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!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

14-20 Oct. 2013

Hi All!
It's been a really crazy week, but I hope I get all the important things in :)
Monday 10/14--- Had a pretty relaxing P-day, nothing too extraordinary. That night we had dinner with the Bishop and his wife. He is starting to come down pretty hard on how the ward mission is going. Which is awesome for us. We've been dying for the leadership to crack down on members. We also went to visit an Armenian family that moved in from DC. They were baptized more than ten years ago, and are still really active. That is pretty rare, unfortunately, among the Armenian families in the states. However, we sent the Armenian elders their way and they agreed to join the Armenian group here in Glendale. That night we stopped by FHE in the singles ward, and they all did the Thriller dance for us. It was pretty cool since a lot of the ward is made up of professional dancers (I actually met a few from "So you think you can dance" my first week here) and they know what they're doing.
Tuesday--- We went up to the institute early to do some service in the form of helping some members with their calculus. It was scary to see how much I've already forgotten, but also a good way to get to know the member. She actually went to West Point for a year before deciding she wanted to do something else, so talking to her about that is fun. Then we had someone cancel on us (the first of 11 cancellations this week). We tried to track down some new move ins near the building but nobody was home this time around. We had a really great lesson with Stuart tonight about getting ready to serve a mission and how we can help him deal with approaching his parents about it. He seemed pretty hopeful afterwards, which was cool. I love Stuart. Stuart is awesome.
Wednesday--- 2 more cancelled lessons at the institute, however, we did get to teach Cherry. Who is super prepared to receive the gospel. Something we saw a lot of this week was a series of cancelled appointments followed by picking up new investigators that have been prepared to hear our message. I know we definitely wouldn't be getting those blessings if we weren't doing our best in planning and then throughout the day to find as many people as possible to be teaching. We pretty much never teach who we planned to teach, but we are shown those who we should be teaching.Wednesday night we also met with the YM president, who helped make a good plan for getting involved with the youth and YM in particular. That was a way more productive visit than we originally thought it would be.
Thursday--- We had a good district meeting in which we practiced turning bashing into testifying. A very useful skill for a missionary that lives on the same block as the local Jehovah's Witness church. Also taught Cherry again, this time about the Restoration. She seemed to really like the idea of modern day prophets. We also committed her to get baptized! And set a date! It was awesome, especially since our investigators keep running away from us. We visited a recent convert in the singles ward, and had an amazing discussion about the Atonement and some of the reasons certain things happened the way they did. We talked a bit about the phrase, "In the flesh" which is so often found in the scriptures when talking about Christ and the Atonement. That's something you can all take a look at in your personal studies.
Friday--- On Friday we had weekly planning, and took some cookies to Jolene. She still doesn't think she can meet with us, but was glad to see we remembered her and asked us to tell her friends at church "Hello." It made me sad to see how sad she was. We had dinner with the Bazil family whom I think I've mentioned as being pretty awesome. After that, due to some weird scheduling and what not, I ended up going on an exchange with Elder Llewelyn for a couple hours. As you might remember, he was my MTC companion, so that was pretty cool. It was also cool because we are both still trainees but we were able to point out in each other how we've changed and what not. Best part about Friday, we finally heard from William! He didn't leave the country after all! Wahoo!
Saturday--- On Saturday we literally had everyone cancel on us. Some of them more than once. But we did have lunch with all the Caltech members. Those were some fun conversations to listen to. Then we ran around all day trying to find someone that we could teach. We were able to stop by William for 20 minutes and get things rolling again there. He said he would be at church tomorrow.
Sunday--- Here's where everything came to fruition this week. Elder Winfield and DeBry had a good meeting with the Stake and Mission President and got some good instruction. Elder Winfield and I taught a great lesson to the YM about Christ-like love and how to develop those attributes. William didn't make it to church though, we aren't sure what happened there. In the singles ward though, we had 3 investigators go to all three hours of church! It was awesome. Autumn is finally settling down and hopefully we can teach her at least once a week come November. Cherry and a guy named Anthony came to church with the Maynaz siblings. They are great missionaries. They bring people for us to meet all the time. Stuart was there too. After church, we taught Stuart, Cherry, and Anthony at the same time. There was really great discussion from everyone, Cherry is still committed to getting baptized, Anthony is really interested in learning more and asking himself soul searching questions. And Stuart got to bear his testimony which is just great to hear as a missionary. Especially since the first time I met him, he said he didn't have one. So yeah. Church is true. We had a great dinner with the Boyack family, who invited a nonmember friend. After that we stopped by the family that lives on our road and we were FINALLY able to teach them as a group. The father is an inactive guy that loves the church and our teachings (also looks like Steven Tyler). The mom isn't a member but loves Mormons and literally said, "I would love to be on the fast-track to baptism." And they have twin 15 year old daughters who were really shy but attentive during the lesson. It would be a huge gain for the YW in the ward if they get baptized too. Anyways, Sunday was great.
