Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Stay Inside.

January 19, 2016
Soooooo....we have some work ahead of us.

I was able to go down to Clinton again for a district preparation day and visit some more people. I saw Kent (the man who believes Jesus is black) and Sister Tyndall again! I got to talking to Sister Tyndall for a second and she asked me "Do you feel ready to go home?" I said "Nope. I've got some work to do." And that's how I've been feeling the past few weeks. Of course it would be great to be home watching sports and playing with my dog, but I'm just not done here. I don't feel done. Like I said earlier, there's work to be done. I just have to figure out exactly what the Lord wants me to focus on this last transfer coming up.

So let me tell y'all about some of our investigators. A is progressing....we say progressing, but really he just continues to learn. He's not progressing spiritually. We think it's due to his lack of understanding and lack of spiritual experiences. I guess what it comes down to is making sure that he understands the sacredness of baptism and the covenants he's preparing to make. He's under the impression that going through the missionary lessons prepares one for baptism, when in reality it's living the commitments that we extend. That's what changes people and that's what gets them living the Gospel even before their baptism. So we have some work to do with him. He has all the desire (we need to figure out why), but he just needs to keep his commitments and come to church with some consistency. But I'll keep you updated! He'll get there!

Most of our other "elect" investigators have either vanished off the face of the earth or just don't have the capacity to receive us right now. So the past week we've just been knocking.....and knocking....and knocking. And we're getting pretty good at it! I don't know why, but my door contacting is a little rusty, but we're starting to get in the groove of things. What's hard is that as soon as someone sees you on their porch, they've already made up their mind up about whatever it is you're about to offer. So it's our job to try and give them a spiritual experience on the porch so that they'll want us to come back. And we did do that last week. We have some appointments today because of it.

An update on Elder Christensen and his training experience. He's doing really well! He's much better than he was when he first arrived to the field. He knows how to teach, testify, and he's even starting to get the hang of Spanish. I'm just hoping I will have taught him enough before I head out. He's got a lot of potential to do a lot of good and I want to make sure he reaches his full potential.

Something funny (and creepy) that happened the other day. Add this to your list of cat stories (and reasons dogs are better than cats). So Elder Christensen and I were knocking doors in a neighborhood at around 6:30-7:00 pm. So we parked our car on the side of the road and began to get our stuff out. Then we look behind us and we see this black cat approaching. We named him Nightmare :). As we began knocking doors, he continued to follow us around. I think he was attracted to the lantern we were carrying or something. So we bade him follow. He kept following until we reached a certain point in the neighborhood where he was content to stay put. So we knocked some more doors and then headed back toward the car only to find Nightmare sitting in the same place we left him. We tried to get him to follow us, but he wouldn't budge. Then he started hissing! Didn't know why...So we bade him follow again....and he started talking. Like literally talking like a human. You couldn't understand what he was saying, but it sounded like someone possessed with a demon or something. He continued doing that and hissing and we began to wonder if maybe he was pregnant? Or in pain? Weirdest thing. I was just about to perform an exorcism when out of the corner of my eye I see something white sitting in the middle of the road. It was another cat. I approached it only to find that it was even creepier than Nightmare! It was just an orange cat, but it was so large and so ominous looking that I was compelled to shew it away. And then we got Nightmare to follow us again. He took a seat next to our hubcap and breathed a sigh of relief. I guess we....saved his life or something? Anyways, that's my cat story of the week. Still gives me the creeps. This is why you get a dog.

And that was my week! I hope that I can continue to work hard and testify every moment I get! Continue to pray for me as I wind this thing down!

Con mucho amor,

Elder Landon Carroll

Sunday, January 17, 2016

59 days left, but who's counting?

January 11, 2016

Yes, yes, I know. I have 59 days left. But who's really counting? I'm not. My focus right now is to get my new missionary trained and speaking Spanish and to baptize at least once, preferably twice before I head home. People often ask me: "Elder Carroll, you trunky yet?" I always give them the same answer: "What reason do I have to be trunky?" Yes, I realize that life continues after the mission and that there are people who are anxiously awaiting my return, but the life of a missionary is one that can't be taken for granted and that certainly cannot be wished away so quickly. Every day is different. Every time I wake up I have another opportunity to go out and serve someone or perhaps to astound someone with the doctrines of the Restored Gospel. Sure, there are times when I look out the window and say to myself "I'm not going out there today." But why listen to that voice? With so much power to bring about so much good, why would I rather sit in the apartment and rot? Just because it's hard? Just because I might get sick from tracting in the cold? Nonsense! The Lord is preparing His people and we are here to go out and gather them! And that's what we did this week...

