Friday, February 24, 2012

Photos of MTC life...just came in the mail today from Elder Nielson

Elder Alec Jensen and I
my old bud from LP off to Florida, Creole speaking

Elder Hughes - He was a very good friend and is temporarily reassigned to Boston and will be off to Kiev after getting his visa. He left 5 weeks ago.

A Handful of a heart attack...thanks Dad for the eclairs!

The Battle wounds of MTC hoops. It's good now momma. :)

Our first MTC fiesta! Mucho gusto!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Count Down Continues...

Well hello family! Already back to another p-day. My second to last p-day in the MTC! But who's's been a good week though just filled with some solid preparation for our friends in Russia. I need to apologize to Tanner and Sarah first, I got a little busy and wasn't able to send your letters till Saturday, only to realize the mail doesn't pick up Saturday afternoon, and then to learn that President's day was Monday. I would have had no idea it was President's day if the mail room wasn't closed. But holy cow the time is winding down to begin the real mission experience! I have loved the MTC, but sure cannot wait to leave and meet a real person. Word on the street is that we get travel plans tomorrow, so keep fingers crossed! Suddenly with time winding down like it is, it doesn't seem that two weeks is enough time to learn all I can. But it's all good, I can't wait to get there. For the time, it's felt like I've been called to serve in the MTC. The week itself has been a good one. It's definitely been a lot more busy with Elder Davis and I because we got two new districts of the Russian speakers in our zone. They have been a little stressed, and it's kind of our responsibility to make sure they have a decent idea of what goes on and how to do things. This whole assignment to be zone leaders has been a very big blessing, although at times it is a little stressful. Sometimes it kind of feels like we are baby sitting a bunch of other 19 year olds. But it's fun because it has given me an opportunity to come close and become friends with the missionaries in our zone, as well as close with our branch presidency who I love. It also has helped Elder Davis and I come closer as we have to work together and basically just be the best examples we can and love the missionaries in our zone. The Russian continues to progress. We have begun our final two weeks of only speaking Russian. Obviously this isn't a perfect 100% and who knows if we are anywhere near correct on what we are saying, but it's really fun to speak and challenge ourselves. My favorite part is singing in Russian. The translations have to be a little different, and so I learn from the hymns. Also, just Russian in general translates things a little differently that causes for a different perspective on things. For example in our hymn of "Onward Christian Soldiers" the last line reads, "за Христа готовый жертвовать собой!" which translates to "for Christ we're prepared to sacrifice ourselves". Just fun little nuggets of Russian wisdom that make things interesting and have been a blessing. I have come to love the Russian language. Yes it's difficult, and yes I'm not near anywhere fluent, but it really is a beautiful language and fun to learn about. I am grateful to serve in Russia. I have also just continued to learn about the simple aspects of our gospel. It is so interesting how more and more is revealed to us as we study the pure doctrines of Christ. I love a quote in Preach my Gospel from Hyrum Smith that roughly says, "study the first principles of the gospel. Study them over and over again and I promise you that God will reveal more and more about these." I love the connection between the first principles and the gospel to my purpose. In fact, they are exactly the same! I am to bring others to Christ through these principles, which are the doctrine of Christ. It truly is the word that "healeth the wounded soul." I am so grateful for the way in which our Savior heals us and that He loved us enough to suffer all so that He might heal us. What a blessing this knowledge is. But first we must trust and have faith on His name. Then repent, followed by baptism (sacrament) and receiving the Holy Ghost. Funny how these apply to all aspects of all phases of life. And of course we must endure. I saw a glimpse of this today in the temple. I watched as an older woman walked into the celestial room and sat next to her husband. She scootched her chair a little closer and they grasped hands and began to pray. I wondered about the size of smile that must be on Heavenly Father's face to see this. It softened me up a little bit. I can't wait to perhaps begin someone's journey to receiving this happiness. Not too much else goes on around these parts. Just livin’ the dream going to class and learning the ol' Russian. I can't wait to get out there and hope to get out healthy. I made a personal vow to not play basketball the rest of the time. Sounds goofy, but it gets a little sketchy and the last thing I want is something on my body messed up from a dumb game. So four square is my new found domain. Tanner, that had to be one of the best letters I've gotten here. It sounds like your keepin’ it all pretty real at home and you found my treasure chest of goodies in my closet. Well done my friend. Congrats to Newman by the way on the call. I hope all is well at home. It sounds like everyone is doing great. I appreciate the support and the fun little goody packages. I gotta say dad, you outdid yourself on the last one. I have made a lot of friends with the fiesta packages. I am so grateful for our family. I have thought about that a lot as I look at our picture on my desk and feel so much support and love. It is a pretty unique thing I believe to have the blessing of a family that I do. Don't know what I've done to deserve it, but I hope to maybe help a friend in Russia receive this. I love you all and continue to keep you in my prayers.
Elder Nielson

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

19 Days Left at the MTC!

Hello my family!