There is some cool stuff coming this week:
Tonight I'm teaching FHE in the singles ward on how to get started in Family History and Temple work.
We have really solid lessons set up for the investigators from yesterday.
On Friday Elder Sitati of the 1st quorum of the seventy is coming to "tour the mission." Not sure what that means, but I do know we're spending a lot of time on Friday in meetings with him. Should be pretty awesome.
Also, this is the last week of the transfer, so come next Monday we'll get to know where I'm sent to next. All in all, things are going really awesome, and I'm excited to see how things go this week and to work myself like crazy.
Love you all!
Elder Brett Whitney

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weekly Update Oct. 14

Before I go into the day-by-day stuff, I want to say something about Elder Page, the missionary who died after a car struck him while he was on his bicycle last week.
I did not personally know Elder Page, he was a Spanish speaking elder and was trained at the Mexico MTC. We arrived in Arcadia on the same day though, and all of us here were affected by the news of his accident and subsequently his passing into the next life. My companions and I were with the English AP's when they received the news of the accidenton Thursday afternoon. Last night we had a memorial service for Elder Page where his companion and the Becerras spoke to all the missionaries in the California, Arcadia Mission. It was healing for all of us, and the spirit resided in the room in a way I had never felt before.
However, the passing of a missionary so young and so new to the field only speaks to a higher calling. There are many scriptures that indicate Elder Page is still wearing the name tag. With his deceased father as his companion, he is now proclaiming the Gospel and Plan of Salvation to our brothers and sisters in the spirit world (1 Ne. 20:15). His mission is not over. Because he died while living a life fully consecrated to the Lord, we can rest assured that he will receive eternal life in the celestial kingdom.
I humbly ask that everyone keep his mother and sisters in their prayers while the Page family is in this time of trial. In addition, pray for his companion, Elder Ostler, who taught me yesterday what it means to have a companion and to love him/them with everything you can. His mission service also goes on.
Now back to what I saying about Paris France:
Tuesday 10/8: Last Tuesday we got to go to the temple! Wahoo! we woke up at 3 am so we could go to the 5:30 session. After the session we stayed in the celestial room (which is huge at the LA temple) for a very long time, which was happy. That night we were able to talk to Stuart about his thoughts on conference and what he learned. Which was awesome, and now we have a great place to start preparing for our next lesson with him. My companions, being zone leaders, also went on exchanges, so we had Elder Compton with us instead of Elder DeBry. Our only real lesson of the day came with William that night. We talked a lot about how the atonement can heal us, and how baptism cleans us from our sins. William promised to read the first 100 pages of the Book of Mormon.
Wednesday: We went to the mission office to get supplies/mail. (Thank you everyone for the letters/gifts, most everything edible has already been eaten!) We had pretty much everyone in our afternoon block cancel on us, but we were able to meet with William again. He hadn't read all 100 pages that he promised, but he did read quite a lot. Unfortunately, he was pretty drunk when we came over. I'm not really sure what happened, but he said he was going to Puerto Rico for his sister's memorial service, and that he had to have a surgery at the hospital too. There was clearly a lot going on and he just wasn't coping well with any of it. We were able to give him a priesthood blessing, but other than that nothing much came of the visit. We called him later that night and he said he would finish the first 200 by the weekend. We also went out to Caltech to teach a lesson to Monica who got in contact with us through a member of the singles ward. Her big question was how we had things like the word of wisdom, so basically she was asking about modern day revelation. Which tied in pretty nice with the Restoration. The lesson went pretty well and hopefully we'll see her again this week.
Thursday: We had district meeting this morning and discussed ways to improve our weekly planning which has been pretty bad. Hopefully we'll see that improve. We, once again, had everyone cancel on us. We couldn't even track down William at his apartment or the hospital. We haven't heard from him since Wednesday night and we are afraid that he is already in Puerto Rico. He said he would be there anywhere between 1 and 6 months. So even our golden William got away. We've been having an extremely difficult time retaining investigators. Even the golden ones. They meet with us two or three times and then they move, get super busy, etc. In the short time I've been here I've heard every excuse in the book and then some new ones. It's very frustrating. We did have a good meeting with the assistants (who serve in the same wards we do) about getting member missionary work going. That was followed by the news about Elder Page's accident. We didn't learn of his passing until the next morning.
