawberry lemonade just isn't enough.
What a successful Ward Correlation meeting looks like.
This week has been kind of interesting because Elder Dixon had a bit of a bike
accident, which kept us from having very much proselyting time. The first day
he was condemned to bed, and the next day we were busy visiting urgent cares
for most of the day looking for one that would take his insurance. He's ok now
Elder Dixon's new friend, Bones.
I got an MP3 player and some speakers in a care package from home today, and I don't think I realized how much I really missed having music with me these last few months.  I couldn't stop smiling for a long time once we started listening!   (We sent Ty some church music and some classical orchestra pieces which are approved in his mission.  I like imagining the smile on his face as he got to have such a big part of his life back!  Big thanks to Kylie for helping us get some of his favorites!)
A couple of pictures of houses decorated for Halloween.  Everyone down here goes crazy decorating for the holidays! These aren't even the best ones! One of the houses pictured has a whole pirate village in the backyard!
This week I've been ponderizing D&C 130:20-21:
* To predicate on- to found or base something on.
* Paraphrase: There is a law that cannot be changed that was made in heaven before this earth was created, and it's upon this law that all blessings are based. And when we receive any blessing from God, it is because we followed the law it's based on.
* Footnotes:
- Galatians 5:14- "for all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Is there only one law being referred to in this scripture?  I'm starting to think that the reason that this commandment was given as the most important, is because if we love God, and love our fellow man, all of the other commandments will fall into place. We won't have a desire to steal or lie or cheat or kill because if we truly love as we're supposed to, we'll see the harmful effect these sins have on others and have no desire to do them.
* In a lot of the footnotes, it keeps mentioning a law of Liberty, so I want to dig deeper into that and see what relation it has to the law mentioned in the scripture and what its relation is to the law being fulfilled by love.
- In the topical guide under Liberty is says see also: agency; bondage, spiritual; bondage, physical; citizenship; deliverance; freedom; governments; opposition.
In my studies right now, I'm going through Genesis, Matthew, 2 Nephi, and D&C Section 5.  Trying to keep it balanced between all 4 books, and I never feel like I have enough study time! I'm definitely seeing the blessing from my patriarchal blessing come to fruition that I'll develop a deep thirst for spiritual knowledge.  I have all these conference talks and different things I want to do as well, but never seem to have enough time to do it! 

I feel so lucky to be out sharing the gospel, and am so grateful for the love and support of everyone back at home! 

Elder Excell

Q&A 10/19/15

1.) How are the pedal cranks on your bike? -- I'll send some pictures today for you to post!  I've been keeping them tight, but the problem is that they keep on cracking more and more because they grind against the curb from time to time.  It might be easiest to just send money and I can try and find a bike shop where I can find some replacements next p-day. For now though, thanks to the miracle of duct tape, they're holding out well enough to last a little longer.  One of them came off the other night, but again, thanks to duct tape, I'll make it through!

2.) What Sunday meetings do you attend? Do you go to a Ward Council Missionary Meeting? --
We go to ward council and PEC before church, and then stay for the full 3 hour block. 

3.) The most humorous moment of the week? --
The funniest part of the week would have to be one of our recent converts, a big 6'3" Samoan who probably weighs about 300 pounds, leaving his house after our appointment on a bike that was not nearly big enough for him.  We had to fight pretty hard to keep straight faces after that one!

4.) Are you healthy and happy?  --
Very healthy and very happy! 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Two Months & Our First Baptism

2 months! Still 22 to go, but still, it seems like just yesterday I was thinking 1 month!

This last week has been a lot of fun! Still loving serving with Elder Dixon! I'll share a couple of interesting experiences and then some of my thoughts on the scripture I ponderized this last week.

We had a baptism Saturday! Lauren. She's 16, and she was a lot of fun to teach! She already knew a lot about the church and had been coming for several years, but her dad has a rule that the kids can't be baptized until they're 16 and take the missionary discussions. She's going to be a great member!

We had 4 different flat tires this last week! One was mine, and the other 3 were Elder Dixons tire that we kept patching and it kept blowing, so we finally bought a new tube this morning! We got to do some old fashioned on foot proselyting, which was fun for a day or two, but Hopefully we don't have to do for a while, haha. Definitely a blessing to have the travel options we do today to hasten the work!

Most of the members of my ward now know I'm a Utes fan, so I get updates on the scores before Monday! Even though they're mostly BYU fans, and are hoping to give me bad news when they watch, they haven't had a chance to yet! Go Utes!

This last week I've been ponderizing Ether 12:27.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

* When it says "if men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness", it seems like him showing us our weakness is a blessing. We're usually shown our weakness through trials. Trials are a blessing because they show us our weakness. And that's a blessing because it causes us to be humble enough to accept Christ's help, which allows us to become stronger than we were in the first place.
* When it says I will make weak things become strong unto them, it doesn't really say that he'll remove our weaknesses. Maybe sometimes it just means that he'll show us how things that used to be weaknesses can be used as strengths. Almost everything can be a strength. It just depends on how you look at it.
* "For my grace is sufficient for all men who humble themselves before me." We need to be humble in order to partake of the atonement. Christ's grace is the only way we can enter into the kingdom of heaven, 2 Nephi 25:23. The trials we receive are humbling us in such a way that we're able to partake of the atonement.
* If they humble themselves before me AND HAVE FAITH IN ME. Humility is about more than just recognizing your own limitations. It's about recognizing that through Christ you can do all things. It's only as we show faith in him that our weaknesses can be made strengths.

Love you all and appreciate the continued support!

