Dear Elder Slavens

Dear Elder Slavens

Elder Dallin J Slavens Cambodia Phnom Penh

Elder Chancellor J Slavens Idaho Twin Falls

Monday, December 30, 2013

Prospero Año Y Felicidad

The time has come for yet another beautifully structured email by Elder Slavens!! Woop! Woop!


This week was awesome possum yo. We had such an great time running around and sharing messages about Christ, considering the season. We read Luke 2 like a bajillion times, and I've just come to love that scripture.

La Navidad was completely wonderful. All of the elders in the district got packages from their parents with Christmas presents inside, and we put them all down below the tree in our house and anxiously awaited the 25th. When it finally came, all the guys in our district got together and opened presents! It was so much fun to have everybody there; it was almost like I was back at home!! Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to talk to my family that day 'cause they're on a stinkin' cruise in Hawaii without me! But I suppose I'll live. It was really cool to see Elder Wright get to talk to his family though; he seemed really happy and it refreshed him up pretty good, methinks! Get back soon guys, so I can talk to you!!

We've done a lot of member strengthening this week; doing service and sharing messages and all that kind of stuff. There are some people around here who are going through tough times and truly need our help. Even though it doesn't show up in the form of numbers for us to report, I know I'm doing the right thing when I see a family come even just a teensy bit closer to Christ through our presence. It's really cool to see.

Other than that, there's really nothing too specifically exciting that happened this week! Just a lot of member visits and things like that! hopefully I have more exciting stuff to talk about next week!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that the new year treats you all like the beautiful children of God that you are!!

Elder Slavens

Monday, December 23, 2013

WUBWUBWUB My Mission!

Hello there, my lovely friends and family!

This week has been very good! Although to be honest with you, not much has happened that's too exciting to talk about! Let's see, what can I exaggerate to make this week sound awesome...?

Oh! So transfers happened this week! Elder Wright and I are sticking together for the next transfer, so that should be awesome! We're getting along well, and I'm excited to see where this new transfer will take us. However, basically our whole entire district got ripped up and stitched back together, which was fun to watch, I suppose. Every other pair in our district was separated, and they're all training now. Hopefully that goes alright! There's a couple missionaries in our district that have the potential to do a lotta harm to a brand new baby missionary if they're not careful, so Elder Wright and I are gonna have to be on guard so that doesn't happen!

My area has been split and I now just cover three little towns, whereas last transfer we covered five. The new missionaries covering the other half of the area are a couple of sisters, who are just on fire! They're a little insane, yet they are on fire, and I have no complaints there.

This week we had a mission Christmas party and a talent show! I borrowed a guitar from a member and played the song "Hallelujah" for it. Is that how you spell 'hallelujah'? Anyway. It was so much fun being able to get up in front of people and just jam out! I miss that kinda stuff a lot, so it's good to get the chance to do so every once in a while like this. We also had a lot of awesome talks about the Savior and His birth. Being on a mission really puts into perspective the reason for the season, and it's been so much fun to learn about Christ and His life as I've studied and prayed.

The day after the party we had another Christmas activity for the Spanish group! It was way fun, and we had tons and tons of nommy Mexican food. Elder Wright and I also played a song for that! We sang "Cantan Santos Angeles", which is "Angels We Have Heard On High" in Spanish. It was so much fun!

Anyway, that's basically all that went down this week. I actually didn't end up having to exaggerate too much! I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and I'll catch you on the flip-flop!

Elder Slavens

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Jesus' Birthday

Good afternoon, lords and ladies. *Bows really low*

Another week passes by in the timeless city (I mean village) of Wendell, Idaho! It has been an awesome week! Perhaps a rather uneventful one in the eyes of my beloved readers, but still very very good.

What happened this week? Well, not really much in terms of exciting stories about investigators. We have a few with baptismal dates that we're just working with to get to church and whatnot so they can decide for themselves that they're really motivated to take the step into the font, but not much has happened that's really noteworthy!

Now what I would like to discuss a bit are the awesome fun times that occur in the everyday life of Elder Slavens when he's not teaching the good people of Idaho about how to be saved.

Story #1: The other day we got a call from our Zone Leaders, who quasi-angrily told us that we had been butt dialing them like all day long and that they were sick of hearing our nerdy conversations about Lord of the Rings and Super Smash Bros. So I did some investigation on our phone; come to find that when I move my leg with it in my pocket, all the buttons on the phone get pressed at the same time, and it unlocks the phone and calls somebody, seemingly at random. To my horror, I looked at our recent calls to find that we had called a bunch of investigators too. Thank goodness they all speak Spanish! They'd have realized just how geeky Elder Wright and I are! Anyway, I was like, "Let's end this madness," so I went into the phone to put a lock code thingy on it so that this wouldn't happen again. So I go into the settings and find the 'New Passcode Lock' option. Sweet. It asks me for a new password, so I type in 5555. Easy enough to remember. It asks me to confirm the password. I do so. The phone then freaks out: "Uh-oh! That code is invalid! Now I'm gonna lock up like the Pentagon!" Which makes no sense because all I was doing was typing in a new code. But whatevs. So our phone is basically a brick now and we can't talk to anybody. It has been a very difficult thing to deal with, and I now appreciate phones so much. But not the one I currently have. At this point, nobody call me! I won't be able to pick up!

Story # 2: On Thursday we buried a member's dead wolf-dog half-breed. It was the strangest, most morbid service project I've ever taken part in.

Story #3: Two days ago I was driving, just like usual. We were on our way to the next city over to see a Christmas Cantata thing put on by the Church. I took a turn and, as is habitual for me, I sped up a bit to get some momentum. Then the lights go off behind me. Crap, dude. I got pulled over by the fuzz. So this cop comes up to me and asks where I'm coming from. As it happens, we had just finished another service project, and were dressed in our raggy service clothes. I probably looked pretty G. So this dude assumed I was just some snot punk kid. I subconsciously pushed my sweatshirt over so my tag was visible, and explained that we're missionaries from the Church, just heading out from doing some service for a poor old guy who can't walk. I hoped that'd soften his heart a bit. He proceeds to snatch up my driver's license and walk over to his car. 10 minutes later he returns. "I'm going to have to cite you for speeding,' he says. "Now get out of here, and watch your speed." Guess how fast I was going. 7 over the limit. Guess what my penalty is. 90 bucks. What a wonderful day.

Anyway, it's been a pretty fun week. Lots of fun things happen as a missionary, as I'm sure many of you are aware! Just too bad they all seem to happen at the same time. I hope you all have a wonderful week! I sure hope I do!

Elder Slavens

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dat Flu Though


Friends and family!! Why hello there!

I hope everything's going swimmingly for all my loved ones out there, and that preparations for the coming Christmas season are tickling your fancy and making you glow with Christmas cheer!