FridayFriday morning we went to see a recently baptized family, and they gave us a really great idea for improving the ward. They said that when they were meeting with missionaries more regularly, there was always a member there too, but since they were baptized they hadn't had that same fellowship from the ward. We asked them how they could play an active role in solving that problem and they said that they would really like having families in the ward over for FHE once a week. Truly inspired! We'd been listening to members complain all week that the ward wasn't very friendly and were looking for something to jumpstart things. We are very hopeful that the answer lies in the ward strengthening itself. After all, the Lord won't give us new people to care for until we care for the ones we have.
Saturday: On exchanges again, this time Elder Winfield went to the other area and we brought in Elder Montgomery. We were able to meet with Anthony again (we'd been trying to track him down for a few days). He doesn't want to come to church until he has a job, but Elder Montgomery showed him a couple scriptures, and promised him that until he started living the commandments he wasn't going to find a job. Vice versa, if he changed now he would find a job immediately. Anthony seemed to really get it but still didn't come to church. GAH
We spent the rest of Saturday trying to find less-active members and former investigators but didn't have much luck. We did go to the penthouse of a young multi-millionaire member in the YSA ward to give him a blessing. His doorbell was the Olympic Fanfare and his carpet was the presidential seal. Pretty sweet place. Most importantly, the blessing worked and he was at church the next day feeling fine.
Sunday: We woke up yesterday and had a surprise call from the ward mission leader who said he wanted us to go to this stake priesthood meeting with him in ten minutes. So that was fun. Although the meeting itself was very good. At church we were able to set up a lot of appointments with more active families in the coming week, so in that way it was a success. It was also less successful in that basically nobody we were working with made it. Raquel made it, but she texted us earlier in the week that she didn't want to meet anymore. She's had all the lessons like three times, has a testimony, and her boyfriend is going on his mission in like, a week, but she is still afraid that getting baptized will alienate the Jewish side of her family. So she likes the church and everything, but doesn't want to meet with us until she feels she's ready to get baptized.
Sunday night was the memorial service that I already talked about.
Anyways, this was a week of cancellations, frustration, and sadness. But I'm still happy to be out here, and I'm confident that as we strive to work with the members of our wards that miracles will happen and we will be able to baptize monthly as the mission president has asked us to do. I love this gospel. The Plan is a perfect one, and by knowing it we can find peace in this life, solace in death, and everlasting joy in the life to come.
Elder Brett Whitney
Going to the temple at 3am! Elder Winfield on the right and Elder DeBry in the center (yes, he was at the time without his nametag, we found it though)
Inline image 1

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Weekly update, Oct. 9, 2013

Hello all!
Today we got to go the temple, so P-day was switched this week. Until next conference (which is the next time we'll go to the temple), p-days will remain on Mondays.
Here's how last week went:
Monday 9/30: We talked to a lot of people. We managed to stretch the 10 minute walk to Target from our apartment into a 1 hour event. We met some pretty interesting people, but none of them seemed real interested. That night we took a bus over to Burbank, which is yes, out of the mission (GASP!). However, because we work with the singles ward and there are some funky boundary things, we are actually allowed to do that if we have an appointment or a referral to contact. In this case we had a referral for a less-active girl. On the bus over we met William, who I will talk about later on. We got to the referral's house and were actually able to teach her and two of her non-member friends. We've been trying to set-up a return appointment with them but have had little luck there.
Tuesday: This was zone council day, so while my companions went to that I went on exchanges with the Armenian speaking elders that live below us. They were actually on exchanges too so it was one of the Armenian elders, another elder in the district, and myself. We went to GCC for some lessons, that both cancelled on us. Since we were up there we set up the booth on campus and started trying to get some phone numbers. The Armenian elder I was with got talking to a girl who was pretty interested, and we actually got her and a friend to come to the institute building for free lunch and a short lesson about the Restoration. One of them was pretty interested, while the other was just kind of there because her friend was. We are still working on when we can teach them again. That night we visited some member families that we are working on turning into referral machines and shared some videos with them about member missionary work.