We had a lot of success this week. We were able to finally get up with some of our most elect investigators and we had a great turn out at church. We've been working with a less active family since I got here and the progress has been slow to say the least, but they came to church yesterday! The mother, who is a member (the father and three of the children are not) finally found a job that allows her to go to church. And the father has decided to start coming to church frequently so he can be the spiritual head of the household. So they came, had a great time, and they've committed to keep coming. That's a success for sure.

We also got another man to come to church. His name is E. He was a referral from a member a while back and we hit it off with him really well the other day. We talked about feeding the homeless and such and he mentioned that his kids always like him to give candy to the people under the bridge. I told him "We have plenty of candy if you need some." We really do though. People think missionaries don't get enough sweets, so they just dump candy and doughnuts and cake on us. And they wonder how some of these missionaries gain so much weight haha. So anyways, we told him that if he came to church on Sunday, we would have a whole bag of candy for him. And guess what. He came! So we're gonna start teaching him and hope that he progresses quickly.

We also finally got up with another man. His name is J. He's eighty-three years old and his son and daughter are both strong, active members. He got offended at his Methodist church (that never happens) so he has decided to start coming to ours. Aaaaaaaand he wants us to teach him the "discussions" so he can understand clearly the point of view of his children. So we began with the restoration. We talked about God revealing His Gospel to the prophets, Christ establishing His church, and then the Great Apostasy. And then we moved on to the Joseph Smith story. At this point, J got a little restless. He said "I was wondering when you were gonna bring in Joseph Smith." So we continued, despite the apparent opposition to the idea of a modern-day prophet. He got a little more restless. Then he says "Can we just skip this part of the lesson? I already know the story anyway." He then turns to the member who's with us "I really love the Mormon church. I might consider being a member of it if they would just get rid of Joseph Smith. Him and his polygamy." He continued " I did a lot of research at the library when I found out my daughter was going to be a member of your church. I read book after book, some anti books, and then I formed my opinion of the whole thing. I think Joseph Smith was a charlatan." So we kind of left it at that. But we did say one more thing. "I encourage you not to close off your heart just yet." So he kind of stopped for a second and then turned to me again. "You know you might be right. If I'm trying to understand the point of view of my children, I might have to walk the path they walked. I'll think about things and let you know what I want to do next Thursday." And now all we can do is pray and hope that the Lord softens his heart before Thursday. I really have the faith that He will.

And here's my rebuttal...

"You say that you like the Mormon church. You say that you love the emphasis on family and how good the people are. You say that the members of the church have been there for you when the members of your own were not. You've seen the church bless your children's lives, and yet you say Joseph Smith was a charlatan? Good fruit cannot come from a corrupt tree. The reason the church is so good is because Joseph Smith was who he said he was. He died defending his cause. He testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to the guards who kept him enslaved and then shortly after sealed his testimony with his blood when an angry mob decided to take his life from him. And you're telling me that the man was a charlatan?!!?!?! Read and pray with a humble heart. The Lord will let you know through the Holy Spirit of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel."

That's my testimony of the matter. This Gospel changes lives. It works. God lives. Christ lives. Joseph Smith was their prophet on the earth. Through him, the truths of the fullness of the Gospel were restored. I don't know how I know these things are true, but I do. They're engraved so deeply in my heart that I cannot deny them.

Please pray for me this week. Pray that I can go to work. People need this Gospel more now than ever.

-Elder Landon Carroll

From Missionary to Minister

January 4, 2016

Good morning,

There comes a point in every missionary's mission when they have to decide who they really are. There comes a point where you have to decide what kind of sacrifice you're going to make for people and what side of yourself is going to dominate your missionary work. This week was a time for us to literally transform from young men wearing black name tags to ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not because we necessarily got any better than we were, but rather, because that's what was called for this week.

