Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 12, 2015 - Joshua, Texas - What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Hello family!

It was a pretty good week and definitely a good birthday yesterday. Everyone's cards got here in time and I just got a call this morning from the mission office wishing me a happy birthday yesterday. All the gifts will definitely come in handy, especially the keyboard. It was kind of weird just opening them alone at my desk but it didn't make it mean any less meaningful. So, thank you for all the emails and presents :) I didn't even think I was going to have a dinner appointment yesterday but it turns out Elder Simmons was lying to me the whole week. Actually, the relief society president volunteered not
knowing someone else had signed up. We didn't see the calendar until yesterday because of general conference so Elder Simmons told her we didn't have a dinner scheduled. It all worked out though. We just went to dinner at one house and dessert at another and did the whole birthday thing. It was super nice of them and we got an extra member lesson in!

The lady at our dinner appointment was talking about her mission in Mexico and how she fasted for 6 days because they had no food and that she walked around with no shoes because hers had worn out. It sounded rough but she talked about it as if it was nothing. That family is missionary-focused beyond belief too. She told us that missions never end and she has taken that to heart for the last fifteen years.

Now to the humorous part of the week. First of all, our mission started a challenge this week to read the Book of Mormon twenty minutes a day and also place at least one a day. A Book of Mormon
placement has to include the words "I know," "Will you," and "When can we?" Which also means our goal is to get one new investigator a day.

So, the night this challenge started we were heading home without a single placement and we decided to stop at one more house. Even before we could knock on the door we see this man sitting in his driveway smoking and drinking. The guy invites us to sit down, offers  us a beer jokingly, and starts asking questions. At first they were pretty valid but he just kept getting more and more drunk until he starting asking about the most obscure things ever like where did God come from. I guess that's a valid question too, but he wouldn't let us answer before he asked another question! He also went behind a wall outside to relieve himself a couple times. We ended up staying until about 10:15 because Elder Simmons really didn't want to leave without answering his questions. But hey, we got the Book of Mormon to him and set up a return appointment.

So fast forward a couple days. We go to his house and knock on the door... no answer. So we leave and come back 30 minutes later to find him in his driveway again. He tells us he was just working on his boat and that he waved at us a couple times to get to come over to his shop. Anyway, we get talking and he tells us about his life problems as people do. All his questions totally made sense after a few minutes! He lost a child and a fiance a few years ago and is honestly seeking for answers about the afterlife. He told us that he really wants to just be our friends though and give us a break from teaching. It seems like he really cares and knows how to build relationships. He told us to do something for him (be genuine with him and don't treat him as a project) and offered us something in return (food.) Unfortunately we did not have time for salad. I left feeling like I specifically was meant to meet this guy and teach him about the plan of salvation as his friend.

One more funny story with him. After a couple days he phoned us while I was on an exchange. Apparently Elder Simmons and Allison were in an appointment so they couldn't answer. Afterwards, they check the messages and hear, "Hey. Call me back. *chewing noises* Yaa'll want salad? *more chewing noises*" I love this man.

Moral of the story: if you come across a drunken sailor... teach him the plan of salvation. Have a good week and keep on ponderizing!

Also, I forgot to mention that Elder Simmons and I were looking at FamilySearch and discovered that we are 4th cousins through the O'Brien side. Elder Simmons just came across a John O'Brien and he
turned out to be a common ancestor. The story is that John O'Brien passed away and one of his sons took his wife into his home in Idaho. The son's house then burned down and a bunch of the family moved to Raymond. This is where John O'Brien's wife died. After a while about half the O'Briens moved back to Utah and Idaho. This included Mary O'Brien who married a Simmons. The rest is history.

At least that's what I got from my short skim of biographies.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 5, 2015 - Conference, Cows and Other Critters - Joshua, Texas

Dear family,

Sounds like you had a pretty good conference weekend. There were some pretty awesome talks and it sounds like everyone had those couple they really loved. It was cool to watch being out on a mission because they, the speakers, taught basically the same things we always teach. They even used a lot of the same scriptures. There seemed to be an emphasis on following prophets and apostles and keeping the commandments. There truly is a lot of power in doing both. That's why we as missionaries try to help people repent, not because they're bad people but because our Heavenly Father has promised them literally everything if they do. Unfortunately, we're having a little trouble getting our investigators to understand that. They'll get there though, the desire is there.

There were a couple cool experiences from conference that I'd like to share. First of all was when Elder Martino spoke. It was a bit of a hard week for me and I was struggling to feel at home here and when he got up to speak it made me think back to the Sunday after I got my call. I remember Elder Martino being at stake conference and hearing I was called to Texas Fort Worth. He rushed over to tell me he grew up in that area and took me around the shoulders so tight I could hardly breathe. I don't remember what advice he gave to me but I remember feeling excited to serve there. When I heard him speak it brought those feelings back and comforted me again. It's like both that stake
conference and his talk were just for me. Makes you really consider how aware our Heavenly Father is of our struggles. It was definitely a testimony builder.

The second experience was when the new councilor in General Sunday School spoke. He started talking about "ponderizing" and Elder Simmons turned to me and said "Wait, who is he? The Dallas missionaries do this." Turns out the speaker was actually the Texas Dallas Mission President not too long ago. When he started talking about how to ponderize I thought, "I'm gonna challenge my family to do this!" But, like a good mission president, he already did that. Soooo, I'll be following up with you next week since he can't. If you don't keep this commitment you'll no longer be a "progressing investigator," you'll get the slightly less encouraging "other investigator" title. All kidding aside, I think this is something that will really benefit all of us.