Wednesday: We started the morning off with a lesson up at GCC with one of our investigators. She was much more talkative this time, and asked some good questions. She was resistant to praying and reading for herself though (which says to me she already knows the truth, but doesn't want to change). We got a text from her later in the week saying that she had an experience and didn't need to visit with us anymore. It's a total bummer, but at the same time, President has asked us to focus our efforts on people who are elect and ready to receive. If she isn't ready now, then now isn't the time. Anyways, we had another lesson with Stuart that night, which was really great. We just talked the whole time about how coming back to church and starting to think about serving a mission is already making him a much happier person. He has the Spirit with him more abundantly, he smiles more, talks to more people, has more charity. The guy is on fire, and I love him. He's just awesome. As my companion Elder DeBry says, he's bomb.
Thursday: We had zone training today. We talked a lot about how we are post-hastening missionaries and that we have to be hunters not fishers. We have to go out, track down the golden investigators (those with believing blood), and teach them. We can't just be sitting on the pier waiting for them to nibble at the gospel. We also can't get distracted by people who aren't elect at the time we are teaching them. Yes, we still teach them. Yes, we want them to become converted. But the days of eternal investigators are gone. Which was cool because that night something pretty cool happened. We got back to the apartment at 8:58pm. Since we aren't supposed to be back until 9, we decided to walk down the street and see if we could talk to some people. And what should happen, but we do! We met a woman who loves Mormons, stands up to people in defense of Joseph Smith, but isn't baptized yet! She is married to a less-active guy and invited us back to visit with the family on Sunday. It was really awesome to see how being exactly obedient dropped someone with believing blood right on our laps.
Friday: Fridays are when we do weekly planning (3-4 hours after studies), so we don't do a whole lot in the way of proselyting until the evening. We went by a couple of formers and less actives near our apartment and we were able to teach one of them. When the missionaries first contacted her, the boyfriend she was living with said we couldn't go back. But things have changed and we have an appointment to go back next week! So that's exciting. We'll see if she does her reading.
Saturday: General Conference! For the Saturday session, we went to the Bazil's. They are a young couple in the ward that introduced us to someone in Sister Bazil's nursing program who has been inactive for a while. We had cinnamon rolls (yummy) and really enjoyed the session. I'll send a separate email with my conference thoughts. We had dinner with the Bishop who took us to priesthood as well. After priesthood we tried to stop by some member homes, but had little success.
Sunday: More Conference! After conference was over we went out on our bikes to try and track down more less actives and formers. One family sent out their nonmember friend to chase us off but instead we told him about the Restoration and got his phone number. We also stopped by the family from Thursdaynight. The wife wasn't there, but we had a great talk with her husband who expressed interest in coming back but didn't know where and when. So hopefully we will see that family in church on Sunday, although we are planning on going back before then.
Monday 10/7: We went down to visit out ward mission leader's office which he has been wanting us to do for a while. Due to some missed bus stops, we got there after lunch and weren't able to really talk to the people he wanted us to, but we were able to say hello. Then we went off into the streets to find some names in the area the ward mission leader wanted us to track down. You may not be aware, but the area right outside LA proper (Sunset blvd, which we spent a lot of time on this week) features some very, VERY, steep hills. For whatever reason, a lot of people have made their homes on these ridiculous hills. Anyways, lots of climbing and sweating in the afternoon trying to find these people. That night we went with a member to give a blessing to a less active member and then to teach William whom I mentioned in the beginning. William is really cool. His story is really sad, and the things he shared with us were very personal and hard for him so I won't say much there. It suffices me to say (if I can borrow a phrase from Nephi), that he possibly the most prepared, most ready, most willing, most golden, person I have met here, or will possible ever meet. It was only the first visit, and we really didn't share much in the way of a "lesson" but we were able to testify to him, help him recognize the Spirit, and commit him to baptism at the end of the month, to which he said yes! So that has us all very excited.
Anyways, thanks for the birthday wishes and letters! I hope you are all doing wonderfully, reading your scriptures, praying, watching conference, etc. All that good stuff. If you aren't, I invite you to first watch Elder Bednar's talk from the Saturday AM session of conference. His words to those who aren't currently paying tithing apply to us all. "...I invite you to consider your actions, and repent."
I love you all
Elder Whitney

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hi All!
Tomorrow I will have been in the field for two weeks. And, as one of my trainers joked when we first met, I might be getting emergency transferred to replace an elder going home for medical stuff (torn ligaments in his ankle, nasty stuff). SO, that's exciting. I still don't know for sure if that will happen, but the elder going home leaves tomorrow so we'll know by the end of today. Hopefully. We'll see.