I was sitting on my bed reading some books New Year's day (we had to be in by 8 pm) and I got a call from one of our potential investigators. His name is L and this man was just having the hardest time. He called and said he needs a lot of help and that he didn't know else to call, so he dug out our number and gave it a ring. He told me "Man I am in bad shape. I've lost everything! I have nothing left! I'm about to put a bullet in my head and I have no idea what to do. I don't know how to handle this stuff." I was extremely shocked at what I was hearing! I had never before received a call like that nor had I dealt with anything remotely similar. So I calmed him down a little bit and asked what was going on. He told me that his wife walked out and that there was nobody there for him and that he was sick and tired of going through the same stuff over and over again. So I continued to get more details and found out that he's had an incredibly difficult life and that he almost feels abandoned and forsaken. So I explained to him a little bit about what was going on. I said "You've been living this way for a long time and it's time to make a change. You say you keep going through the same stuff over and over again, so what you're doing clearly isn't working. You need to go about things like you never have before. You need to make a change in your life." He then exclaimed "It's too late for me buddy! I'm 51 years old! It's too late to make a change!" I assured him that it was never too late. Then he continued to rant about his mistakes and how he wasn't worth anything, so I took it as an opportunity to bring in the Gospel. It really is the only solution for a man who has NOTHING.

So I began to talk and read about the Atonement, explaining first the love of God and that Jesus Christ suffered everything and knows exactly how he feels. Then I told him that he can start a new life, that he didn't have to be the person he was before. I told him the reason for the Atonement and explained what we could do to help him. I told him that he could make a change and begin to live a meaningful life full of hope and happiness. He said "I don't know how to do that! I don't know how to deal with this kind of stuff." I told him "What you've done in the past has obviously not worked because you've been in this situation before. So what I want you to do is get on your knees and ask God to lead you in the right direction so you can find happiness. Do that and then call me back, okay?" He agreed. So he hung up and then I just sat there in shock, praying with all my heart that Heavenly Father would fill him with His love. I sat and waited for about twenty minutes for this man to call back. Meanwhile my companion was in the other room watching some church videos. I sat there anxiously praying and listening to the Spirit to know what I would say when he called back. He didn't call, so I did. I gave him a call and he answered. I said "You still with me?" "Yessir. I'm doing okay." He then started ranting again about how much it hurt and how he didn't know where to turn. So I said "Well you can't lose hope L. There's a Heavenly Father who is looking down on you and hoping that you turn to Him. He's not giving up on you and we're not giving up on you. And you can't give up on yourself either!" He then started to be positive "No I'm not gonna give up. I can't give up! God loves me!" I was getting so happy. So I asked him "Do you remember when the missionaries knocked on your door a few weeks ago? How did you feel?" He told me "Happy! I felt happy for the first time in a long time!" I then went on "Well that happiness was real and was a sign from God that you need to follow." I then got his address and we planned to visit him tomorrow. I asked him "Do you have a TV or a radio or something? I want you to listen to that and get your mind off things so you can sleep tonight. We'll call you in the morning."

So we did. We called him and set up a time to visit him later that day. When we got to his apartment (shack) he was drunk and just depressed out of his mind. We sat down and read Alma 36 with him and assured him of our love and of God's love for him. We gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read and start making small changes in his life. He agreed. And then we invited him to church and set up a ride for someone to pick him up. He thanked us for coming and told me that I saved his life. I was touched! The Lord really used me as an instrument in His hands! We left him with a prayer, he left us with some YooHoo, and then we were off.