Q&A – 10/12/15

1.) What are p-days like for you? Are they different now with your new companion? --They're still pretty much the same. Wake up, work out, study, shop, laundry, email, clean, sports, etc. We don't really have time to switch it around too much, haha

2.) How is your bike treating you? --The bike is doing well for the most part! We had a flat tire incident earlier in the week, but I have a new tube now, so it's all good!

3.) I've also been wondering about the other things we bought to send with you. Are things holding up ok? Bag? Shoes? --Bag's Good! Shoes are wearing a little, and I have a suspicion that it's faster than they normally would because they spend so much time on such hot asphalt. They're still good for now though! And if they do wear down, they've got the two year warranty. Besides, I decided the other week that every missionary secretly wants to go home with a pair of really beat up warn through shoes.

4.) How many siblings does Elder Dixon have? Is he oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between? --Elder Dixon has 5 siblings, of which he is the youngest.

5.) One thing that you've learned about yourself since serving as a missionary? --I've gained a newfound appreciation for the fact that it's up to you to determine your happiness! There are a lot of things that you can't control in life, but you can always control the way you react the situation you're in, so why wouldn't you choose to be happy?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Elder Dixon and General Conference!!

Hey all!

So the big two topics of this weeks letter will be Elder Dixon and General Conference.

First off, I LOVE ELDER DIXON!!!    Elder Wihongi and I were able to get along well enough that we were able to work together, but Elder Dixon and I are already like best friends!  He's from upstate New York, and grew up in a town with population 50 (not unlike a certain Cokeville Wyoming).  He's older than me by 21 days, and has been out on his mission for 3 months, so we're both very young in missionary time.  He went to a small community college for a year before coming out, and majoring in electrical engineering with an emphasis on robotics.  The two of us have TONS of similar interests, and we get along really well!  We're both really excited to get to work together and try to get this area to be really productive!  Picking Elder Dixon up was definitely an interesting day.  To make a long story short, after dealing with an Elder who got food poisoning the night before and was thus unable to travel out of valley like he was supposed to, traveling across Las Vegas not once, but twice, and helping another set of Elders move into a new apartment, along with plenty of other nonsense, we were finally able to pick him up at the mission office, and go home.  In our free time, we've been deep cleaning the apartment, and it's pretty hilarious some of the things you find in a missionary apartment that hasn't been cleaned for a while.  For instance, we found not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR hacksaws in our apartment.  I'm sure there was a very good reason for them to be there. maybe. probably not. almost definitely not.
Elder Dixon!

Now on to conference. I LOVED CONFERENCE!!!  Conference as a missionary is a little bit different than conference at home, but I loved it all the same.  Elder Dixon and I were unable to find a ride there, so we had to take the 30 min. bike to the stake center on our own.  Because it didn't make much sense to bike home for 30 minutes, do 30 minutes of tracting, and then bike back for 30 minutes, so we just saved up all of our paperwork and weekly planning to do in between sessions.  All of the missionaries in our stake got together at the stake center to watch, and with as easy as it is to watch from home nowadays, we were almost the only ones there.  It was also not nearly as stressful as I thought it would be! We told all of our investigators about it the week before, but again, with as easy as it is to watch from home, most of them opted for that route rather than dressing up and going to the stake center.  I'll include some of my favorite talks, thoughts, and quotes from conference:
-I loved the first talk of conference by Elder Uchtdorf about not over complicating discipleship.  "Tell a man there are trillions of stars in the universe, and he will believe you. Tell him there is wet paint on the wall, and he will touch it just to make sure. Sometimes the truth seems to simple for us to appreciate its value."  "Exaltation is our goal, Discipleship is our journey."
-Larry R Lawrence gave an awesome talk that I think can be summed up by this one phrase: "What lack I yet?"  He talked about the importance of going to God to ask what is keeping us from progressing, and talked about the fact that sometimes we'll receive very specific answers. Super excited to try out this new principle! Also really like the quote, "When it comes to eternal progression, our direction is much more important than our speed."
-Robert D Hales and Bradley D Foster both had talks that were really good, and I definitely want to go back and read once I'm home from my mission, because while they may not apply as directly to the phase of life that I'm in now, they both have really good advice in them!
-For most of my conference talks, I have very detailed notes, but although it was one of my favorites, I have very few notes on Elder Holland's talk.  That's because I spent the majority of my time during his talk tearing up, and far too mesmerized to take notes.  All I can say, is if you haven't had a chance to listen to Elder Holland's talk, GO READ IT. If you already heard it the other day, GO READ IT AGAIN.  It was definitely one of my top picks for the weekend.
-I was definitely a little sad after the priesthood session that I was unable to fulfill my usual tradition of going out for ice cream with Dad, but it was awesome none the less!

-I'm also super excited to ponderize!  For those who weren't able to catch the talk yesterday, it essentially means that you choose one verse of scripture a week, and put it in a place that you will see it often.  As you see it and ponder it over the course of the week it will give your mind a higher place to go when the pressures of the world get to you.  I'm super excited to try it out this week and in the weeks to come! My verse for the week is Ether 12:27, and I'm excited to see what I can learn about it!

For those cooler Las Vegas days... a sweater made by Dad!!
Those were some of my favorite parts of conference, and I hope that all of you had equally uplifting and enlightening experiences with conference.  I'm also excited for the talks to be published so that I can go back and reread them, because I always pick up things that I missed the first time around.  

Thank you so much to everyone for your continued love and support!

Elder Excell

Finally, some pictures of the apartment!

Go Utes!

It's important to stay hydrated in Las Vegas!