Another week gone, but another good week. Just living the dream and counting down the days to get to Russia! Like I said, it's been another great week in the MTC. The anticipation to leave gets higher and higher, but I also grow to love different aspects more and more creating this funny medium of a love and distaste of the MTC. I totally wrote down stuff that I have been wanting to tell about, and of course forgot my notecard, so I will do my best to answer momma's questions and recount the week. I believe I am starting to turn into the goofy missionary. We try to speak as much Russian as possible, basically we started this week of all the time and next week will be 100% Russian. So kiss English good bye pretty much. Don't be impressed thinking I am fluent, it's just that the best way to learn to speak, learn the grammar and apply new words is to speak the language. So I think my limited use of vocabulary is causing me to develop a strange sense of humor because I can only say so much. But hey, it’s a good time. I also get my tongue tied a lot trying to speak. I feel like I'm back in my kitty's dogs days when I needed to go to speech. It's a fun challenge with this language. But I really do love it. It is a wonderful language. Yes I do run into a lot of people I know. Between Virginia and Lone Peak it's pretty fun to see a bunch of friends rollin’ around. I can't wait to find Tanner today as well. It is also fun to see a couple of Sisters that were part of Em's crew. Shelby seems to be hanging in and Sister Squires is always super nice to me. So, good times that way.

We continue to teach and try and build our teaching abilities not only in Russian, but also in just teaching in general. Elder Davis and I have to go today and demonstrate how to begin teaching for the new missionaries. It's fun to relive some fun memories from the last couple of months as I watch new ones come in. We also will be receiving two new districts to our zone today. So that will be fun, just as a side note. I have learned a lot this week, again more about just simple laws and ordinances, as well as those first principles of the gospel. It's interesting to try and put things in a different language. We had quite the train wreck of a lesson on chastity this week. Always a good time. Funny what I learned about that though. I think there is no coincidence that chastity and charity are very similar. When we remember to love others, and most of all the love of our Father in Heaven- our relationship with Him- following these laws and respecting the virtue of others really becomes a lot easier. Again, those simple points and first principles of the gospel really are what we need to succeed.

We also had the blessing of being able to watch Elder Bednar's talk he gave on Christmas. Holy cow, I forgot how impactful that talk has been on my time, and will probably impact my life. If you ever get a chance to find Elder Bednar's talk entitled 'the character of Christ', find it. What lessons we can learn when we follow the Savior's example, and through the scriptures try and develop that character of turning out, when the natural man inside all of us would turn in. It seriously brought back some memories and thoughts that I believe have changed and will continue to change my life as I try to take upon the character of Christ. Something else I have continued to learn about is charity. What a difference it makes in our day to remember the perfect love our Father in Heaven has for us, and as we try to express that to others. I had read the vision of the tree of life yesterday, which shows every successful path. Everything about my purpose, everything about everyone's purpose is to obtain the fruit of the tree of life, or the love of God. The fruit being the Atonement. It truly is pure above all that is pure and delicious above all that is delicious. Everything I try to do as a missionary points to the love of God. Our lives must follow the patterns of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring. When we do this, we are able to taste this fruit- to use the Atonement in our lives to access the infinte and perfect love which our Father in Heaven has for us. And it truly is "desirable to make one happy." I loved finding in 3 Nephi 11 the statement the Savior makes to not teach more or less of His gospel, this being the first principles which I listed. Too often do we find ourselves looking for more or rationalizing for less than the simple principles of faith, repentance, baptism, etc. The only, as preach my gospel says, the only way to achieve this happiness, or in my eyes anything, is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have loved to learn of the profoundness and things we can learn from the simple first principles of the gospel. All of these are completely centered around the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is the fruits of our Heavenly Father’s love. Who knew that we could learn so much from simply acknowledging and accepting His love.

Well I love hearing from you all. Tanner, you make me proud to hear that all you want is some elite socks. Well done my friend. And just keep ballin’ with your friends, that's where all the fun is. I wish I could be there to watch. Sarah, I gotta say the highlight of mom's letter was to talk about you and your growth. It makes me happy to hear you learning about virtue. I wasn't perfect but can tell you that will bless your life. And just keep my t shirts fresh- makes me proud to hear your wearin’ those around. Just had to toss that in there. I love our family and the fact that we have the gospel. I love that I was raised in it and all the support I feel. I appreciate the valentines from Grandma and the Nielson fam. I could picture the gathering at Gigi's. Good times on the mission. I can't wait to share the things I have learned with a real Russian. 19 more days my friends! Most of all, I just can't wait to love one of them. I have learned of the immense love Christ has for us. Our Heavenly Father, the God of all the universe, loves us and we can talk to Him. I can't wait to represent that to a Russian in Samara. That has the power to change lives and bind families together for eternity. I love you and thanks for all the support!