The next morning, he gave us a call telling us that he was ready to come to church. So we picked him up just before church and got him there a little late. This man was having the hardest time of his life. We sat toward the back of the chapel and he kept saying to me "I can't keep my head up. I can't keep my head up I'm so ashamed of myself." I continued to reassure him and help be an emotional rock for him. He hadn't been to church in many years and he felt unworthy to even be in the parking lot. As the testimonies were borne, he began to tear up. He was losing it fast. He turned to me "Hey buddy I'm gonna step out for a second." We went out in the hallway with him and he started toward the door. Then he began to weep, rather hysterically. I couldn't help but pity the man. So he went outside on the sidewalk and basically fell on his face because of all the anguish. He began to cry some more. He knelt on the ground and started to cry out to God for mercy, wondering how he even went down this road in the first place. The anguish continued. As we waited by the door we saw Brother Knight approaching us. He's our ward mission leader and the man who took L to church. He observed the situation and it seemed like he knew exactly what to do. So after his breakdown, L finally came back in, wiping the tears from his face. HE said "I'm so sorry. I just had a breakdown. It's not right for a grown man to be crying like a baby. Can I talk to one of y'all? We all just listened. He began to explain that he didn't feel right to be here and that he's afraid God doesn't love him anymore. Brother Knight did the smart thing and pulled him over to a room where we could all talk privately. Brother Knight pulled up a chair and sat in front of L and began to speak some of the most Godly words I've ever heard. He told L that everything was going to be okay and that God loves him know matter what he does. And then he talked about moving on from the past and looking with hope toward to future, trusting that God would lead the way. We all promised that with diligence and with the right support, he could change his life and become a new man. L said "That's what I want. I don't want to be stuck to the past anymore. I just want to be at peace with myself and with God." We told him that he had already taken the first steps by making the call and by coming to church and that he need only to continue walking the painful road of healing and forgiveness. So we gave him a blessing so that he could get through the day and the rest was just awesome. He participated a lot in Sunday school(which just so happened to be lesson one of Gospel Principles), slept through Priesthood, and then we took him home, promising again that if he did what he was supposed to do, he could become a new man. And that was it.

Not only was this experience emotionally and spiritually taxing, but it taught everyone who participated a valuable lesson. It reminded us exactly what it means in the scriptures when it says "mourn with those that mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort." That's the covenant we make at baptism and that's the charge we took upon us when we submitted our mission papers. This is not a number game. We're not here just to see people enter the waters of baptism. We're not here for the converts, the Spanish, or the food. We're here because there are people in this world who are lost and have nothing else to turn to. L is an example of one of those people. I don't know if I could have handled a situation like this a few months ago, but the Lord does a good job of preparing us for what's to come. I know that I'm here for a reason. I know that it's much greater than I can even imagine. We are to minister. That is, do the things that Christ did. And that doesn't only extend throughout my mission, but throughout my life. We represent him and He expects us to be ready when our number is called. Thankfully, I was.

Keep on believing. Don't stop progressing. And remember who you represent.


Elder Landon Carroll

Gotta keep Going...

 December 28, 2015

Good morning everyone! I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. I hope that you were able to feel the Christmas in the air this year and that you were able to make this season something special. It certainly was for me :)
First off, this week was wonderful. We weren't able to teach that many lessons, but we sure touched a lot of lives. We visited everyone we could before Christmas and dropped off plenty of presents and goodies. Something I've learned to love on my mission is just the joy that comes from generosity and giving. We gave a plaque with a picture of Christ and a scripture on it to a man named Mario and he said "this is the best Christmas I've ever had. Y'all just made my day." That made me feel really good. We spent the week doing things like that and experiencing lots of joy. Before my mission I didn't really know the joy of giving. But now that I do, I'm never going back.

Christmas day was wonderful. It started off with some really muddy basketball with my companion, then we came back and opened presents. I got a sweater, a UGA shirt, some socks, and a new watch! Life is good. Oh and I got one more thing for Christmas! That is, fat. I got fat for Christmas. There was no shortage of food this week. The families in the ward were especially generous. I haven't had American food like that in months. It really puts you to sleep haha. 

And of course the highlight of Christmas day was talking to my family. It was an amazing hour and a half or so. I especially loved seeing a new baby sitting on my dad's shoulder haha. What a cute little guy. And I loved being able to catch up with my family a little bit. Everyone is a little older, but nothing has really changed. We're still the same family and I look forward to the day when I can come home and be with them again.

Just a little update on the work. We had some great success at church this week. A lot of our less active members showed up and A even came! He's doing pretty well. We're really just trying to make sure he has a solid testimony and understanding of the covenants he's preparing to make with his Heavenly Father. We can't play games here. We can't baptize people that are just gonna fall away afterward. It's our job to make sure that these people are firmly rooted in the Gospel before they take the plunge.

Well, that's about all for this week. We now have to wake up from our Christmas nap and get back to work. I hope that we can have a successful week and that we can help someone progress in the Gospel this week.

Have a great week and a happy new year!

