Monday, November 28, 2016

A New Opportunity to Serve

Central/Sunrise Zone
Hey Family and Friends!

Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any crazier, this weekend has been even crazier than almost all the ones before!  As you may know, this week is transfer week, and I have a new assignment! I've been asked to serve as an assistant to President Snow! For those of you who aren't really familiar with missions, district leaders help 8-10 missionaries with their work, zone leaders help 3-4 district leaders with all of their missionaries, and the assistants to the president (me and one other missionary) help all of the zone leaders in the mission. I'm definitely really overwhelmed!  It'll mean I'll spend a lot of time working really closely with President Snow, and will be traveling all over the mission! It's a ton of responsibility. I know that on my own, I couldn't possibly handle this new assignment, but I also know that with the Lords help, I can do all things!

I'll be serving in another YSA ward - the Robindale YSA Ward! And, I'll be serving with Elder Wightman from Rexburg. 

Unfortunately, my new assignment will mean I'll be even busier than usual on pday, so my emails might not always be the longest, but I'll do my best! 

I love you all! I know I couldn't do any of this without your love, prayers, and support. Thank you, and happy holidays!

Elder Excell

Thanksgiving with the Littlefields!

Q&A - 11/28/2016
1.) What was the most memorable part of your Thanksgiving? Foods? Traditions? It's cool to celebrate with new people in new ways. I'm so grateful to the Littlefield's for including you in their day!!  --  It was way fun to be with the Littlefields! They're a great family, and they had a huge Thanksgiving party with lots of people!

2.) Now that you've had a day for things to sink in, how are you feeling about your new responsibilities? Are you doing OK? Are you happy?  (Note from Mom:  We got the most wonderful surprise on Saturday, 11/26 - an unexpected phone call from our missionary!! President Snow had asked him to call us and let us know that he was being asked to serve as an assistant to the President.  To say that we were surprised and thrilled to hear his voice would be an understatement!!)  --  I'm super excited! It's definitely a lot, and I'm a little overwhelmed right now, but I feel like I do well when under pressure.  I'm also super excited to work so closely with President Snow!

3.) Is Elder Tupou with you? We were curious what he would be doing in the midst of the changes with you.  --  He's hanging out with some other missionaries. Elder Green and Elder Wightman came and picked me up Sunday night. The last day or two has been crazy! I'll try to tell you more about what I've been doing next week.
Amber Miller

Me and Elder Tupou with Anna and Jennifer

Me and Bradley

Derek Lang

David Howe

Monday, November 21, 2016

My Week in Pictures

Hey y'all!

This last week has been great! Not a lot of time today, but I'll try to make up for it in pictures! 

Amanda was baptized his last week! She's awesome, and it was really cool to see her make that step! 

This next week is transfers, and it seems like there's going to be a big shakeup! I'm excited to see what happens, and I love you all!

Amanda's Baptism!

Finally got myself a new belt. Sometimes, you just know it's finally time...

Me, Elder Young, Elder Tupou, and Elder Leakehe (who's in my zone
again!) helping someone move!

A picture from when we were proselyting the other night. Our area
covers right by the stratosphere!

Enjoying a sunset at a stoplight.

Q&A - 11/21/2016
1.) Did you get our package of Cutler's Cookies finally? Are the cookies green, or will they still be edible? Still sad that it took an extra week to get to you!  -- I got it! And the cookies are still ok! Definitely not fresh out of the oven, but not green either!

2.) Something new on your gratitude list that wasn't there last year.  --  All of the experiences I've had his year! (Kind of lame, I know, but I'm not good at thinking on the spot, and I'm running out of time, haha)

3.) The thing I want to remember most from last week is....  --  I went on exchanges with an elder, and he really opened up to me about some struggles that he's been having the last couple of weeks. We had some really good talks, and I think he felt a lot better afterwards. I'll always treasure any opportunity I have to help other missionaries!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tender Mercies

Hey everybody!