I, for one, am freezing.

It started snowing halfway through the past week, and has proven unyielding. The weather here is quite stubborn, that's for sure. At first I thought it was just bi-polar and couldn't decide where to go. But the past week has shown to me that, rather than being undecided, the weather is certainly decidedly against us. But it's okay, because I laugh in the face of harsh conditions! It only makes me more determined to get into somebody's house! Take that, snow!!

But this week has actually been quite a bit less productive than I probably make it sound. Namely because of the flu that's been going around which decided to hit our house last Tuesday. I got sooooo sick. I was bed-ridden all day, save the times I was bent over the toilet. Unfortunately I don't really know how to put that more gracefully. But Tuesday was very rough for me, and it made for a very unproductive day, which is always a bummer for a missionary. I can only imagine what it was like for Elder Wright.

Just kidding, I experienced it myself!

That's right! Within the next two days, Elder Wright had contracted the exact same freak thing I had had, and we went through the exact same motions once again! So that made for two off days this week, which is just so not fun! I mean, it wasn't the worst thing in the world, 'cause I got the chance to do a lot of reading and studying, but I wanted to be out there really doing stuff!

And unfortunately, because of our sicknesses, I don't really have any other crazy stories to tell about this week! But the days we weren't sick were pretty good, although neither of us have been on our A-game since we've just been so out of it. But I think we're all better and that this week will prove more fruitful! Fingers crossed!! Well, 'arms folded' is more like it.

I hope you all have an awesome week! Thank you for your prayers and support, it means the world to me!

-Elder Slavens

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another Day, Another Blessing


Hello again, everyone! It's me! Elder Slavens!!
I've been having an absolutely awesome week! Unfortunately, not a huge amount to report on, but it was still really good!
Thanksgiving was really fun! We may or may not have spent the entire day with one family, named the Hesters. They may or may not haveten kids, and thus not mind too much the presence of a couple hungry missionaries. We may or may not have played Monopoly twice with them, and I may or may not have been beaten twice by the same stinking punk 12-year-old kid who kept rolling doubles and buying out all the good properties!! Needless to say, it was a great day, albeit a frustrating one 'cause that snot-nosed Clayton Hester kept beating me! But I'm completely kidding, I love that kid.
Though he is cheap.
The rest of the week has been awesome. We got a referral this week from our Group President to see a young family who's in a very rough spot. The dad just recently had his arm run over by a truck at work, his arm now being completely shattered and useless. On top of that, the mom has a broken arm too! So neither of them can do anything, and they have no way of paying their bills! So they called the city to find help, who then directed the family to the church, 'cause you know, we're the best, right? So the bishop agreed to help them out during this time of need, on one condition: let the missionaries come over and share their message!
Muahahaha, we got 'em now!
We've gone to see them a couple times now, and they're a really cool family with a lot of faith. They've agreed to be baptized if they have some time to do a bit more study and pray to feel the truth of the Book of Mormon, which I'm absolutely sure will come with time. We're also planning on doing something fun for them for Christmas this year, because it looks like budgeting's gonna be tight for them this season. Any ideas on what we could do for them??
Anyway, I'm off! Have a wonderful week, everyone, and be excellent to each other!
Elder Slavens

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cows and Potatoes and Frostbite and the Book of Mormon


Good day, everyone!
I'm doing absolutely wonderful, thanks for asking. This has been an awesome week, and we've seen things absolutely skyrocket in this continual upward spin this week. All this despite the fact that we haven't been doing a ton of work this week that necessarily gets us numbers to report. I think I have a theory.
This has been a service week. Like, lots and lots of service. Almost every single day this week, we've been helping members move houses, fix their crappy broken hot tubs they found on the free section of Craig's List, split lots and lots of wood, stack lots and lots of wood, and stuff like that. It's been a lots of fun, and I've been super happy to do it, but the sad thing is, all that service detracts from our time in which we can teach! But my theory is this: service, in whatever form, calls down rivers of blessings from the Lord. Now I'm not about to say that we miraculously dug up like 100 member-present lessons on a Sunday evening or something cray like that, but I will say this: the work we are doing here in Wendell is paying off. We ended this week with 9 progressing investigators! Yeeeee! And that's not even the exciting part. The part that's exciting is the raging fire we see behind the eyes of the members here. It singes my freaking eyebrows. They're just rockstars, I'm telling you! We're getting referrals all over the place, and they want to join us to teach lessons, and it's just miraculous! Because of our members, we have two families of 4 that all are just inches away from baptism. It's so exciting to see, and I love working here!
Now unfortunately, because we've spent so much time pulling apart hot tubs and whatnot this week, I don't really have any super exciting stories for your eager ears. I'll make sure to do something wacky this week so I have something fun to talk about next time, okay?
Wishing you all a wonderful week and a fattening Thanksgiving!
-Elder Slavens

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Can't Think of a Clever Subject


Well here we are again!
How is everyone? I hope your weeks have all been absolutely stellar and full of mirth!
Mine has been pretty good! Not the most active of weeks, but a good one nonetheless! First things first: I have a new companion! His name's Elder Wright, from New Jersey! He's tall and skinny, and has been out for 17 months. Count 'em! He's an old man!! I'm supa excited to see where this new transfer goes - the area of Wendell is just on fire! Although we haven't made a ton of very life-changing visits in the past week, our members are just here for us and are giving us referrals and becoming a real part of the work! And the thing that's amazing is that we don't really even have any members!! The members from the English wards are the ones giving us referrals and stuff! Gosh, they're the best. :)
So although Elder Wright is technically my senior companion and district leader as well, I'm in a very interesting, very new situation in terms of my missionary life. I have driving privileges! So basically I'm the area lead because I've got more experience in the area and whatnot. At first I was way stoked about this, but then I realized I've been here for like 6 weeks. On top of that, I have this horrible habit of not paying a smidgen of attention to where we are when I ain't the one driving the car - in other words, I don't know jack squat about where anything is in Wendell. Crap. So the past few days have been an interesting kind of science experiment trying to find out where the heck we are. And it's kinda sad, 'cause Wendell's tiny. I also don't really understand what 'saving our miles' is, so we may be going a few days on bikes, depending on how quickly I can get my act together. But I'm getting a hold of things (probably mainly because of the GPS Dad sent me -- thanks, Dad!), and I'll have it figured out before long! Fingers crossed!
We've seen some excellent progress in a few of our investigators, namely, the Perez family. That's the family I mentioned last week - the lady who just randomly got up to bare her testimony (bare? bear? baer?). They came to church yesterday, and are progressing magnificently! I don't know quite how attainable the 23rd of November goal is, considering that's this Saturday, and the husband hasn't even agreed to baptism yet! But whenever it happens, I know it will happen! This family is solid gold!
Anyway, it's been a really awesome week, and I've been so blessed to see the fruits of good missionaries in the past doing their jobs right. I'm doing my best to keep the momentum going, and not let the little town of Wendell, Idaho fall by the wayside! Thanks for all the support, everyone, and I'll talk to you next week!
Elder Esclavo

