About This Blog

Elder Whitney is called to serve in the Arcadia, California mission, English speaking. He enters the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on September 4, 2013 and will serve for two years.

This blog is being maintained by his family to post general updates, pictures from Elder Whitney, and to keep his mailing information up to date. Elder Whitney would love to get letters and emails from everyone!

Monday, September 23, 2013

So I've been here for almost a week and what a week it's been. My companions are Elder Winfield and DeBry. They've both been out for about 7 months. Elder DeBry speaks Armenian and has served in the same area his whole time here, and will continue to do so. The city we're in, by the way, is called Glendale. It's on the very Western edge of the mission. We serve in the Glendale 2nd and 7th wards. The 2nd ward is afamily ward and the 7th is the singles ward for all the singles from the three stakes surrounding us. Because those are the "boundaries" of the singles ward, we are actually allowed to leave the area and even the mission to visit with people who would go to that ward. We do have to have an actual appointment though, and it's preferred that a member take us out. 

We've been relying on the members a lot out here, especially since the mission just got rid of almost all of the cars. We still have one because my companions are the zone leaders, but we can't use it for proselyting. We mostly ride bikes and the buses. We've been asked to use the buses whenever we can because they are a great way to meet people and contact potential new investigators. Which leads into the first cool mission story. 

On Wednesday we were taking the bus somewhere, can't really remember where we were going. And we started talking to this lady at the bus stop. We discovered that she actually lived across the street from us. So, we got her address and set up a time to go by on Thursday. We met Thursday, things went well. We met Friday, and I committed her to get baptized on the 13th. We had just picked a Sunday down the road, but turns out that the 13th is her birthday. She thought that was pretty cool, and said she would get baptized on the 13th. She went to church with us on Sunday and really liked it a lot. The ward was really welcoming. She found out that there was going to be a baptism that night, and SHE asked US if she could go and see it. We of course were all about that happening, so we arranged for someone to pick her up and bring her. After the baptism we talked to her and she said that the baptism itself was really beautiful, and that she could feel something very different when it happened. That of course was the Spirit whispering to her about truth. Anyways, she was feeling really good about getting baptized when she got home. Then we got the unfortunate news that she had called her sister, and the sister told her that she had to stop meeting with us because we were going to take away all her money. So that's where things stand there, but I believe that she is not lost yet. We're going to swing by at some point this week and hopefully talk things over with her. My only thought is that if we were after people's money, we wouldn't preach to the poor and destitute (which she is). So pray that Jolene's sister will have her heart softened and that Jolene will stand up for her testimony. 

We also have two investigators that both want to get baptized, but are very afraid of upsetting their fathers. One comes from a Jewish family that doesn't really practice, but they go hardcore on the holidays. The other was raised christian, and is worried that getting baptized is a really selfish thing to do because her parents, as it stands now, wouldn't be able to go to her wedding. Luckily, we have a member in the ward who came from a similar situation. His family actually disowned him because he joined the church, but he's still happy every day, still active, and still glad he got baptized. So, hopefully he can help them. It makes me so grateful to have a family that raised me in the church, and supports what I'm doing out here. Even though you can't be with me, I feel your love and your prayers. Speaking of prayers, include Raquel ,Autumn and their families in yours. 

Another cool story, this time about following the spirit. Because my companions are zone leaders, our studies and planning get interrupted a lot by people who need stuff. Which is a little frustrating because a lot of it could be resolved by calling the district leaders instead but oh well. We were starting to do some training stuff, when we got a phone call about some sister in the ER who wanted a priesthood blessing. None of us had ever heard of her, and we were a little annoyed to have things interrupted again. But, the hospital was close, and we felt like we should go over real quick to check things out. So we hopped on our bikes, went over there and gave the blessing. I sealed the anointing, but honestly wasn't feeling it much and it was pretty short. As we left the hospital we were approached by a 16/17 yr old black boy who said he wanted to be a christian. He told us how he had been smoking marijuana for a while but one day his drugs got laced with something weird and ever since then he'd been really paranoid and had really bad anxiety about everything. Just like Alma the Younger in gall of bitterness, he called out one night to God and the next morning his anxiety and paranoia were gone. He knew he needed to start following Christ better, and that's when he met us. After we got his name and number (Razmik) and parted ways Elder DeBry said, "We didn't come here for the blessing, we came here for him." Which is totally true. We haven't been able to teach him yet, we've been playing phone tag. But I'm really excited to do that. In my mind, he's already ready to get baptized. 