Elder Nielson

Friday, February 10, 2012

One month to Russa!!

A couple of pictures from one of Chris' friends mom who ran into Elder Nielson at the MTC. We love these people who surprise us with wonderful little stories of seeing Chris and sharing with us!

Here is Elder Nielson's email for the week...

Hello family!

Once again, where does the time go? I am pretty sure I was just writing yesterday. What a good week it has once again been at the MTC. Good times on the mission. It has been fun, and as always humbling to continue my preparation for our friends in Russia. To start, Mom you had asked about cultural things we are learning; culture class etc. To be honest, we don't have anything like that which is a little dissappointing. But it's alright because we get bits and peices of mission stories. Our two teachers both served in the Ukraine, and our other teacher, Sister Chenina is from Vlodivostok. So although Ukraine is similar, it is always more fun to hear from Sister Chenina about the real country. She has quite the life story and has given us a little foresight of what it will be like. The main obvious issue is simply that nobody believes in God. They have just been taught that. It is pretty interesting to hear Sister Chenina describe her family and their views on things. She is the only member of her family and her parents will basically refuse to admit the existence of a God. Pretty interesting as she described how their family has a bible that has been passed down for generations through her family. However, with the reign of communism, anybody possessing a bible would basically be taken, killed, and have their homes burnt. I would say that is a little bit of a culture difference. She described how this bible has burnt edges and things on it. Pretty crazy to hear first hand how strange of a time it was for the Russian people. It is easy to see how they would have no belief or perception of God. They just lived 70 years of not being able to admit it! It will definitely be a humbling next couple of years. I would go on more but I think you would rather hear about other things. All in all, I have learned most of the simple need of somebody that cares for the people, and particularly to learn that God lives and loves them. It's almost like everyone needs the gospel!

It has been a fun and interesting week with the arrival of the new district of Ukrainian speakers into our zone. There are two zones of Russian speaking missionaries, each with five districts each of about ten missionaries. Making for about 50 missionaries per zone and 100 in all. An overwhelming majority are actually going to the Ukraine. It will be interesting to see where the new group of Russian speakers are going that will come in next Wednesday. It was good though to go orient the new group and have a minute to reflect on how things have changed since I've come. My perspective, my purpose, and my understanding of the simple principles of the gospel which are so vital. As we sat in our little orientation meeting, I reflected alot about my purpose. It was a good contemplating time to realize why I really am here. Yes our purpose is to invite others to Christ, but what that really means to me is something personal that I believe all need to find. In order to invite others to Christ we need to know where Christ is for us. It was good to have a second and think about how my perspective of Christ has changed over the course of the past few months. Also, my love for the first principles of the gospel. We as humans tend to want to find the deepest and most interesting gospel truths. I echo what I believe I said last week, never tire of the first principles of the gospel! (Pres. Uchtdorf) I have noticed how some of the missionaries that have the hardest time are always searching for the deep mysteries of God rather than receive precept upon precept, beginning with the first principles. How blessed we are to have a knowledge of the doctrine of Christ, the first principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring.

Elder Davis and I continue to just have a good time. I am very blessed with him as a companion. I would describe him as just solid. Just easy going and has a testimony. It is a blessing to have that in a companion that we together help each other progress. We are trying our best to be obedient and help the new missionaries and our zone just be obedient. This is another thing I have learned a bunch about this week. We are currently having to now teach our investigator about the qualifications and commandments needed to follow for baptism. So, I have had to study a bunch on these, not to mention learn to teach it in Russian so it really has forced me to learn the principle of obedience. Everything we receive comes as a consequence of our obedience. Preach My Gospel teaches this so well and it has become something that I really need to have as a priority. Especially if I expect to teach with power and be protected while in Russia. I continue to be so grateful for my opportunity to serve. I am excited to see what two years has in store for me and to change how I live the rest of my life. I love that I get to serve the people of Russia. I am excited to just make friends and help them see the light. Because that's what the gospel is. Not to mention, the olympics will be held in 2014 just next door to my mission, just as I finish-so we'll just say I got the coolest mission. I know the gospel is true and that through the Prophet Joseph Smith it was restored. Christ is at the head of it and He is my Savior. I love him, and love each of you.

Until next p day!

Elder Nielson

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another Day at the Office

Well hello family!

