Address

Elder Eric Johnson
2935 Waterchase Way SW Apt. #308
Wyoming, MI 49519

Please send letters or packages by First class or Priority Mail via U.S.P.S. so they can be forwarded to him.

Monday, December 11, 2017

11 December 2017

fam,

The first week of the transfer always feels so long, but it was pretty good.

Both Sundays between the last letter have been super good. Our Ward mission leader stayed in church long enough for us to have a good chat with him. He has been gone for over 12 weeks. We look forward to working with him. 

Also an Elders Quorum President has been called! That was a huge step. We've literally had that spot open for 7 months. He is a super busy guy though: Full time student, full time employee, full time dad, Gospel doctrine teacher, and branch clerk. I'm not sure how he sleeps, but he is a great guy. Priesthood keys are super important to have and actively used in any unit.

Monday we had such a good lesson with Griselda. Things where slowing down. The rest of her family wasn't home when we came by. Her dad isn't interested at all, so far, but he was there so we were still able to get in. We shared scriptures out of 3 Nephi 11 when Jesus appears in the Americas, truly one of the most powerful sections of the Book of Mormon in my opinion. We read verse three and we talked about the spirit for a minute. We asked when she felt closest to God. The spirit was so strong in that moment and she just opened up about a bunch of stuff going on in her personal life. Some tough things are going on that makes her feel like she can't be baptized. It was such a good moment. PMG (Preach My Gospel--manual for missionaries) says that people progress best in a family. I don't know about that. It's probably because we just don't teach very many families, maybe three since I've gotten here.  But I don't think Griselda would have opened up like she did in front of her family. 

Wednesday we got our first dose of snow. It snowed a little over the next three days. Right now there probably is like three inches on the ground or so. I kind of hoped Michigan would be like Hoth in star wars, but it really hasn't been that cold... yet. 





This last Sunday was fantastic. Elder Guerrero got invited back to talk, which was odd. He talked on the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was great. One of the best parts of missionary work is to see people start to feel the spirit. As Elder Guerrero stood up to talk the congregation was really loud. It was after the sacrament had been passed out and the late people were filtering in which made the room pretty loud. Everyone had settled and a minute had passed and it was still a dull roar. When I feel the spirit, it first is manifested by a clarity of mind and then normally follows by a warmth or feeling of goodness. As I listened, these feelings came and I could tell other people were feeling the soft nudging of the spirit as well because the chapel became silent, even the little kids became quiet. People focused in as thoughts were shared on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and how we can use Christ's grace to then help us change and become better. The Book of Mormon has a lot more teachings on the sacrifice of Jesus which are infinitely valuable. Truly that is its primary purpose. I'm almost at the end of our 50 day challenge and there is so much in there. 

We also knocked into another pastor this week. Not sure what's going on. It was a little fun to talk with him though because he kinda made a big deal and before he really could say much I mentioned something along the lines of "thanks for being so nice to us, normally pastors just want to bash, argue or try to prove we are wrong by the Bible and that's not what we are here to do, " which I think changed how he talked with us. We talked for a minute and left on good terms. We unfortunately didn't get a return appointment. 

Sunday was also weird. I did my first exchange with a non- missionary. Elder Magalei went with a member to an appointment we had set up right after church and I stayed with another member to help with the Christmas program. We said goodbye and went our ways. It shouldn't have been that weird but it was super weird haha. 



Saturday, December 2, 2017

2 December 2017

fam,

Monday was a little tough. We had two lessons planned for the afternoon of our P-day which was good but they didn't turn out all that well. We finally were able to receive a referral on our side from a member and things were looking promising. She came to a ward party we had for the departure of the Westons and we were able to talk extensively. 

Come Monday, the member friend, a few minutes before the lesson was planned to start, sent us a warning that the grandma was going to be at the visit as well. I didn't think much of it so we continued with our plan. We walked in with the Westons and were just talking with the family and it was really nice. We said the opening prayer and were talking about what we do as missionaries, what they should expect and started sharing points about the restoration. 

I really don't like it when people T-Bone our lessons. It's really unfortunate. The grandma really doesn't like Mormons. We meet a few people like that. The problem is that it's really hard to get back to the lesson when someone just has no desire to listen. Our purpose very simply is to present a message and ask people to try it out and check it with scripture and more importantly ask God to see if it's true.  He can't and won't lie and will tell everyone the full truth. So it's important that people just don't take our word for anything we say. The grandma wouldn't listen and just wanted to bash. The upside is she doesn't speak English so we dropped into English for a minute to set up another time to meet with only the lady who wanted to meet with us. Moral of the story is follow all warnings. Any time spent where someone is just ragging on us is time wasted. 