So here's how this week went:
Monday: We had pretty good lessons with two investigators from the singles ward. It was our last for awhile with Raquel, and one of our first with Autumn. Both of them know they need to get baptized, and they're both dealing with some family things that are preventing them from making the final decision. That night we stopped by FHE with the singles to hopefully meet some nonmembers and had an interesting Korihor-esque experience. This guy approached us and starting asking questions. I knew immediately that he was asking those leading types of questions that are supposed to totally derail our faith at some point down the road in the conversation (although he wasn't great at "The Drop" so to speak). Anyways, we just listened to him, answered his questions with testimony, that good stuff. Eventually he started attacking the personal character of Elder DeBry. Which prompted Elder Winfield to, in short, command him to be still, stop asking questions inspired by the devil, and that the conversation was over. You know that clip of Joseph Smith where he stands and says, "Silence ye fiends of the infernal pit!" Yeah, it was like that.
Tuesday: We went up to a local college to set up a booth where we ask people to take a survey designed to get them to ask, "Where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?" We got a couple of good contacts out of that and will hopefully teach them in the near future. We taught a lesson about the importance of family scriptures and prayer to a less active family that had two of their sons baptized recently. They really seemed like they're trying hard to make it back, which is exciting.
Wednesday: We were really busy on Wednesday. We taught 4 lessons, two at GCC (the college)  with students we talked to at the booth. One of the girls was really timid and kind of scared to meet with us, but she eventually opened up to us and we have another lesson with her this week. The other girl we talked to we've met a couple times, and unfortunately didn't take well to the fact that we are the only true church and claim the true authority from God to act in Christ's name on Earth. She tried to drop us afterwards, but we're working on setting up one last appointment to hopefully save it. The other two lessons were with a recent convert and a less active. We taught both of them about patriarchal blessings. Stuart, the less active, said that meeting with us is literally the highlight of every week for him and that he always looks forward to it. I'm sure I was smiling for the rest of the night.
Thursday: We had district meeting in the morning and had some really good discussion about how if we aren't inviting people to do something in every lesson, conversation, contact, whichever, we aren't fulfilling our purpose. Then we had a lesson with a recent convert, Anthony, we hadn't met with for a while and it was pretty sad. This guy has no job, no phone, no car, but a crazy thirst for knowledge about deep doctrine. So, he spent the last month reading/believing a lot papers he found on the internet about the trinity and things like that. It was seriously like he was never baptized. It reminded me that it's not enough to gain a testimony and get baptized. We have to receive constant reminders because we so easily forget the things we already know. That night we visited Laquita again, and the family ward mission leader came with us. It was a pretty frustrating lesson because we planned to go in there and teach the Restoration but Bro. P just kept talking and talking about things she already knew/didn't need to hear. I think I may have said maybe two sentences in the whole hour. Which mostly annoyed me because part of the training now is that the trainee leads out in lessons and does the most talking besides the investigator. So that night I was a little peeved.
Friday: We had our weekly planning on Friday, and realized that we really needed to get better and more diligent in our finding efforts. One of our mission statements is that we in the Arcadia mission are great finders. So that's something we're working on. We had another lesson with Anthony, in which he said he didn't think we could teach him anymore. Which is true, since it was the spirit not the missionaries that taught him anything in the first place. We tried to explain that to him and I think something got through to him at least a little bit. That night we finally had time to swing by Jolene's to see what was up. She was pretty angry to see us. She didn't let us in, and said that she had thrown away everything we gave her. It was so sad because she also told us that it made her sad that she couldn't meet with us because of her sister. She told us how she already had friends at church, that she loved seeing the kids, and had been so excited to get baptized. It was really sad. Hopefully she'll remember the testimony she already got and eventually her sister's heart will be softened.
Saturday: We didn't get a lot done on Saturday unfortunately. We got in the door of a former investigator who said we could come by some time this week to start teaching her again. I'm excited for that. Apparently she was pretty golden before her atheist boyfriend (who she lives with) said he didn't want the missionaries in his home. But he was pretty nice to us, so I think the Lord's been preparing his heart in the last couple months.
In church yesterday, the area president came to talk to the singles. He exhorted them to "Get connected to the temple." Whether that means, going once a week, doing family history, being an ordinance worker, whatever it takes to make the temple a significant part of our life. It was really cool. He also taught them what it really meant when we say "in the name of Jesus Christ." Which is that it means we are saying what he would say if he was the one praying. Which is pretty cool. Remember that when you pray.
I hope you're all doing well, and thanks for the birthday wishes. I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday than being here talking to people about our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives, and that through the Atonement we can be saved.
Everybody should read DC 101:43-58. It's one of the last parables that Christ teaches us, and has a lot of really good stuff in it.
Elder Whitney