In other news, I saw my first armadillo this week and had my first bowl of Blue Bell ice cream. We were told we'd never have it, but luckily someone went to Austin and got some before the priesthood
session. Also, apparently a cow got out into the yard earlier this week. Joshua's prone to weirdness like that. I wasn't here, but it reminded me of stories I would hear at home.

That's about all for this week, have a good day!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Ps. Thanks for the birthday wishes, I'll do my best to make it a good day.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

September 28, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family!

It was another good week in Joshua. We've been focusing on improving our Tracting as a companionship lately, especially having the faith to find those who are ready for the gospel or even those who will just talk to us. It really helped us this week. We had 7 "other lessons" which means they were lessons without a member present. Any lesson while tracting that includes a commitment counts towards this stat. The mission average is about 3 per week with 9 lessons total, so 7 was
awesome. Lately we been talking with a lot of non-denominational people who believe religion is flawed and say stuff like "our pastor isn't religious, but he's very spiritual." Makes you consider how much religious perceptions are changing. Non-denominationals are the most open people I've met but the hardest to teach. They have a hard time accepting that there is actually a single correct church on the earth.

I studied the apostasy a lot this week to figure out what really happened to the truth. There were a couple articles in Ensign magazines from 1971 that helped me out a little, haha. They described
other religions' origins and beliefs. I could totally see how they once had the full truth and just lost a couple things at a time. Studying Catholicism helped me see that their 7 sacraments are just
condensed versions of how people saw the true ordinances of the gospel. Overall I just learned about the general pattern of apostasy and where other religions are coming from. Hopefully it helps in my

I also studied premortal life and who we really are a lot. I read the King Follet Sermon (also published in the April and May 1971 Ensigns) and read about what Joseph Smith had to say about eternal life. He pointed out that eternity means without beginning or end. Most people focus on the end part but don't realize that we are without beginning too. Heavenly Father organized our spirits from intelligences that were eternal, just like His. It changed the way I thought about myself completely. I'm literally without beginning or end and not only can I become like God, I'm already a less glorified version of Him! He's two laps ahead in the same race! When we become glorified He will become more glorified and it's just an eternal cycle. Mind-blowing! I also read a little about creation in the October New Era and found a quote from the King Follet Sermon. Anyway, that's enough doctrine for today.

Eric told me to talk about district meeting because I bore my testimony too. I was actually supposed to give a training on "The Significance Of Being a Missionary" but Elder Allison went over time
with his training. He asked me to bear my testimony about it instead so I just talked about how awesome it is to be a part of this work and labor alongside the Savior. In Jacob 5 it talks about the laborers in the vineyard so I mostly studied that. There's some awesome promises in there for missionaries; full-time or member.

Just quickly, I got the Birthday package on Saturday, so thank you for that. Seeing packages and mail is always a good start to the day. Oh, and my bike came! It's with the zone leaders right now so I'll get it soon.

Hope you have an awesome conference and that your studies keep going well. It's great to hear about what you're all learning.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

September 21, 2015 - First baptism - Joshua, Texas

So, it was a pretty good week here in Joshua. I had my first baptism whom is awesome. I honestly only met him a couple times because he was in Houston for a couple weeks taking care of his friend who has cancer. I did teach him once over the phone though. Definitely not the best way to teach someone the gospel, but it works. He didn't end up coming back until Friday so we had to go pick up our district leader, Elder Allison, in Fort Worth and get the interview done quickly. Elder Allison was all worried because "what if there's an issue?" But he came out in tears because our investigator was so ready and humble. It's also his last transfer so everything is pretty emotional for him, haha. There were only like ten people at the baptism so I ended up having to play piano and give the talk on baptism. We were super rushed getting everything together but it all worked out. 

On Tuesday I went on an exchange with Elder Allison in Fort Worth which is a biking area. I am certainly grateful I have a car right now. I sweat so much and was completely sore by the end of the day, but I guess I'll have to get used to it at some point. We did a couple hours of contacting to begin with. We had one good lesson with a guy who was totally out of it at first and slowly woke up more as we taught him about the restoration and plan of salvation. It was cool to see him go from a dazed "huh..." to an excited "what?! When can you come back and explain this more?" We also met this other lady who is a Seventh Day Adventist. She talked for a good fifteen minutes about how clear the bible is about the Sabbath day and how the pope is leading the whole world astray trying to get them to worship on Sunday of all days. One thing most Texans agree on is that the Catholics have gone off the path. Her spiel really showed me how far other religions have gone from actually worshipping the Savior. A lot of them around here get so caught up in a single doctrine that they completely forget why it even matters.  It seems like this lady's only firm belief was that Saturday was the Sabbath. I don't think she mentioned the Savior once. 

The rest of the exchange went pretty well too. We taught about four lessons that day. The most interesting one was with a Baptist seminary student who didn't believe in the apostasy. He honestly wanted to know what proof we had though. Most of his arguments were based on small phrases in the English Standard Version of the Bible. One was in Jude 1:3. The ESV Bible said "the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." implying that the gospel was revealed once and it didn't need to be revealed again. The King James says "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Implying that the gospel was once delivered but has now been departed from. I didn't bring that up, but I'm regretting it now.

That night Elder Allison also gave an awesome prayer. He prayed for me first which was cool but he then prayed for you guys. He prayed that my family would be protected and blessed as I serve and that they would gain greater knowledge and understanding. It brought me to tears. I really wish you could have heard it.

Zone conference was also this week. It was focused on becoming a full purpose missionary and working with members more. I'll just send my notes, because I'm running out of time. 

No funny stories for this week, but have a good one!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)