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh No, I'm 1/6 Done. :(


Has the time flown by that fast?? What the heck, I've been out for 4 months now? This is crazy pants!
 Anyway, what a week!! It's been so awesome and I've had so many awesome experiences that I don't even know where to begin!! First of all, my birthday was on Tuesday! I'm 20 years old now, suckas! Although that really means nothing at all on a mission, and it was very much a regular day, so I don't have much to report on there. Basically I made myself a cake, sang myself happy birthday, and scarfed it all down, fearsomely quickly. Then we went out and taught people about Jesus.
But we've seen some incredible progress this week! Just last Sunday, Fast Sunday, we had our fasting and testimony meeting in the Spanish group, in which like 15 people were present, and this woman - a nonmember - got up and bore her testimony. She said that she didn't know much about the mysteries of God or how everything works, but that she knew He exists, that He loves her, and that He wants what's best for her. I was blown away by this woman's faith! She wasn't even an investigator or anything, just a woman who decided to come to our church one day! She then finished her testimony by saying that she's interested in the idea of baptism and wants to know what that's all about, so could the missionaries please come over and teach her? What?? That doesn't happen!!
We set up an appointment with the lady, named Adilia, and taught her the next day. She agreed to be baptized on the 23rd of November, and wants her family to join her! We had another lesson with all of them, and like every single member of that family is super duper receptive and can't wait to hear more! What a blessing!!
Other that that, we just got transfer calls last night! Bad news: Elder Johnson's being sent elsewhere to be a District Leader, and I don't know who my next companion will be! I've had an awesome time with Elder Johnson, and it's going to be a major bummer to see him go. But I suppose that's how mission life is, right? I'll fill you guys in on that next week!
Now that's pretty much the biggest thing that has happened this week, so I don't have much else to talk about! Just lots and lots of cows, and that's about it. The potatoes have been harvested, so Idaho's significantly less exciting at the moment.
I hope you al have a wonuhfuh wonduhfuh week, and I send you all hugs and kisses! Peace!
Elder Slavens

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm At the Point Where There's Music On the Radio I Don't Recognize. Uh-oh.

Howdy, y'all! Is everyone doing wonderful?? Good to hear, good to hear!

I'm doing wonderful myself as well! It's been an absolutely awesome week, despite how long it's felt! Unfortunately the baptisms seem to have stopped at this point, but we're still working at it! We finally actually have some time to breath, however, which has been a rather backward blessing in and of itself. Boy, baptisms are stressful to plan!

Strangely enough, however, Elder Johnson and I seem to have become rather accustomed to stressful work, and at this point now that everything's slowing down, we really don't know what to do with ourselves. We've really got too much time on our hands, don't we?? Well apparently not. It's really been an incredible blessing, all of the success Elder Johnson and I have seen as of late. We pray and pray all the time, just thanking our Father in Heaven for all of the change we've been able to see in these people.

We've been seeing a lot of recent converts and less-actives recently, which has been so awesome. It's so cool to see people who've been led away find the path and once again make steps toward the Celestial Kingdom! It's also a huge blessing to see those who are just getting started, and helping them make those steps.

Now unfortunately, I don't have much time today because I was just informed that we have to make a drive to Twin to get our beautiful Jeep EXCHANGED!! I've absolutely fallen in love with this car, and I'm gonna be so sad to see it go. But I'm also hugely thankful that I've had the opportunity to enjoy it while it lasted, and I know that there are other missionaries out there without that blessing! Yuck.

So I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Keep your chins up!

-Elder Slavens

Monday, October 28, 2013

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Hola! Como estan todos??

Yet another crazy fast week rolls by in the slow town of Wendell, ID. It's been such an awesome week, and I've had some pretty crazy experiences! Elder Johnson and I are on a roll, and the mission's just a blast.

So this week, we had our 3rd baptism in a row!! It's complete insanity, and we're so thankful for all of the miracles we've been seeing over the past month! The baptizee (?) is a woman named Gloria Vital. She just recently got married to the son of one of the Spanish members in our group. The son's a super recent convert to the church, and they're both really excited about raising their family in this gospel! So we've been teaching this girl for the past month, and they just wanted to plow right through the lessons and get her baptized ASAP! Unfortunately, Elder Johnson and I couldn't just dunk her, because we really wanted to help her understand what it was she was getting into! So we've been taking it slow and making sure she really comprehends what the church is all about. And every time we visit her, she gets more and more excited to make it a part of her life!

It's been so cool to see the change in this family's life as we've taught them more and more about how the gospel can truly bless their whole family's life, including that of their son that's to be born in like December! Did I mention she's like WAY pregnant? She's this tiny little girl, and Luis, her husband, is a BIG boy. That means big baby. The plan was for Luis to baptize her, but the glitch was that they HAD to get it right the first time because dunking this pregnant woman in the water over and over again just didn't sound quite right. So we made all the proper preparations, including making sure the font was extra full, and stuff like that.

On Sunday we had the opportunity to see Gloria be baptized by her husband. It was absolutely beautiful to see this family become completed in the eyes of God. I could just feel Him smiling over the whole goings-on. I can't wait to see how they'll progress as a couple in the gospel and have kids who grow up in the truth! It was an amazing thing to see, and it really strengthened my testimony of the importance of a strong family built on the foundation of Christ, with the priesthood there to bless them along the way. I want to have a family like that.

So this was an incredible week, and i just love what I've been blessed to see out here! I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Slavens