This last week, I've been thinking about tender mercies. There was a class about it on Sunday this last week, and so I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I'll include a part of a talk given by Elder Bednar a few years ago so y'all can see what I've been thinking about:

Six months ago, I stood at this pulpit for the first time as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Both then and even more so now, I have felt and feel the weight of the call to serve and of the responsibility to teach with clarity and to testify with authority. I pray for and invite the assistance of the Holy Ghost as I now speak with you.

This afternoon I want to describe and discuss a spiritual impression I received a few moments before I stepped to this pulpit during the Sunday morning session of general conference last October. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf had just finished speaking and had declared his powerful witness of the Savior. Then we all stood together to sing the intermediate hymn that previously had been announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley. The intermediate hymn that morning was “Redeemer of Israel” (Hymns, no. 6).

Now, the music for the various conference sessions had been determined many weeks before--and obviously long before my new call to serve. If, however, I had been invited to suggest an intermediate hymn for that particular session of the conference--a hymn that would have been both edifying and spiritually soothing for me and for the congregation before my first address in this Conference Center—I would have selected my favorite hymn, “Redeemer of Israel.” Tears filled my eyes as I stood with you to sing that stirring hymn of the Restoration.

Near the conclusion of the singing, to my mind came this verse from the Book of Mormon: “But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1:20).

My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi’s phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord,” and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy. A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.

What Are the Tender Mercies of the Lord?

Since last October I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord.” Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).

Recall how the Savior instructed His Apostles that He would not leave them comfortless. Not only would He send “another Comforter” (John 14:16), even the Holy Ghost, but the Savior said that He would come to them (see John 14:18). Let me suggest that one of the ways whereby the Savior comes to each of us is through His abundant and tender mercies. For instance, as you and I face challenges and tests in our lives, the gift of faith and an appropriate sense of personal confidence that reaches beyond our own capacity are two examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. Repentance and forgiveness of sins and peace of conscience are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. And the persistence and the fortitude that enable us to press forward with cheerfulness through physical limitations and spiritual difficulties are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord.

In a recent stake conference, the tender mercies of the Lord were evident in the touching testimony of a young wife and mother of four whose husband was slain in Iraq in December of 2003. This stalwart sister recounted how, after being notified of her husband’s death, she received his Christmas card and message. In the midst of the abrupt reality of a dramatically altered life came to this good sister a timely and tender reminder that indeed families can be together forever. With permission I quote from that Christmas card:

“To the best family in the world! Have a great time together and remember the true meaning of Christmas! The Lord has made it possible for us to be together forever. So even when we are apart, we will still be together as a family.

“God bless and keep y’all safe and grant this Christmas to be our gift of love from us to Him above!!!

“All my love, Daddy and your loving husband!”

Clearly, the husband’s reference to being apart in his Christmas greeting referred to the separation caused by his military assignment. But to this sister, as a voice from the dust from a departed eternal companion and father, came a most needed spiritual reassurance and witness. As I indicated earlier, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.

Some time ago I spoke with a priesthood leader who was prompted to memorize the names of all of the youth ages 13 to 21 in his stake. Using snapshots of the young men and women, he created flash cards that he reviewed while traveling on business and at other times. This priesthood leader quickly learned all of the names of the youth.

One night the priesthood leader had a dream about one of the young men whom he knew only from a picture. In the dream he saw the young man dressed in a white shirt and wearing a missionary name tag. With a companion seated at his side, the young man was teaching a family. The young man held the Book of Mormon in his hand, and he looked as if he were testifying of the truthfulness of the book. The priesthood leader then awoke from his dream.

At an ensuing priesthood gathering, the leader approached the young man he had seen in his dream and asked to talk with him for a few minutes. After a brief introduction, the leader called the young man by name and said: “I am not a dreamer. I have never had a dream about a single member of this stake, except for you. I am going to tell you about my dream, and then I would like you to help me understand what it means.”

The priesthood leader recounted the dream and asked the young man about its meaning. Choking with emotion, the young man simply replied, “It means God knows who I am.” The remainder of the conversation between this young man and his priesthood leader was most meaningful, and they agreed to meet and counsel together from time to time during the following months.