The work really hastening. There are more missionaries than President knows what to do with. In the family ward there are 3 companionship's. Us, Elder Llewelyn (my MTC companion) and his trainer, and the English assistants to the president (AP's). The AP's also help in the singles ward. And it's like that all over the place. The mission motto is in fact, "We baptize monthly" that's how fast things are progressing here. I'm just excited to be a small part of it all. I pray for you all each morning and night. Do your best to share the gospel with your friends. Even if you don't think they're ready or willing to accept it. Because we really don't know that about anyone, only God does. 

Love you all,
Elder Brett Whitney

PS- Because I'm in a trio, and given the history of trios in this mission, I'll probably get transferred before the end of October. For that reason, just keep sending letters to the mission home. It's the best way to make sure I get them in a timely manner. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sept. 17, 2013
This is the short note we received today, written shortly after Elder Brett arrived in Arcadia.  I expect we will hear more whenever he gets his P-day:

"I am currently sitting in the Chapel for the Stake Center for the California, Arcadia Mission and just to make you jealous this building has a legit pipe organ.  It's really a very beautiful building.

I'm so excited to finally be here though.  I haven't been interviewed by President Becerra yet.  I pretty much haven't done anything yet, although I did see my bike; it looks like a great piece of equipment.

Anyways, I'm supposed to keep this short and just let you know that I'm alive, I'm here, and I am so excited to get to work."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sep. 11 - first e-mail from the MTC

Today is my one and only P-day in the MTC, so the next I'll be able to check e-mail will be my first Monday in the field, 9/23. We leave for Arcadia on the morning of the 17th. It feels an eternity away, but it also feels way too soon. My host said to me when I got here, "The days are weeks and the weeks are days." And wow was he right. The days are so long, and we do so much studying and learning. It sometimes feels like the days have all been one long thing. But at the same time, I can't believe I've already been here for a full week and in five days, I'm going to Arcadia, CA.  Anyways, It's been truly amazing. If I were to come home even now, my life would be completely different. 

My companion's name is Elder Llewelyn (Loo-el-in). He just graduated from high school, but is really a spiritual giant. He loves so fast and so easily. It's something that I'm trying to pick up from him while we are still companions. 

I think the hardest thing for me has honestly been the behavior of the other missionaries. I'm 2 years older than all the Elders, and I've got about a year on most of the sisters too. Pretty much none of them have gone to any college yet, so this is their first experience away from home and it shows. While the mission rules are strict, they are generally self-enforced, so there's a lot of stuff going on that really shouldn't. So that bugs me a lot since I'm really here to work and learn. I told my companion that when I signed my acceptance letter to the Quorum of the 12 that I was signing away my right to "find fun" for myself. There's totally a time and a place for laughter and relaxing, but when it starts to edge out study time, it begins to irk me. 

The best part of being here is kind of two-fold. 
1) I have become so much more dependent on prayer and on the Spirit. With our practice investigators I've been working really hard to listen to the Spirit and to let it be the teacher. It's been really amazing to learn how the Spirit can literally take control of our mouths and say what the investigator needs to hear, when we let it. 

2) Through that dependence on the Spirit, I've been able to really learn how to love investigators. Like, I know they aren't really investigators, but I really do love them. I want nothing else than to see them become happy through our savior, Jesus Christ. 

We got to go to the temple this morning, and I was a little sad since I won't get to again for several months. However, when I was leaving the celestial room, I couldn't help but feel that I had family around me, trying their best to let me know that I can do this. I could tell that Grandma Whitney and Grandpa Erekson were there, but what you said about Uncle Brett made me realize that he was probably there, too. That's another thing I've learned here, God really trusts me to do this work, He wants to see me succeed, and he's going to give me what I need to help everyone I come in contact with for the next two years. I really can do it. 

I'll be writing a letter to Katie and telling her this, but I want to tell you about it, too. We were reading the Book of Mormon as a district and talking about how we need to become like little children to enter the kingdom. There was the standard stuff on being a little child, but not childish, so I was kind of zoning into my own mind. I started thinking about the little child in my life, Katie. I was thinking about the baptism, and how great it was that she took that step in following the Lord. Then I saw again, for a moment, the look on her face as she entered the font. She was looking at me with this look that just said, "Brett, I'm scared to death right now, but I trust you and want to do this." Then I remembered how I had to put her under three times before we finally got it right and how much faith my little sister was teaching all of us right then. We all know that Katie has a hard time putting her head under water, and for her to do it on purpose, three times, really taught me the level of faith and trust in the Lord that I need to strive for. I'm truly grateful to her for showing me that, even if it took me a month to learn the lesson. She's a pretty awesome kid. 