Monday, October 21, 2013

Tengo Gozo En Mi Alma Hoy


Well hi there, everyone!! Hope you're all doing well! You know I am!
This week has been absolutely insane. Easily the best week on my mission, and equally as easily the most exhausting. I am pooped! But I'm beyond happy too! I suppose that's how a mission should be, right?
The spotlight of this email is going to be... Mario Reyes! I believe I discussed this kid a bit last week. 18 years old? Has a twin? Yup, that one! Well I've got quite the story for you. Remember how he was having troubles making the decision to be baptized, and we helped him set the goal to be baptized on November 9th? Well I laugh in November 9th's face now! Bahahaha! You see, Elder Johnson and I witnessed a miracle this week. Just the day after I last wrote you guys, we got a text from Mario. He said "Elders". We said "Mario". He said "Yup". (That's how we communicate with Mario. Every time he has something to tell us, he says "Elders", we say "Mario", he says "Yup". Then we get down to business.)
Anyway, we asked him what's up, and he said something amazing had happened! He had been on Mormon.org chatting with a sister missionary, and she mentioned something about the spirit of revelation -- and suddenly everything just clicked! It all fell into place, and the time had come. He was ready for baptism! Not only that, but he wanted it more than anything, like, as quick as possible. So Elder Johnson and I were sitting there discussing how soon we should plan this baptism. Our discussion was interrupted by another text from Mario: "This Saturday."
AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!
We were literally jumping around the room and screaming, we were so stoked (and so freaked out at the same time). How the heck are we gonna plan a whole baptism in like 4 days?? There's a lot more to consider than you'd think, my friends! So this kid only knows like a couple families in the English ward (by the way, he speaks to us in English), so we figured we'd get them to do the talks and stuff. We asked one family and they, collectively, were down to do the two talks, play the piano, say one of the prayers, and conduct the meeting. So basically the success of this baptism was riding on the presence of this family. We were working with them the whole week to get the thing all organized. But halfway through the week we were told that, because of schedule changes and whatnot, they weren't gonna be able to make it on Saturday! You can imagine our stress.
We decided we'd break the rules a little bit and have the baptism on Sunday. That seemed to work nicely for everyone, and a huge weight was lifted off Elder Johnson and I. It was put back on when our Spanish Group President told us that we would be giving talks in Sacrament Meeting - in the Spanish Group - in Spanish. Ew, gross. But I quickly forgot about that stress when we were sent another text from Mario, in which he said "I've made a decision about who does what for my baptism. Elder Slavens, it would be an honor if you would baptize me."
AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
This was a first for me, that's for sure! So Sunday rolled around, and I had the opportunity to baptize Mario Reyes. It was such a miracle to see the change in this kid that I met just a short couple weeks ago. When he came up out of the water, he had this gigantic smile on his face, and I was so happy I could hardly hold it in! It was so beautiful to see, and I'll never forget it. I love being a missionary and being able to bring this happiness that I feel every day to people who're lost in this world. They need us, and we need to help them. This is the Lord's work, and having the opportunity to push it forward - even just a bit - is the most wonderful blessing.
My talk went alright!! Ish. I spoke for like 7 minutes, though I was asked to speak for 20. My grammar was pretty half hazard, but the spirit was there! So that was a fun opportunity to have as well.
Anyway, this has been an incredible week, and I'm so thankful that I got to experience it! I love you all, and I'll talk to you next week!!
Elder Slavens


The Baptism of Mario Reyes.


I write "Elder Slavens loves you." on the Seminary class' board, 
and this is what I get in return.


We have a Lego robot, and put it in a different position every day. 
I think this one wins.


The "District Master", Elder Franks.

Monday, October 14, 2013

And the Plot Thickens

Best week out here so far, you guys! Woo!!

How is everyone? I miss you all times a bajillion and hope your lives are going just swell!

I'm doing so great. Things are picking up like crazy in the Twin Falls mission, and it's so cool to be a part of! Elder Johnson and I have had an amazing week, we've learned so much, and it's just been tons of fun! We've been keeping ourselves mighty busy, that's for sure. The weeks are moving so quickly, but the days themselves feel like ages!

First off: I had my first baptism this week!! Now before we get all excited, it was pretty much a done deal before I even showed up. But I still took part, and I'm pretty proud of that! The baptizee (baptizee?) is a kid named Francisco Diaz, 8 years old, and a complete genius. His parents aren't members, which is why Francisco was officially an investigator baptism, although it was basically a member baptism anyway. Like I said, his parents aren't members, but they basically are. His mom, for all intents and purposes, is a member. She has a calling and everything. Been active for like 4 years or something like that. Just hasn't made the covenant. The reason she hasn't been baptized is that her husband feels like he's not ready to take that step yet. But they have 4 little boys, and all of them have been baptized! It's kind of a backward situation, but we're trying to push them in the right direction! Anyway, the baptism was absolutely beautiful. Francisco's two older brothers both gave talks and they did so well. The spirit was stinking palpable in that room, and I know the dad felt it! We're gonna hop on that right away, and tell him it's just time, man! I'll keep you updated!

The other big thing that happened this week was our lesson with Mario Reyez. Mario's and awesome kid. He's 18 years old, and has a twin brother named Mariano. Mariano was actually baptized a few months ago, and now we're focusing on his brother. Mariano's story is absolutely insane. Just like 2 years ago, he was a straight up meth addict - on the run from the cops. He was in a very bad place. But the missionaries got a hold of him and he turned his life around! He's active in the church, Christ is a part of his life -- a 180-degree turn. I wish I could've been there to see it. But now we're focusing on Mario, and I'm so excited about it! Mario very much reminds me of myself. He's very logical, and it sometimes makes it hard for him to completely wrap his mind around the idea of faith. He's been taught all the lessons and stuff, and thoroughly enjoyed them, but is scared to make a change in his life; especially when he can't be sure it's the right thing to do. So I told him that he needs to do exactly what I would have to do: take a leap of faith! I said often times in my life, I've found that I just need to trust in the Lord and do what I feel is right, even if all isn't made perfectly clear to me. You should've seen his face!! He just brightened up and said "Man, I've never thought of it like that before!" You can imagine how excited I got. We took like another hour talking about the importance of faith, and I asked him to read Alma 32 for homework. We ended up helping him set the goal to be baptized on November 9!! We're gonna keep swinging by and helping him achieve that, 'cause I know that it will help him in his life.

This has been such an incredible week. My testimony has grown so much, and I've learned tons. Thank you all for all the support you give me! I can feel your prayers, and you are in mine! Have a beautiful week, and I'll talk to you all next time!


-Elder Slavens

Monday, October 7, 2013

Even If You're On the Right Track, You'll Still Get Run Over If You Just Sit There

I'm back!! And better than ever!

How is everyone?? I know I ask that every week, and I can't actually get any legit responses, but just know that I care!!

Anyway, this has been such an awesome week! Lots of changes, and I really am doing better than ever. I got transferred this past Wednesday to a little town called Wendell, Idaho! It's teeny-tiny. Like, I thought Buhl was small. This is like half of Buhl, for realz. I didn't even know towns like this existed, but you learn something new every day, don'tcha? But anyway, Wendell is stinking great! Despite the tininess. There's actually more cows residing in Wendell than people, so that got a chuckle out of me.

My new companion is Elder Johnson from Georgia. Coolest dude in the world. He just loves this work and is helping me so much to really appreciate why I'm here. I've only known him for a couple days, but I just know we're gonna get a ton done together! We really take excellent advantage of our time and do our best to visit people who we feel truly need our help at that moment, so I feel like I'm being much more efficient than I was last transfer.