These letters stress me out because we have this timer that starts ticking in the corner of the screen and it makes it hard to remember things, so just forgive for very scrambled thoughts. It makes for a fun challenge every p-day. Another good week has come and passed, holy cow it is crazy to think that we're getting close- relatively close that is to leaving. Seeing the 'older' group take off really puts the bug in you. But I still really enjoy the MTC, which creates a very strange love hate relationship with this place. But it is a special place. We had a pretty special night last night. It is the 50th anniversary of the MTC and so to celebrate, Elder Holland and Elder Nelson dropped in. I gotta tell you the story because we got so lucky to be in the auditorium with them. So it all started with flying through dinner and going to join the masses that were waiting to enter the auditorium. Everyone knew it was the anniversary to celebrate last night, so everyone wanted to be in early because you never know who is going to come. So we get in line and basically all they let in are the international missionaries and the choir members, basically turning us all away to sit in the overflow because of all the unknown guests that were coming. It was so disappointing. So then we waited around for a second and were some of the last people to get in the overflow in the other building. With about ten minutes until the meeting began, some security guys snuck in and quietly told the last four rows to go to the auditorium! It was so awesome we just took off bookin’ it. I felt like I was on a movie trying to get out without any of the other missionaries noticing. So, not only did we get in, but we were hooked up with some close seats. I sound like I'm describing a rock concert. But really it was awesome. It was my dream to hear from Elder Holland in the same meeting...and I got to last night! He and Elder Nelson are some pretty solid guys if I am able to say so myself. At the end, Elder Nelson also offered a dedicatory prayer on some renovated buildings that were recently finished in the MTC. It was a pretty special spirit that we were able to partake of last night. Good times on the mission. The best part is, I am only in the MTC. I can't wait to see what the 'real' mission brings.

Other than that, there really is not a ton of things to report. Sometimes it is a little robotic going from class to food to class to gym, but its a good schedule. Sunday is still my favorite day though. I got to participate in blessing the sacrament and got to bless the water in Russian. Again, more of that special spirit that is felt here. It meant a little more to try and say words perfectly and try and pick up on some of the translations. This Sunday was a little more busy though as we met with the branch presidency basically all morning making for not my most restful sabbath, but I'm not complaining it is a good tired to be. We had to prepare for a Ukrainian speaking district who Elder Davis and I are going to meet tonight and then help out with an introduction type meeting with the branch presidency tomorrow. It will be fun to have some fresh blood and some more people in our neck of the woods. On Sunday we had around 20 people for sacrament meeting. It was kind of fun though to get a little closer with the other district. And then two weeks from now we will get another two Russian speaking districts and do it all over again! Which reminds me that I saw Tanner Larsen yesterday! I was so torn because I was on my way to class and had to get going so we just had a quick bro reunion and I got on my merry way. It was so fun I can't wait for him to come in a couple weeks.

I have really enjoyed this week studying preach my gospel. Wow I had no idea how inspired and great that book really is. I believe, like we've been told, that preach my gospel was written on the other side of the veil. We watched a President Uchtdorf talk on Sunday evening in which he talked about the first principles of the gospel. I loved this quote, "never tire of the first principles of the gospel." How true I am beginning to learn this to be as I study it out in preach my gospel. The reason preach my gospel is so good is because it focuses entirely on those first principles. 'My purpose' as stated in the beginning of preach my gospel is to bring others to Christ through these principles. It is so easy to look over the value of faith, repentence, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. And don't forget enduring to the end. However, when we really think about these simple principles, everything falls into place. This is my purpose. This is how I have come closer to Christ and I know it's the true way anyone can come closer to Christ. I love the simplicity of the gospel. I have also loved to find the many simple invitations to come and see. All that is asked of us is to come and see, come and feel the goodness of Christ. Allow these first principles to work within us and to feel the love of our Savior and Heavenly Father in our lives. This is another principle which I have loved to think about through the day. It is simply this: God loves us and wants us to be happy. What power is in just a simple statement like this. I love this gospel because, as we teach and as preach my gospel says, it is given to us because God loves us and it will make us happy. As Alma states, it becomes delicious to me.

I am very fortunate to have this gospel, to have a family with the gospel, and now be able to share it. Hopefully I can make a family smile like I see ours in my pictures on my desk. I know it's because we have the gospel. It is so fun to teach in Russian and try and allow the spirit to guide my words. Because I need that. We continue to progress and work every day to do our best. In the end, that is the variable we can control. Simply doing our best, I know Christ will make up the rest. That is why Christ performed the Atonement, because He can make up the rest. I love you and love the support Elder Davis and I feel literally every day from home. We love the sandwiches. And most of all, love you.

Elder Nielson
Tanner Larsen and Elder Nielson run into eachother at the MTC! The happiness in Chris' face is apparent how he feels about seeing his friend. Tanner will enter the MTC in two weeks. Thanks for sharing the pic with us Tanner!