Looking forward to hearing from you guys soon,
Elder Brett M. Whitney
We received a short note from Elder Whitney at the end of his first day in the MTC.  Here are the parts he asked to be posted on the blog.

"Today we had the chance to interact with our first investigators, and it was a really neat experience  I've already learned so much that I need to change about myself in order to become an effective missionary.

My only P-day in the MTC is on Wednesday so that is when you can expect e-mails from me."

So, I'm sure we will get an e-mail and will have more to add to the blog soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To the MTC!

Yesterday, McKay and I had the privilege of dropping my brother off at the Missionary Training Center (MTC). I don't think I can describe how excited he was to start this adventure. The next two years are sure to be amazing.


On the phone with his family in China.

Ready to serve.

Brett and me. I'm going to miss this kid.

Brett's niece wore a Cavaliers bib in his honor.

My husband with the new missionary!

In front of the Provo, Utah temple.

He's ready! (For the record: his favorite color is green.)

And he's off...

We're so excited for Brett- from now on Elder Whitney!- as he goes forth to serve the Lord. I look forward to hearing from him and updating you all with pictures and stories. I encourage you all to write to him as often as you can. I know I will.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Farewell Talk

For those who didn't get to hear/read it:

        Imagine yourself in the first day of class that everyone in your school must pass in order to graduate. The professor stands up and announces that your only assignment is a research paper. However, this is no ordinary paper. The professor declares that he will randomly collect a few papers each class period until the end of the semester. Additionally, he expects each paper to be as good as the next, regardless of when it was collected.
         As the students mutter amongst themselves, the professor calls your attention to his teaching assistant. He introduces him to the class and proceeds to tell you, “This is my TA. He understands my expectations for these papers better than anyone. His sole purpose is to help you. He is available to all of you any time, any day. I promise each of you that if you work closely with the TA you will get an A. Likewise, if you don’t work with him, it will be impossible to pass this course.”
         Now consider one of the students in this class. He decides that the professor can’t possibly mean to carry the threat of randomly collecting papers throughout the semester. Nor does he believe that he needs the TA’s help. So, he determines to write the paper by himself at the end of the semester. Lo and behold, after just two weeks of class the professor approaches this student and asks him to turn in his paper. Having nothing to turn in, the professor has no choice but to fail this student.
         Another student takes the professor seriously and begins to work on the assignment.  He goes regularly to the TA. The student develops a close relationship with the TA as the paper takes shape.  Eventually, the day comes when the professor wants the student to turn his paper. Unfortunately, this is the only day that the student is found sick at home rather than in class. The professor moves to write an F by the student’s name, but the TA quickly intervenes. He explains to the professor how the student worked tirelessly with him to meet the expectations of the professor. The TA vouches for the quality of the paper and the amount of effort put into it. Without ever reading the paper, the professor quietly writes an A in place of the F. He does this based solely on the TA’s testimony on behalf of the sick student.
         Hopefully it’s easy to see who is who in this story. The professor is our Heavenly Father with Christ as his TA, while we are the students. Just like the students at this school who are required to take the class, no man or woman on Earth is exempt from the judgments of God. Also like the students in the story, none of us know when Heavenly Father is going to ask us to turn in our papers for grading. Another similarity, it is literally impossible for us to attain a passing grade without the help of Christ. The way in which TA speaks for the student is the same way Christ will speak for us at judgment.  If we have worked with him to follow the commandments of God, we will receive mercy.
         But why do we require the mercy of God? In Alma 42:22 we read, “But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed…” The law referred to is often called the law of justice. In short, the law of justice can be described as all the commandments that our Heavenly Father has set forth for us to obey. The Savior commanded us to, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,”(Matt. 5:48). As we are aware, this is impossible for any man, save Christ, to accomplish on his own. So, we are all held in violation of the law, and justice demands that we pay the price for our sins. This price, in my opinion, is to be denied entrance to the celestial kingdom, deprived of the presence of our Heavenly Father and the accompanying happiness. However, Heavenly Father wants all his children to return to Him, so that we can have the same joy He has. So, God provided a way for justice to be satisfied and for us to return to him. He gave the Son, Jesus Christ to atone for all of our sins.
         Through the atonement, Christ, a perfect person over whom justice had no claim, paid the price that was required for all the sins of all mankind. Each and every one of us has had our fines paid in full by our Savior. Returning to Alma 42:22, “But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law…” and then in verse 25, “What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.”
         There are two things I would like to point out about these verses. Firstly, we don’t claim mercy. Mercy claims us. There is never ever a point in our lives when we get to say either for ourselves or for someone else that we’ve done everything we can and now it’s mercy’s turn. It simply doesn’t work that way. The second thing is that we qualify to obtain mercy  through repentance. We must be truly repentant in order for mercy to take effect in our lives. Just like justice, obtaining mercy also has its requirements. The second student fulfilled the professor’s requirements by regularly working with the TA. We too must work regularly, daily, with the Savior to better ourselves. We do this by studying the scriptures, praying often, happily attending church, all those primary answers. If we do those things the Savior will help us see where we are lacking. It is so extremely true that it is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we are enabled to enter the presence of Heavenly Father; he did not eliminate our personal responsibility to do everything we can to be eligible to be claimed by mercy.