I've already met so many cool people here in Wendell and can't wait to get to know all of them! The interesting thing about this area is that Elder Johnson and I are only covering Spanish (unlike Buhl, in which I covered one English ward and all the Spanish-speakers), yet the area doesn't have an actual branch in Spanish. Basically, all we've got is like a group of Spanish-speaking members who don't belong to any ward or branch, and we're trying to figure out what to do with them! On top of that, Elder Johnson and I aren't even assigned to a specific ward ourselves, so we're all just a bunch of vagabonds trying to find a place in this world. It's quite the adventure. But I'm learning lots from it! Learning how to be resourceful and not waste time on the unimportant stuff.

So I WAS ON CONFERENCE!! Oh my gosh, did you guys see that?? I kinda freaked out a little. It was pretty darn funny. So Elder Valenzuela from the Quorum of the Seventy started showing pictures of the Mexico City MTC, right? And I was like 'Oh, that's where I went! Cool!' So he showed a picture of the courtyard of the MTC, then he showed a picture of a couple of sister missionaries walking along, and I elbowed Elder Johnson and was like "I bet you he'll show a picture of me!" And then the next picture WAS OF ME! I was laughing so hard, I couldn't even focus on like the next three talks. So yeah, I suppose I'm famous!!

Anyway, things are going so well right now, and I can't wait to get to work! I love my mission and the opportunity it's giving me to learn how the spirit works for me, and how the Atonement of Christ applies to me personally. And I love helping others apply those things to themselves as well. Everyone have a beautiful week, and I'll talk to you soon! Muah!

-Elder Slavens


Planner art


It is what it is.


Bye, Elder Casillas!


The new one

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Elder Slavens spotted in a conference talk!

LDS General Conference 
 October 2013 Saturday Afternoon Session 
Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela




Elder Slavens is the elder standing on the left



From when we took Chancellor to the Mexico City MTC. 


Monday, September 30, 2013

Prone to Wander, Lord, I Feel It

Oh, P-day! Thou art desirable above all other days. Choicest of all days, to be sure.

Howdy, friends! Is everyone having a swell week and a sweller life? Good, good!

Well life's just swell for me too! This hasn't been an awfully busy week, but it was good nonetheless! Elder Casillas and I did a lot of trackting and contacting this week for referrals that we've received recently. Lots of walking around, lots of driving, and so on!

We met this awesome less-active family the other day, called the Meyers. They're from California, so I get along with them pretty well! It's pretty cool knowing someone from your home state, rather than just meeting people every day who tell you they're sorry that you come from where you do! Man, these people really hate California. Not quite sure why; I'm still doing some investigating on the subject! Anyway, the Meyers are super awesome. They breed bulldogs, so I have to have a lint roller handy every time we visit them. I had an interesting experience with this family the other day: they have three kids. One's like 5, one's like 9, and one's like 11. So the 11-year-old is this really cool boy who gets along with the missionaries super well, but isn't baptized. So I was just chatting it up with him, asking him his thoughts about church and stuff. And I made a horrible mistake - I turned to the mom and asked "Does he go to church often?"

Background info on this family: the mom's half Hawaiian, so all the kids have these crazy Hawaiian names. Moreover, it's quite difficult to determine the gender of a person named Kiwilani, or whatever. Especially when it's a girl who looks like a boy. So the mom turns to the kid and goes "Oh, I bet you just love it when he calls you a boy, huh?" And I'm like ohhh noooooo. Yup, I've been talking to a girl this whole time. And then the house like explodes into an argument over whether this kid is a boy or a girl, and I'm just mortified, and my companion has no idea what's going on since he doesn't speak English, and it was a mess! So I just prayed times like a million that it would all blow over and be okay. And we sit through 5 more minutes of argument, and then the spirit just *whoosh* turns the place around. Everything got better instantly, and Elder Casillas and I were able to share an awesome spiritual thought and leave the family on a really high note. It was quite the intense experience, but it was really cool to see the spirit work in their home like that.

Last thing this week: transfer calls came last night, and I'M BEING MOVED! I have no idea where I'm going, and it's super stressful, but I'm excited to go see some new sights, too! I'll have a new companion and everything. It's kind of bittersweet because I'm sad to say goodbye to all of the amazing members I've met - not to mention my investigators. But I know I'll go where I'm meant to be. And I'll give you more info on that next week!

But until then, everyone have an amazing week, and never forget who you are! And stuff like that!

-Elder Slavens


Idaho


They didn't answer :(


The bishop's kids

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Grass Is Greenest Where You Water It

Another week downzo!

How is everyone? I hope you're all just living the life and being happy nonstop, 'cause why not? :)

This week has been super great, super busy, and super exhausting! I've had tons of fun and felt the spirit so much. First things first: WE'VE GOT A BAPTISMAL DATE! First in the mission! I believe I mentioned Jacob, the kid we met last week, in my last email. Well the kid's moving like a comet! He's just down with absolutely everything we throw at him, has no issues with any of our teachings, and seems to have no problems with any commandments, so this boy's absolutely golden. He's preparing to be baptized in 2 weeks, which I'm so stoked for. His dad's a less-active member who just really wants to get back on track, so I just couldn't be happier for this family. I think Jacob's dad is going to baptize him, and that's gonna be so cool.

Another one of our investigators, named Alfredo, just got married to a member lady! Cha-ching! The only problem is that he's SO friendly and accepting that he lets us right in and listens to our discussions even though it's recently been made clear to us by his wife that he really has absolutely no interest in being baptized. Kind of a bummer, 'cause he looked so interested. But we'll put our shoulder to the wheel and push along, 'cause I know this guy can feel SOMETHING!

There's been some pretty loco stake business going on recently here in Buhl. Just last week we had a stake conference and basically the whole stake got shifted around like nobody's business. There was a huge amount of members in the ward Elder Casillas and I attend, and very few in the others, so the whole stake got all mixed up to even everything out. I feel like it'll be a really good thing for these people, although this change has made my life a little harder! It feels kind of like how I felt when I learned to drive a stick shift. I had only been driving an automatic for like 2 months and then I had my life turned upside down because I had to learn this completely new, weird way to drive. So it is with this new change. I was just getting to know these people! And now I'm just doubly lost. But I guess I'm on the same page as many of the members who don't know each other either, so I won't complain!

But one of the speakers at that conference gave a really cool thought that has kinda stuck with me. Everyone was like freaking out because they were being separated from their friends and their comfort zones, and this dude was like "Don't worry! I know the grass may seem greener on the other side at times, but I'm here to tell you that the grass is greenest where you water it." I thought that was really awesome, and incredibly applicable too. We decide who we want to be and how we will allow our circumstances to affect us. Nobody else has that power! So just go for it! And of course we finished that meeting by singing the hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go". That got a chuckle out of me.