Tuesday was the follow-all-spiritual-promptings day. It gets dark here pretty early which is really unfortunate 2 Nephi 26:23 and makes our job a little harder. We had arrived at our 8pm appointment just to be told they were about to leave. We walked back to our car and felt that the back up that we did have planned wasn't really the best thing we could do. We couldn't really figure out what we were supposed to do so we prayed. We simply asked if there was something better that we were supposed to do than what we had planned, and then thought about it for a minute. 

As I prayed I felt we were supposed to go to a fast food restaurant around the corner but didn't really know why. Elder Magalei didn't really have any ideas and so we went. We walked in and sat down trying to figure out what the next step was. I was confused and sat thinking. Elder Magalei was deep in thought and I asked what he thought we should do. He said he saw something in the restaurant that reminded him very clearly of a specific home we had knocked through a few weeks before and that he felt we needed to stop by. We left and knocked on the door. This lady walks out and we were talking with her and turns out she had just had family die in Puerto Rico and that the next day she would be flying out to go help the family. We were able to talk with her for a few minutes and left her with a prayer. It's really nice to be able to receive that guidance from the Holy Ghost that God is often times just waiting to give us. We just have to ask for it sometimes. I truly know God listens to and answers our prayers.

Wednesday we kind of got on the Francos for not having read since our last appointment. A few days prior we had talked with a member who had served her mission in Honduras. She shared with us an object lesson she used with people who had struggled to read in the scriptures between visits. The problem is most people don't have an interest in reading the scriptures. They either admit they don't understand what it says before they've even read or believe they don't have the time, and without that interest, it's hard to make that change. The truth is there is so much in the scriptures, you just have to open them up. What you do is you make this hypothetical situation where the person is going to die the next day and they have an opportunity to write a letter to their kids as advice. You spend a few minutes writing out all these ideas you might have or bits of advice. At the end of the specified time you make the connection that God, our Heavenly Father, has written his counsel and guides to living a happy life in the scriptures. How would you feel if your kids ignored your letter? Would you want your kids to read and study what you said? If our life is a test, the scriptures are basically the cheat sheet on doing well. 

Transfer calls came in yesterday, thus the Saturday P-day. Still here. I made the realization that I'm going to hit my year mark in the same area I was trained in. Time is too fast. Our now former zone leader can speak very limited Spanish and for his last transfer is serving in our district! Elder Guerrero is going to Zone lead the best zone in the mission (this one) and Elder Magalei and I are staying together for at least one more transfer.

Friday we met with this brand new family. It was kind of weird, not gonna lie. We've had like a bunch of days of everything falling through and not a lot of luck and we came into this home and had a great lesson. It's normally a little tough with more people but everyone was very attentive, responding thoughtfully to questions, and there were almost zero distractions. The tricky thing is when there are multiple generations in lessons. What normally happens is the grandparents can't speak English, parents speak a little or none, and the kids are almost exclusively English but I think we did a good mish-mash of spanglish. 

Friday we had our best lesson with a Pastor ever. Normally they just want to fight or test our biblical knowledge which is really just a huge waste of time, but he was super humble and really nice. Instead of bashing with us he let us share the restoration with him. He couldn't accept that God continues to reveal truth to living day prophets or that God could reveal more of his word but there was zero contention. The Old Testament teaches us a lot about prophets and what they do. Moses is the easiest example in how he lead, received revelation for the children of Israel. It's cool to think that today we have someone guiding all who will listen with that same power and authority.  

27 November 2017

fam,

We meet with the Francos like three times a week. It's pretty great. We've had a series of really good lessons with them and they are progressing decently. Unfortunately, December 23 won't be met. Marco wants to be baptized but there are some things we have to work on and they have to work on before baptism that will likely take some more time than we have so they took themselves off date. We were able to talk about everything going on and set some goals to keep them progressing. On another day we went over to learn how to make tortillas and horchata. First off they both turned out so good. The members and the people we work with keep their recipes under lock and key, although "recipe" is a pretty loose term. Cooking here is more like "a little this and a little of that" with zero measurements, I took loose notes. The tortillas were pretty hard, probably took me about 10 tries to get the pressed masa from tortilla press to grill, the darn thing kept tearing. They also gifted us a tortilla press. We have already put it to good use. 