-Elder Landon Carroll
Love the little Elder Carroll Christmas ornament!  Looks just like him!

I'll be home for Christmas.....next year.

December 21, 2015

Good afternoon everyone and Merry Christmas!

This week has been an eventful one for sure. Something I've learned to appreciate this week is just being there to help those in need. A lot of missionaries get caught up in the numbers, myself included sometimes, and it really takes away from what our calling is. First off, we're teachers of the Restored Gospel. But the calling of being a missionary is much more than just that. We are to minister, that is, do as Christ would. It's been a joy as I've been able to do that this week.

We were not able to meet with a lot of our investigators this week due to various things, but we did have a couple pivotal lessons. A especially. It's been quite the adventure with him this week. He's a very special kid and I just love him. I'm excited to help him progress in the Gospel. Let me tell you a little more about him. So he's half Mexican. His dad barely speaks English and his mom is American and apparently abusive. Read last week's email for a little more on that. So they finally found a house to stay in this week and we were able to go over and check it out. It's a little double wide that needs a lot of work, so of course we have offered to help them with that. We taught A the Restoration AGAIN and it was like teaching him for the first time. I guess his retention isn't the best. But he seemed to understand everything clearly and we drew a little picture for him to keep, so I think he'll be okay in that department. We told him though, that he can't get baptized unless he gains a testimony of the Book of Mormon, so that's what we committed him to do. He needs to read and pray and be solid so that he doesn't just slip away after his baptism. And if we do our job right, we'll be able to teach his dad as well and have the makings for a solid family. So that's A this week.

The next guy we met with was R. We met him knocking doors a couple weeks ago and we're glad we stopped by again. This man is very friendly and lives in a somewhat ritzy neighborhood, so it's almost surprising that he let us in. But he's very open to us and wants to learn a little more about what we do as missionaries. He's a very strong Christian man and even has his own online ministry. So we got to talking and it was like he was interviewing us or something. I played a long for a while and then I had to turn it on him. We got to talking about why people try to make God conform to their lives, rather than making their lives conform to the will of God. I don't think he ever had thought about that before, so it gave him the perspective we needed to start teaching the Restoration. He had to leave, but we invited him to read the pamphlet of our unique message to the world, the Restoration. I'm hoping he reads it and gets intrigued enough to allow us to keep teaching him. We have an appointment of Wednesday so we'll see what we can do.

We also had the opportunity to meet with B. I told ya'll about him last week. He's the man with the feeding tube. Well, he's been having a hard time so we've made sure to give him special emphasis this Christmas season. We bought him a DVD player and some movies for him so he can stay busy and sane. He has to gain a lot of weight for his surgery, so we can expect him to be laying on the couch for most of the time, trying to maintain his calories. I really hope and pray for this man. He has an amazing attitude and a great heart. I hope he gets better so he can enjoy food again. I can't even imagine.

Other than those individuals, no one really progressed. When we're not teaching, we're finding ways to help people during this season. It's that time of year when no one should go cold, hungry, or unloved. We try to make sure that we are touching as many hearts as we can with our service and wonderful message of hope. That's really what this season is about. Love and hope. We show loves to those around us and give them hope through the light of Christ. I love reading the Christmas story because it reminds me just how amazing the birth of the Savior is. The Jews were expecting him to come in power and glory, but instead he came as a humble baby. And the other amazing part is that shepherds and great kings traveled many miles to go and worship him. The wise men even brought him gifts of great value. Yet, he was only a baby. It's clear that those who visited him knew exactly why he came. The worshiped because of the hope he gave them. They knew that in that little stable was born the light and life of the world.

Should we not glory in the Savior? Should we not take this time, to truly show our love to Him? He came to give us hope and light and it's through us that others can experience that. We didn't teach as many lessons as I would have liked to this week, and of course we're not perfect missionaries, but as we go out knocking doors and visiting less active members, we make sure to show them the light of Christ.

He lives. I know it.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and that you let the light of Christ radiate as you worship and serve him. Please know of my love for each one of you.

Until next week,

Elder Landon Carroll

Learn to Be Grateful!

December 14, 2015

This week was another eventful one. We didn't teach as many lessons as we would have liked, but the work takes its turns and sometimes you just have to go with it. After all, we're not even in control of it. We do our part and the Lord takes care of the rest.