Well I think I'll sign off for now, but I hope you all have an awesome week! And keep those smiles on your beautiful faces, because humans look better that way. :)

-Elder Slavens



The tank of Buhl


Some o da guys


Elder Mellor and Elder Eisenhower - man among men


Hanging out with one of the Spanish families in my area

Monday, September 9, 2013

Skies of Blue and Clouds of White

Greetings from Buhl, ID!
How is everyone?? All wonderful and well? Good to hear!
Well as for me, I'm having the time of my life doing the Lord's work in this cute little town! Not a ton has happened recently, so this may end up being rather short. But it's been a great week! I've been making great friend with the other Elders and getting to know some awesome people here in Buhl! We've got a new investigator this week - it's a 14-year-old kid named Jacob, and he's an absolute rockstar. He knows pretty much nothing about religion, but Elder Casillas and I fed him the story of the restoration the other day, and he ate it right up! We're hoping to commit him to baptism in the coming weeks!

At the moment we're in the companionship of an extra Elder named Elder Eisenhower. His companion, Elder Mellor, was a visa waiter, and he shipped out to Argentina yesterday. So we're in a threesome right now which is super fun!

Well gosh, other than that, pretty much nothing has happened this week! Sorry, everyone, but I'll try to have more experiences this week so my next email will be more exciting. But until then, everyone just know that as long as you're faithful and doing the things that are right, you'll have the companionship of the Holy Ghost with you at all times, and you'll just be happier. Stay positive, stay spiritual, and stay classy! Have an incredibly week. Love you all! Xoxoxox
-Elder Slavens

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Eagle Powers


Well hi there, everyone!

Sorry about the wait - I'm sure everyone was just clamoring to hear from the awesome Elder Slavens once again! Am I right?? Because it was Labor Day yesterday the library and all that jazz were closed, so I wasn't able to do any writing. But I was gracefully given the chance to do so today, so here goes nothing!

It's been an awesome week. Lots of growing on my part. I've really learned the importance of being exactly obedient and doing all the things I'm supposed to. It's been a slightly rough first couple weeks in the field, mostly because there was almost no missionary presence in my area prior to my coming here. Basically, we're cleaning up the place and buffing out the scratches of malnourishment. If that makes sense. There's like a truckload of less-active members in this area, so we're doing our best to give them some proper attention and get 'em to rejoin the fold. We actually have a pretty extensive list of less-actives / recent converts, so Elder Casillas and I have been making the rounds and giving them each a visit to see how their lives are going. Funny things is, none of them are actually members, apparently! We've got like a faulty list or some jazz, which means that each time we visit those houses, they answer by telling us that they have no idea who we are, and we gotta start from scratch!

But that's actually what makes it the most fun, 'cause trackting is really a blast. The fact that we have no idea what's gonna happen makes every knock an adventure! The Latino people here are so humble and accepting and kind, and if we catch them at a time that they can talk, they pretty much always let us in! Unfortunately I'm still having a tough time with comprehension of Spanish, but I'm practicing, and can tell I'm getting a little better every day!

But as I said: Trackting is a blast. We meet some awesome people, and at times, also get turned away in the funniest ways. There was this guy we went to trackt the other day, who apparently is a less-active member, so we walked up to his doorstep. This super smooth Presley music was playing from inside the house, so we figured this was a pretty chill dude. We knocked, and a super friendly-looking Latino man opened the door with this huge smile on his face. We said "Hi there, we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!" He replied, "Oh, are you looking for Elvis Presley? He's not here! He's dead!" We were pretty confused at this, so we decided to take a shot at Spanish. "What's your name, sir?" I asked, in what I was hoping was a language he spoke. At this I think he started getting a little worried that his "dumb" act wasn't working, so he started dancing. Yup, dancing. He said "Well, you're not going to find Elvis here! Good bye!" And slowly danced back into his house. I don't know if I've ever laughed harder than I did at that moment. I thought I was gonna choke on my own laughter! Elder Casillas and I probably make references to that moment like 5 times a day.

So it's been a lot of fun, and I can't wait to really get this area moving again! We've done tons of trackting and have met lots of nice people, and we've gotten quite a few appointments from those people, so we're hoping to be pretty busy in the coming weeks! Our main goal right now is to get the Spanish branch up-and-running again. I believe a couple years back a lot of the Latino members weren't going to church regularly, so the Stake shut down the Spanish branch because there weren't enough Priesthood holders attending. So we've got our work ahead of us to try and bring those people back so that the Spanish-speaking members can go to church in their own language! Wish us luck!

I hope you guys had an awesome last week and Labor Day! And I hope you have another awesome week ahead of you!

Party on, friends and family.

-Elder Slavens


My companion and I writing you guys.


Trackting.


Elder Casillas esta manejando.


We scratched this one night and I'm pretty sure we won an iPad. 
Guess it wouldn't serve us too well out here.


The sun every night in Buhl, ID.

 

The Twin Falls Temple

Monday, August 26, 2013

WHERE DO I BEGIN.

I'm in the fielddddd!!! My experience at the CCM is over and I'm now a missionary for truesiez!! Life's pretty great here in Buhl, ID (my very first transfer ever)! It's a pretty small little town where like everyone knows everyone and I just love it! Quite the change of pace. There's actually a pretty prominent Latino population, so my companion and I meet a lotta Spanish speakers. My companion's name is Elder Casillas, from Mexico!! Thank goodness! He's a native Spanish speaker, and we pretty much only speak Spanish to each other, so I'm practicing way way more than I thought I would! I'm learning tons and tons, and I'm hoping to be fluent pretty soon-ish! Guess we'll see!

I've met so many cool peeps here. Idaho's definitely quite different from California! In fact, when I tell people I'm from CA sometimes they'll just laugh right in my face, but I don't mind! But we have some really cool investigators that I'm working on getting to know. It's pretty tough to get to know people right now, 'cause of Spanish. I'm pretty good at speaking the language and getting my point across, but comprehension's a no-go for me at the moment, so it's pretty tough to get any thoughts in. But it's okay 'cause I can feel myself understanding things more and more every single day!

A couple days ago I had my first baptism invitation!! And it wasn't planned or anything. We were talking to this couple who basically completely believe that the church is true, but they're super hesitant to be baptized because they're Catholic and scared to make such a huge change in their life. But I was like "these things are true, and you know it", and then asked them to do the deed! They hesitated because they still want time to think, but we're hoping to get a commitment soon!

We met a guy on Saturday named Leon. We were just trackting and ended up on his doorstep and he answered and I was totally startled at first! He's a burn victim, like, a BAD burn victim. Half of his face is like melted away, and it was pretty freaky at first. But he is seriously one of the nicest, cheeriest guys I have ever met. We're hoping to talk to him again soon and get the lessons started! He thought it was pretty funny that we showed up on his doorstep 'cause he has a sister in the church! So there's a start!