Tuesday was good. I had a good trade off with Elder Rencher. They have an investigator getting baptized who is finally getting baptized. She is so awesome. I remember my very first trade off when I met her and thought she was a member. Her situation didn't allow her to be baptized but after many months of working hard she was able to get away from a bad situation that wouldn't allow her to be baptized. The interview process is really simple. There are a set of defined questions that are designed to make sure the person who wants to be baptized understands what they are doing and are willing to live according to the standards by which they promise to live by. President Brennan came to give the interview and I "translated". It was pretty great. We walked into the bishop's little office and President Brennan just asked me to do the interview, he added a few questions and then we closed in prayer. All went smoothly.  

Friday the church launched "Light the World". I'm really impressed with how it has turned out. I wasn't in the loop last year but apparently it's pretty similar. The basic premise is that you do some type of service every day leading up to Christmas to help people remember why we celebrate Christmas and get people in the true spirit of Christmas. It's based on 25 different things Christ said or taught and the video the church put up is stellar. 


Unfortunately the Westons return home on the fourth. They spoke in church on Sunday and it was really good. They are both such good examples. They definitely make me want to serve a senior mission when I'm old. Elder Weston shared an insight that I liked in his talk, he said that church is a tool and the gospel is the way of life. A lot of people tell us that the either don't believe in religion but believe in God or don't believe in organized religion. Their point makes a little sense if the only reason you go to church is to study the bible and or go to some social gathering. The sacrament is why we go to church. It's the way we can recharge our spiritual batteries for the week and receive forgiveness for the sins from the previous week and recommit to be a little bit better the next week. We then take what we learn in church and apply it in the coming week. Application of the gospel is crucial. If you don't apply it, it is of no worth. Alma 41 makes an interesting point on application. 

My Book of Mormon reading has been going pretty well. I'm coming up at the end of the Book of Alma. I don't think I've read through the war chapters so fast. There is no doubt that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It's super awesome. No one can dictate a book of this level or close in under 90 days (or at all) while having other responsibilities like raising a family, protecting said family from mobs, moving from state to state and other crazy stuff like that. Aside from the confirmation of the spirit of its truth there is no other explanation for such a book. Yes, it's different from the Bible. No Revelation 22:19 is not referring to the still uncompiled Bible, and yes God can reveal more of his word and has through living day prophets and the Book of Mormon. Read it and study it daily. It's pretty good. 

-eric 



Monday, November 27, 2017

20 November 2017

fam, 

We had some really good lessons with the Francos this week. We were in our area for part of the trade off and Elder Rencher and I had a family home evening with the family. We really had no idea what we were going to do as we walked in because we didn't like the plan we had worked on. We opened with the video "Mountains to Climb" watch the video and talked about what happens when we try to make positive changes in our lives. Every time we try to come closer to God and make a serious decision Satan really tries to stop whatever progress might be made. We made an analogy to hurricanes. Living the gospel maintains your position in the eye of the storm. Simple things such as offering honest prayers where we talk with God, studying the scriptures and going to church keep us centered. It was really good and we finished with Uno. It was cut throat. 


Thursdays and Fridays we have our morning lessons with the Francos. We taught them the Plan of Happiness and the Word of Wisdom. We had a member come with us who had quit smoking. We had planned to have dinner with them the night before to prep him for what we wanted him to do. Unfortunately that was canceled so as we walked in and we told him he had 2 minutes to tell his story. We sit down, offer a prayer, explain briefly. 

What ensued was an elaborate 25 minute play of him explaining and acting out the story. It included obviously the missionaries knocking on his door, near death experiences, doctors telling him he had three days to live days after his wife "prayed that he would be smitten with something that would teach him a lesson." The Francos seemed to like it, it definitely side tracked our lesson but the spirit was there and it was funny. 





Monday, November 13, 2017

13 November 2017

Tuesday we think we drove by a hostage situation. We decided to knock in a newer area we aren't normally proselyting in and we came up to a bus that was stopped. Two cop cars pulled up super fast and pulled out rifles pretty fast. 




I think we were there as it was unfolding because nothing was done really to secure the area. At this time we were still chilling at the red light and four other cop cars pulled up surrounding the bus. Light turns green and we take the left turn signal and there were about four cops at the rear of the bus. One with a riot shield, two cops at his shoulders, rifles pointed at the bus and another behind with a handgun. It seemed pretty intense. Luckily we didn't hear any gunshots so it hopefully wasn't all that bad.