         Which brings us back to repentance. Simply put, repentance is how we obtain forgiveness for our sins from Heavenly Father. When we truly repent, Heavenly Father forgets our sins.  I like to think that there are two levels of forgiveness. One level is the forgiveness that occurs between two people. 
         In Matthew 6:14-15 we learn, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” And in Doctrine and Covenants 64:9, “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” And in case there is any doubt remaining, we turn to Mosiah 26:31, “And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.”
         So, what do we know now about forgiving our fellow men? First of all, we learn that we are in fact commanded to forgive absolutely everyone. Second, this forgiveness is not necessarily predicated on their repentance. In Mosiah, we were told that once someone approaches us with an apology, regardless of his or her sincerity, we are responsible for forgiving that person. It is not our job to judge other people’s worthiness. It isn’t for us to declare whether another person has actually repented. And it certainly isn’t for us to withhold forgiveness when we don’t think they’re actually sorry. When we withhold our forgiveness, we are making it impossible for us to receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. This means that we are unable to complete the repentance process for our own sins, and thus means we have removed ourselves from the hands of mercy and directly into the hands of justice. And I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid. Not only does refusing to forgive a friend, family member, ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, or church leader have zero influence on their ability to repent, but it ruins any chances you have at receiving forgiveness for yourself.
         Besides depriving ourselves of the ability to fully repent, holding a grudge is not Christ-like. In Matthew 22:36-39 we learn that the first and great commandment is to “…love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Then, Christ teaches us, “And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If you are holding a grudge against someone, you are not giving that person the love they need and deserve. Withholding forgiveness is not an effective method of parenting. Withholding forgiveness destroys all kinds of relationships. It simply isn’t an option.
         The second level of forgiveness takes place between you and God.
This forgiveness punctuates the end of the repentance process. In Isaiah 1:18 we read, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” I just love the beginning of this verse, “Come now, and let us reason together.” Doesn’t that just sound so comforting? It shows that even though Heavenly Father is disappointed when we sin, He wants us to go to Him in prayer and talk it out. He wants to work with us each step of the way.
         Furthermore, he wants to forget our sins. In Ezekiel 18:22 we are told, “All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” Once we have repented and been forgiven, that’s the end of it. Our guilt is taken away, and at the judgment seat mercy will claim us “for her own.” The sins we repented of will never be mentioned. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we have the chance to make our mistakes so much a part of the past; even the Creator and our Lord will not remember them?

         This is the joy brought by a testimony of the gospel; that with Christ nothing can stop us from regaining the presence of our Heavenly Father. He will direct us, support us, and carry our burdens. At the last day we can stand pure before the Lord.

So It Begins...

There are less than 24 hours until I report to the MTC now, so I thought I better post something here for people to read. I am very excited and grateful for the chance I have to serve the Lord as a missionary in Arcadia. Many of you know that for several years there was doubt (mostly on my part) about my health and whether or not I would be able to serve at all. Hopefully you can all appreciate how wonderful it is that I am finally going! I know that even now, I can scarcely believe that I am actually entering the MTC tomorrow.

Thank you all for your support and love, I look forward to reading your emails and letters! :)