The first week of my mission has been so awesome, I'm so excited to be able to do this every day! I love you all, miss you all, and pray for you all daily! Have an awesome week! :)


Elder Slavens


Thursday, August 22, 2013

I'M ALIVE!!!!


Guess what, you guys! I'M IN IDAHO. We had a successful flight and all that jazz, and I'm here now to get started doing the Lord's work! Unfortunately, I don't really have much time right now to write anything lengthy, just enough to let you know that I'm safe and I'm serving! My new P-day's on Monday, so I'll be able to write fo realz yo next time that rolls around! But I just want everyone to know that I'm having an incredible time in the field and I can't wait to tell you guys all the stories! On Monday I'll go into detail. I love every last one of you and I miss you all and am praying for my friends and family every single day!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Slavens

Monday, August 19, 2013

Idaho Twin Falls Mission

IDAHO TWIN FALLS MISSION


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DESCRIPTION

We are still collecting information on the Idaho Twin Falls Mission. If you served in this mission and are willing to share your experiences with us, please contact us at editor@missionhome.com

THE CHURCH

The Church is quite strong in Idaho and continues to grow!  There are 15 stakes located within the boundaries of the Idaho Twin Falls Mission, which was created in 2013 to accommodate the increasing number of missionaries.  There are also Sign Language and several YSA congregations, as well as CES Institutes in Twin Falls and Burley thanks to the area’s large LDS population.  The area is also served by the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, which was dedicated in 2008.  With such a large member population, there is also a lot of missionary work to be done with less-active members and part-member families to help strengthen the Church in addition to teaching non-members!

The Twin Falls Idaho Temple.

FOOD

Idaho is famous for its potatoes, but there is plenty of other food to eat in the Potato State!  The prevalence of wild game and ranch land in Idaho means that meat dishes such as roast beef and even elk or deer are commonly eaten as well.  Another Idaho specialty is huckleberry pie, made with Idaho’s state fruit, the huckleberry, which is usually in season around August and September.

TRANSPORTATION

As in other stateside missions, missionaries will generally use either a car or bicycle for transportation.  Designations are made based on the size of the companionship’s area or leadership positions.

View from Heyburn, Idaho.

SAFETY

The Twin Falls area is rather safe, with the overall crime rate being lower than the national average.  Crime levels decreased significantly between 2003 and 2009.
During the cold winter months, do what you can to stay warm while out tracting!  Wear multiple layers of clothing and gloves, use hand warmers, etc to stay warm and prevent potential health issues from prolonged exposure to the cold.

CUSTOMS

The area is mostly rural, and agriculture continues to be a common component of day-to-day life for many.  County fairs are held throughout the summer months, with the Twin Falls County Fair being the largest in the region.  Outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, and hunting are popular, with skiing also being popular during the winter.

View of the Snake River near Burley, Idaho.

ADDITIONAL INFO

The Snake River is a major tourist attraction in the area.  The river runs along the northern border of Twin Falls, and several waterfalls are located in the area.  Shoshone Falls is actually taller than Niagra Falls.  The river area is also home to Perrine Bridge, where BASE jumping is a legal activity.  Other interesting sites in the mission area include the Crater Rings landmark (a series of volcanic craters) located near Mountain Home.





Flag of Idaho Twin Falls Mission

PROFILE

 United States
 President Glen R. Curtis
421 Maurice St North
Twin Falls ID 83301-4932
United States
 English
 About 225,000
 LDS, Evangelical Protestant, Catholic
 The Twin Falls area has an arid climate. Summers are dry and warm (with temperatures usually in the mid 80s Fahrenheit), while winters are cold and snowy. Winter temperatures are often below freezing. Areas farther north are even colder during winter.
 Twin Falls, Mountain Home, Burley

EXPERIENCES


The work is going so well in Idaho that the Church recently created the Idaho Twin Falls mission! Check back in a year to hear what the first missionaries in the Idaho Twin Falls mission have to say!
Did you serve in the Idaho Twin Falls Mission? If so we want to hear from you! Contact us at editor@missionhome.com and share your unique experiences!

Shoshone Falls on the Snake River. Photo cca-sa3.0u by Karthikc123 at Wikimedia Commons.














Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chancellor made it into LDS Church News


http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/63862/Bienvenidos-a-Mexico---Doors-open-for-missionaries-to-attend-the-Mexico-MTC.html

'Bienvenidos a Mexico' - Doors open for missionaries to attend the Mexico MTC

Doors open for missionaries to attend the Mexico MTC
Published: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013
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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Elder Gilberto Aguila took a moment from his companionship study to peer across the vast, florid campus of the recently opened Mexico City Missionary Training Center.
This young missionary, just 18-years-old, viewed his surroundings with both a personal appreciation for its past — and a reverent excitement for its future.


Photo by Jason Swensen
Mahonri Alvarez Tovar assists Elder Jeff Newbold of South Jordan, Utah, at the computer lab at the Mexico City MTC.

"This was my school for three years when it was Benemerito de las Americas," he said. "I graduated just a few weeks ago, I'm part of the last graduating class."
Elder Aguila admitted to mixed feelings when he learned last January that his beloved school would be transitioned into a missionary training center. The academy, he said, was a blessing to all of Mexico for almost half a century.
"But now it looks even more beautiful. Missionaries from around the world are coming here to learn how to share the gospel," he said.
This sacred facility — built on land dedicated by an apostle to become "a great Spanish-speaking cultural center" — has now become a blessing to all the world.
On June 14, Elder Aguila and his fellow classmates participated in the final Benemerito graduation. Just two weeks later, the first class of missionaries began arriving. In that short time, this 90-acre facility, with its existing chapels, administrative offices, dormitories, classrooms, cafeteria and athletic facilities, has been transitioned from a Church-owned high school to an institution of intense language and gospel learning.
About 730 young elders and sisters are studying at the Mexico City MTC. It will eventually accommodate 300 more. Most of the missionaries here are from the United States and Canada and spend six weeks learning Spanish before departing to their respective assignments of service. Some 100 missionaries are from Mexico. They study the missionary lessons for two weeks in the MTC.
MTC President Carl Pratt, an emeritus Seventy and a proud son of Mexico, said the transition from high school to MTC "is practically complete."
Yes, there have been the expected growing pains over the past few weeks, but already this sprawling campus has, perhaps, become the ideal for a bustling yet peaceful home for missionaries preparing for full-time labor.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Elder Ryan Perry of Sterling Heights, Mich., heft a stack of study materials after checking in at the Mexico City MTC.
"I love it here," said Elder Collin Butterfield of West Jordan, Utah. "You can talk to anyone and they will tell you they are excited to be here."
His companion, Elder Chancellor Slavens of San Ramon, Calif., said language training in Mexico City "has given me the opportunity to be immersed in the culture and learn more about the Latino people."