Wednesday we had a great trade off. A few days prior we picked "G" back up and he kind of has the same problems he had when we dropped him. We asked him to read the introduction and the testimonies in the front of the BoM and pray to see if what he read was true. We called him to confirm and he said it wasn't for him and that he wasn't sure about the BoM, he still allowed us to come over to talk about it. Elder Guerrero and I were together and in our morning planning we really felt that there wasn't a much we could plan for in advance and that we should just come in and rely 100% on the spirit. We talked with G for a few minute trying to find were exactly his concerns where. He hadn't prayed and he was self conscious about asking for rides. We talked about that. The spirit played a huge role in that lesson. We finished talking about how everything relies on if the BoM is true. The cool thing is that the spirit can tell us things to do and show us what to share, Elder Guerrero demonstrated that when towards the end of the lesson he brought up how families can be eternal. This power given to Peter to bind things on earth and heaven (mathew 16:18-19) is the same power families are able to be together after we die, and was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and is available to all worthy people to seal their families. That's awesome, but its even cooler because unbeknownst to Elder Guerrero, G told us or last visit about how a few of his family members had passed away in an incident in Mexico. The Spirit is a revelator and was able to tell Elder Guerrero what should be shared. The spirit is truly key to any conversion. We use the spirit to guide our work, but it's essential that anyone we share anything with has an understanding of what the spirit is, what he does, how we can feel his presence. He reveals truth, gives comfort, is a guide and our job is to learn how to recognize him and follow his directions. 

The "F" family is doing well. They've been on date and were able to come out to stake conference this Sunday. It's really kinda crazy that literally every time we put someone on date who seems sincere everything starts going wrong in their lives. It's like someone doesn't want them to be baptized. Without going into details I haven't seen more things fall apart in anyone's life. It's even been stressful for us. We had three lessons with them this last week focused on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and actually receiving the strength they need to pick up everything that's been falling. It was intense. We walked into their taco shop and they were kind of freaking out. They spent like 30 minutes just unloading everything and we were just sitting there thinking, I have no idea what to do. We were able to share something that invited the spirit into their taco shop and they were visibly feeling better after. 

Saturday we had a mission conference with President Russell M. Nelson. 




As we walked in the chapel we were able to shake his hand and he is super old. He definitely is 93. It was like two hours and the first 45 minutes, a member of the area seventy and his wife shared their testimonies as well as Elder Bennett of the General authority 70 and his wife shared their testimonies and Sister Nelson. Among other things, the general theme was choosing an eternal companion which was a little a typical for a missionary meeting, but it was really good. Elder Nelson stood up and jokingly said "I've never been with a group of missionaries and heard so much about marriage! You're not supposed to be thinking about that! You're missionaries, but did you get the message?" He spoke on a few things and was really lively and funny. One thing I liked was the miracle of the BoM, translated in 68 working days from an unknown language while under persecution and moving two and from I think two states, and adds nearly another 40% of holy scripture to our canon. He then went into how it translates and flows perfectly into Egyptian and some other things. The last 30 minutes were opened to questions and his answers were quite impressive. 

A good week.

Monday, November 6, 2017

6 November 2017

fam,

Tuesday was quite the day. When you have the trust of someone and you trust them, missionary work becomes so much more easy. We invited the Francos out to a church tour. We arrived like 30 minutes before to prep the building, clean a little and to make sure there weren't any surprises. We normally open the baptismal doors but this time I felt that we could just open it when they get there. I didn't think much about that and kept prepping a few other rooms. The tour was really simple but powerful. Once they arrived we obviously started with a prayer and then walked into the chapel. We talked about the importance of the sacrament and why it's a commandment to take the sacrament weekly. We showed them to some other places in the church and ended up in the Relief Society room which also has the baptismal font behind two large doors. It was already nice and the spirit was already there as we talked about the different things that happen in the church but when we opened the door to the font there was as if a tangible wave of peace entered as the doors opened. We just kind of stood there for a few moments. We sat down and had read a simple scripture and had a real frank conversation. Having a relationship of trust and openness with the people we work with is super important. Unlike most investigators, we've known the Francos for a fair amount of time which really helps us be super bold and loving. We laid out everything on the floor about what needs to happen before Hno. Franco gets baptized. It was super awesome and we set daily and weekly goals with them as well as a baptismal date for December 23. We've had a few lessons with them since then that have all gone super well in their taco shop before they've opened. It's been so awesome because we teach a great lesson and they feed us a great meal right after.  


Thursday we had zone conference. It was really good as usual. We were all given a new pass-along BoM and commissioned by our president to read the BoM in 50 days, highlight every reference to Jesus Christ, His words, His Attributes and doctrines and principles taught by the BoM. Blue is the color I chose for references to Jesus Christ and there is so much blue already. I'm on page 90 or so and you can't find a page without it. 