That young man received the Lord’s tender mercies through an inspired priesthood leader. I repeat again, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them.

We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance (see 1 Ne. 1:20).

I've been really looking for the tender mercies of the Lord throughout this last week, and when you start to look for them, you start to see so many of them! I was in the Spanish elders area again, and this time it was with a really new elder who hasn't quite learned Spanish perfectly yet. Neither of us were very sure what was going on a lot of the time, but in my very limited Spanish, I got the chance to just testify of the gospel really simply, and I could really feel the spirit throughout the day! Also, I've been really wondering about a lot of things lately, so I decided to fast this Sunday and read my patriarchal blessing. The Lord spoke peace to my heart so strongly! And then all throughout the day on Sunday, all of the lessons and talks seemed to be pointed right at me! There are so many tender mercies that we can see each day!

I'm so grateful for all of support that you all give me! I love you all!
Elder Excell

Q&A - 11/14/2016
1.) Since Thanksgiving is next week, are you making any plans? Do you have a dinner invitation for that day? Will that be a regular missionary day or more like a p-day? -- We do have a dinner invitation with a really cool family! The Littlefield's. It will be pretty much like a regular proselyting day.

2.) What are you most looking forward to in the week ahead?  --  We have a really busy week this week, including a zone training meeting. It's always fun when you get a chance to be with the whole zone.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Temple View

Hey everybody! This last week has been great!  
The view outside of our chapel -- not bad!!

I guess the best place to start would be last Monday. It was Halloween, and for those of you who don't remember from last year, we aren't allowed to proselyte on Halloween night. Apparently in the past there have been problems with people dressing up as missionaries and doing stupid things, so instead, all of the missionaries get together at the mission office and have a Halloween party! It was pretty great, and it's the one time of the year when all of the missionaries get to watch a movie together! Last year it was the Cokeville Miracle, and this year it was Shrek!  It was great for a few reasons. As a missionary, the things that you find funny change a lot. I've never seen so many 20 year old's so caught up in, or laughing so much from watching a kids movie! I've also never felt quite so uncomfortable about incredibly small amounts of crude humor, haha.

The baptism this Thursday was great also! Isaac had a lot of friends and family there to support him, and it was a really cool experience.

I've actually had a lot of cool experiences this week that have really helped me to appreciate the things that have happened to me on my mission. I already mentioned it in the Q&A, but I think it bears repeating. I'm so grateful for everything that I've learned, all of the people I've met, and all of the ways that my life has been changed. I really love this mission!

And, I love and appreciate you!
Elder Excell
Elder Tupou puts his feet up by the fire after a long day

Q&A - 11/7/2016
1.) We'd love to hear more about the baptism on Thursday.  -- The baptism was a guy named Isaac. He's a really great guy! He has a girlfriend who's LDS, but he didn't let that influence his decision at all. He made sure that he was getting baptized because he knew it was true. To be honest, I didn't have too much to do with this baptism, it was already pretty much in place before I got here. It was still really cool to participate though! He asked me to do the confirmation, and that's always a really cool experience.

2.) Does it feel weird attending a YSA ward as a missionary?  It seems like not so much a temptation to start dating or anything, but just kind of weird because everybody is your same age, but you're the only one that is a missionary.  Let us know how that feels.  --  It can definitely be kind of weird serving a YSA ward sometimes. But it can also be really cool! It's like getting to do missionary work with a bunch of your friends.

3.) What do you wish you had more time to do on P-days?  --  I definitely wish I had a little more time to send off some decent emails. But I'm grateful that I get the time I do!

4.) During this month of gratitude, I'm thankful for...  --  The chance that I have to be a missionary. I can't even describe all of the ways that this mission has and is changing my life, and I think often about how fast it's going. Don't get me wrong, I miss home and everything, but there are a lot of times that I never want to leave. I really don't know what I'll do. But no need to think about that for quite a while yet!
Pictures of our patriotic apartment...