Since I've gotten here, I've really come to realize something. We all go through trials! Even if we think we're not going through some type of trial, we are. But that's nothing new. Just a small realization. What really amazes me is the way some of these people handle their trials. Here's a few examples...

B is less active member in his fifties. Come to find out he's from Murray, Utah where I was born! Small world haha. But his situation is very unique. Three years or so a ago he accidentally swallowed some Drain-o and it just destroyed his throat. So he had some surgery and they ended up removing his stomach. So now he can't swallow anything, has a feeding tube running through his intestines, and he has a tracheotomy for breathing purposes. And his digestive system continues to break down so he can only eat like two cans of Ensure a day. Needless to say, he's losing weight rapidly as he tries to stay alive. On top of that, his wife decided to divorce him after twenty-six years of marriage and is not making it easy for him. So his life is hanging on by a thread and the only hope he has is a surgery either in PA or in Utah. If the surgery doesn't work, he's done for. What amazes me about B is his attitude. He's in constant pain and barely has enough strength to lift himself out of a chair, but I never see him get down on himself. He knows that he's doing all he can and trusts in God to make things right. We go visit him once a week and he always attends us well and makes sure our needs are met. Wouldn't it be easy for B to just throw in the towel and give up? Couldn't he just be the most bitter man in the world? Well he's not. He fights and he continues to be grateful and positive. He's an example to me of how to withstand our trials. We have to look to the lighthouse of the Lord. We have to trust that things will be better, even though we can't even see that light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.

The next one is M. I'll save the details, but she had a very rough childhood. Her parents were in some corrupt cult and they traveled all over the world evangelizing. Well, she got abused and mistreated in the process and so she's naturally a little bitter toward her parents, particularly toward her mother. She struggles to forgive, but she doesn't let that get in the way of her relationships with others. She's looking to get married to a nice guy (who is in jail for some things) and she has two adorable daughters from her last marriage. We helped her change a flat tire on Sunday during church and she wasn't negative at all. She took care of her daughters and focused on being positive. Every time we do something nice for her, we get a text of gratitude a few hours later. Because of our love, she is now active in the church again and her fiance has agreed to come to church with her when he gets out of prison. Things are difficult, but she holds on to what she knows to be true and the people that show her love. She's an example to me.

The next one is our investigator A. He has a baptismal date for the twenty-third of January and is progressing nicely toward that date. So here's his current situation. We were eating dinner with some members and another youth member, A's friend F, called us four times, so we went ahead and answer it. Turns out something had happened to A and that F needed us to take him over there to see what happened. So we wrapped up dinner and quickly got over there. When we got there, A's mom and sisters were outside and A and his dad were on the clear other side of the yard. We went and talked to A and he told us what had happened. He and his mom got in an argument and she tried physically attacking him. He grabbed her to defend himself and then she kicked him out of the house, threatening to call the police if he and his dad wouldn't leave the property. So A got out of that abusive situation and was just looking for a place for him and has dad to stay for the night. So we spent three hours with them last night trying to arrange things and we finally were able to this morning. A and his dad slept in their van last night, but a member from the ward has graciously offered to house them tonight. What blows me away about A is his attitude. He could be angry and bitter about the situation, but he's not. He has an abusive mother and a less than ideal home life, but he continues to hold on to the strong relationships he has with us and with his friends. We were laughing and joking last night and he didn't show an ounce of anger toward the situation.

These people are examples to me! They're circumstances aren't ideal, but they acknowledge the blessings they have and our Heavenly Father who loves and takes care of them. I learned this week that we can't mope around because of our trials. There will always be someone who is going through a harder time than we are. It's our job to recognize our own blessings and be of support to those who stand in need of our help and love. And after we overcome our trials, we're able to empathize with those who may be going through similar situations. It's just a big cycle and if we do it right, we'll be happy and blessed in the end!

I know that this Gospel is true. People try to argue with me about the truthfulness of our message and the controversies in the church's past and present, but I continue to hold on to what I know to be true and the experiences I've had. I'm grateful for what I'm learning as a missionary and I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world.

Go out there and spread some Christmas spirit. Make somebody's day. Lift someone up. Be an example. Go get em.

-Elder Landon Carroll