Also exciting news we picked up Santiago! It's been like three or so months but he is our buddy who went to Mexico seeking witch doctors. Crazy stuff, he said Mexico was absolutely terrible, but on a brighter not he seems to be doing better physically. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

30 October 2017

fam,

Monday was a pretty good day. It was the third day of constant rain and we were on foot for all our proselyting time. It was fun and we actually had some pretty good opportunities to talk with people. As long as your feet stay dry you're pretty much fine in the rain. We stopped by the Franco families taco shop and had a good little lesson with them. We walked in to set up a lesson with them and they had a question on why we go to church on Sundays instead of Saturdays. We answered that question and they started asking some more questions that aren't really important doctrinal questions, such as why is Christmas celebrated in December. I think they started to think we had all the answers, we don't. It was fun though, they enjoyed the visit and gave us some good horchata and we left. It was pretty late and we had a brisk walk in the rain to make before we had to be in our apartments. 

This Saturday we had a branch party that was pretty good. We had like 120 people come out. It was really good but it was super hectic. There as practically no time to really talk with people because it was just presentations and dances. We still set up a few lessons. Every member we visited and we asked they bring a friend, brought a friend which was really good. Elder Magalei and I both represented Samoa with our lava lavas. We also made something called musubi, its a seaweed wrap with rice, furikake, spam, and eggs. Pics below. Lava lava pics will be sent separately by Elder Weston, hopefully today. 

We had a good conversation this week. We talked with this one guy who was sitting listening to music and he saw us and said, "Mormons?" We talked about a few things. It was really funny because we were talking and he said something about how other pastors and religious people throw "test style" questions at him to check his knowledge and that he always gets the answers right. Anyway we were having a really good conversation and he paused and asked if he could ask a weird question. He asked us what we thought about angels and their role and purpose. A weird question I've never been asked and I remembered what he said about test questions and threw the question back at him and he couldn't answer it. 

We all laughed because we  remembered the whole part we talked about "test questions" and how they really don't help anyone. We talked a little more about the BoM and he asked us to read him some things out of the BoM. I luckily had my personal set and flipped through just racking my brain for something good. Alma 37:31-37 caught my eye and we read it to him. Its really good and after we read this to him he just stood for a moment and said "wow.... I didn't think anything like that would be in that book." A crazy guy once said something funny to us but has some true application. He said "The golden plates probably weren't golden, they were probably plastic, but the words......... the words were what were golden." 

Regardless of how the Book of Mormon is displayed or explained it won't really mean anything if people don't first read the word, ponder, and ask in prayer if it is true.  Alma 37 is just a passage in the Book of Mormon and there are many people who will read the BoM and not get anything out of it. When we read with real intent we open our hearts to the spirit which then through the thoughts and feelings that come to us tells us the truth of whats in front of us. 

The guy we talked to wasn't quite ready for formal sit down visits to really test out what we share with people, but just being willing to read or listen to the words in the Book of Mormon allowed him to have a spiritual moment. In reading through Preach My Gospel this week in one of our companion studies we came across a line in chapter 5 that I really liked. Moroni 10:3-5 shares a few steps we can follow to receive answers to our prayers. One of them is that we ask with real intent, meaning we intend to act on what we get. 

We try pretty hard to get people to read in the BoM because that's basically the only physical evidence of the truth of our message. Everyone already has a bible or a knowledge of what that is, and Preach my gospel made a point that we must not only pray with real intent but also read with real intent. Like I said before there are people who will read the BoM and not be Mormon by the end of the book. The biggest problem would likely be a lack of real intent in their reading. Joseph Smith said that "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." To see real change you have to put some effort into bringing your life into accordance of what it teaches, and thus by the promise in John 7:17 you can know if its of God or not.

Sunday was really good. I'm normally playing the piano but Elder Magalei and I have been switching off recently which has given me an opportunity to translate during sacrament meeting. It was super fun, slightly challenging. We had three speakers and the first girl lost her voice and read a talk very quietly, monotone, and without pauses. It was rough, I couldn't even come close to word for word translation so I took the few puzzle pieces I could and made some things up haha. No one would know is the funny thing. The other two talks I could hear well, so those went smoothly.   

After quite a bit of effort Elder Magalei got an answer to what we are to do with the one of our families. Basically we are passing responsibility to a few members and focusing on just reading with them and helping them understand the BoM.

November 11 President Nelson as well  as Elders Randall K. Bennett and Daniel F. Dunningan of the seventy will be visiting the mission. I anticipate some sweet things are gonna happen.