Photo by Jason Swensen
Sister Tania Hernandez, left, and Sister Eva Lima stand outside the entrance of the Mexico City MTC. The "B" placed prominently on the mountainside remains a nod to the campus' rich Benemerito history.
Such an experience, he said, will serve him well as he teaches Spanish-speaking people in the Idaho Twin Falls Mission.
"You get a lot of practice here speaking with the native Mexican missionaries, and it's a lot of fun."
A lot of fun — that's a common sentiment here. Yes, the work is hard and the days are long. Missionaries traditionally enjoyed nine weeks of language study at the MTC. Now they have only six weeks before reporting to their missions.
But despite the rigor, the MTC in Mexico City is a happy place. Smiles are abundant and the missionaries do their best to greet and converse with visitors in their generally limited Spanish.
President Pratt and his wife, Sister Karen Pratt, recently met with a large group of new missionaries who had arrived a day earlier from their respective homes in the United States and Canada.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Missionaries study the 3-dimensional map of the Mexico City MTC.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Mexico City MTC President Carl Pratt offers counsel to a group of missionaries who just arrived at the MTC.
"Elderes y Hermanas, Bienvenidos a Mexico," said President Pratt. His greeting suggested that Spanish was now the language of choice for the new missionaries — even though many admitted to learning but a few words in high school.
The president then offered a brief history of the storied facility known for decades as "Benemerito."
"This school was established when there were 50,000 members in Mexico. Now there are over a million." With the recent, well-documented surge in young people answering mission calls, the Lord needed this facility for another purpose.
"And you all," he said, "are the beneficiaries of that."

Photo by Jason Swensen
Relatives shoot photos and bid farewell to Elder Gilberto Aguila at the entrance of the Mexico City MTC.
Sister Pratt reminded the missionaries, "You are here at a particularly historic time." She shared a verse of scripture that has come to define the enthusiasm that has accompanied the policy change that allows young men to begin missionary service at age 18 and young women at 19: "Behold, I will hasten my work in its time" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:73).
President Pratt then chronicled the pivotal transition that has taken place on this peaceful stretch of property located inside one of the world's largest and most hectic cities. Transition also defines each young woman and young man studying at this new MTC.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Elder Dalton Gee of Nephi, Utah, left, and his companion, Elder Ty Dale of Mesa, Ariz., practice teaching a discussion in Spanish to their instructor, Ryan Draper.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Missionaries enjoy the temperate weather at the Mexico City MTC to practice their Spanish and practice training techniques.
"Now you're involved in the work of the Lord," they were reminded.
The MTC president saluted the missionaries for making the transition from youth to adulthood, from foolishness to wisdom, from sports clothes to missionary attire and from monolingual to bilingual.
He repeated the words of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve: "A mission is a process of obedience training."
When missionaries are obedient to the commandments and the mission rules, they put themselves in a privileged and promised position to receive the blessings of the Lord, said President Pratt.


Photo by Jason Swensen
Elders enjoy a spirited game of basketball at the Mexico City MTC gymnasium.Elders enjoy a spirited game of basketball at the Mexico City MTC gymnasium.

Missionary work is not always easy, he concluded. There will be tough days marked by tears. "But at the end of your mission, if you have given of yourself in the way the Lord expected, you will weep for joy."
Missionaries here say they are being stretched in ways they did not know possible. The moment-to-moment mantra is "Hable su idioma" (Speak your language.) Even elders and sisters who are just hours removed from their arrival at the MTC are asked to communicate with one another in Spanish. Many share dorm rooms with native Mexican missionaries to offer more opportunities to practice their new skill.
"We have a lot of opportunities to get out of our comfort zone and speak the language," said Sister Kaitlyn Taylor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. "We were teaching by the third day here. You learn to rely on the Spirit."
Sister Emily Blankenship of Kaysville, Utah, said the warmth felt across the MTC helps new missionaries overcome fears and inhibitions.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Missionaries stay fit playing outdoor volleyball at the Mexico City MTC.
"Plus the classes are small, so you get a lot of one-on-one time with the instructors," she added.
Visitors here can walk outside, face any direction and spot evidence of a missionary training center functioning at full speed. In one corner, small groups of missionaries gather under shade trees to practice teaching the missionary lessons. In another direction, missionaries find a bench to take in a few minutes of personal scripture study, softly reciting the words of, say, Nephi or Alma, in Spanish. And in the distance, the joyful cries of missionaries can be heard as they enjoy a stress-busting game of basketball, table tennis or outdoor volleyball.


Photo by Jason Swensen
Newly arrived missionaries check in at the Mexico City Missionary Training Center.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Elder Dannen Sparks of Thatcher, Ariz., left, serves the ping-pong ball to his companion, Elder Spencer Evans of Sandy, Utah, at the Mexico City MTC gymnasium.

Indeed, one immediately recognizes here the fulfillment of apostolic prophecy. On Nov. 4, 1963, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Benemerito school. His recorded words seemed to transcend the events of that day: "This school for which we are breaking ground today is destined to become a great Spanish-speaking cultural center. Its influence will reach far beyond the valley of Mexico. … It will be felt in all of Latin America, including South America. Hundreds of thousands of people will come here. … This school will prepare men for a better future here on the earth and for eternal life in the world to come."
Astrid Aguilera recently said farewell to a missionary friend, Sister Tania Hernandez.


Photo by Jason Swensen
Brother Jose Zamora works the cash register at the store located inside the Mexico City MTC.

Like Elder Aguila, Astrid is a recent graduate of Benemerito. She too experienced a mixture of emotions when she learned her school would become an MTC. She loved Benemerito. It provided her an education and helped build her testimony.
But Astrid also recognizes the eternal weight behind Elder Romney's words, spoken a half-century ago.
"This place, this MTC, will help the Church grow," she said, adding she wants to go on a mission when she is 19 and hopes to "return here and do my part."
jswensen@desnews.com

Photo by Jason Swensen
Missionaries gather as districts for classroom study at the Mexico City Missionary Training Center.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Elder Brandon Barbosa of Puelba, Mexico, and his companion, Elder Jesus Ortega of Tampico, Mexico, are among the 100 Mexican nationals studying at the Mexico City MTC.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Elder Nate Crook of South Jordan, far right, and his companion, Elder Brady Daines of Highland, Utah, participate in a role playing teaching exercise with Brother Kozvy Osorio.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Missionaries gather as districts for classroom study at the Mexico City Missionary Training Center.

Photo by Jason Swensen
Sister Chalese Johnson of Ogden, Utah, and her companion, Sister Rebecca Newman of Elk Ridge, Utah, walk back to their dorm room at the Mexico City MTC.