Monday, October 16, 2017

Family and Friends,

Our week this week was super good! We started off the week with an exchange in the assistants area. We had a really good time. I was able to be with Elder Wray who is actually a really good friend with Cam Mortensen so that was kind of cool. He knows a few people from Weber and spent a lot of time there in high school. We had a really funny experience. We knocked on a door and this guy opened the door and was like "WHAT'S UP BROS?!?!" He went off for a minute and it turned out Elder Wray had met this guy awhile back. Well he let us in (this is both Elder Wray and I's first time in this house) and he asked if we wanted to grub. We said sure we'll eat. So he sat us down and he said I got this pesole that is super good and it has pig foot in it! I was SO scared haha. He dished us up two big bowls and gave us a ton of soda. Then he told us to grub and he went in the other room to watch a movie. Like I said this is the first time in his house haha. We sat there for 15 minutes trying to eat this really disgusting soup stuff. I was DYING. haha. I couldn't do the pig way. Then we finally got to the point where we could tell him we were full. We were able to share a message with him and it turns out he had a lot of problems going on in his life. We taught him how to pray and invited him to pray and then got out of there. My stomach was MESSED up after that haha.

I wanted to share something cool I started to do this week in my studies that I highly recommend. I have always wondered why the prophecies of Isaiah are so important. Why would Nephi decide to quote them in several chapters of the Book of Mormon? So I have started to compare the chapters in Isaiah to the chapters in 2 Nephi. I have recorded words that were changed/missed in translation/footnotes from both KJV and BoM...And it has helped me to understand so much more. Some meanings are completely changed. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet because of everything that he did. The spirit tells me that all of this is true. I highly urge you to do this if Isaiah confuses you. It has helped me so much. People always ask me why 2 Nephi is my favorite book of scripture...I didn't know how to answer that, but I guess I would say that I love Nephi and his example. I want to be like that guy.

Just a little update on all the work that is going on here. We have two more investigators who have decided to set a date for baptism. Tyler, being the first will be baptized on November 4. We are excited for him. He is struggling with the Word of Wisdom a little bit, but we know he can get over that stumbling block. Please pray for him. We are also working with Alexis who has decided to get baptized on November 11. She is awesome. Very spiritually sound. We hope that she sees the importance of coming to church so that she can always renew the covenants she is going to make at baptism. We are experiencing a lot of success and we are enjoying all of the work we are being trusted with.

We worked with Josh, our recent convert, on his family history. I LOVE family history haha. I feel like a nerd, but we were able to help him get his fan chart basically full. It took some work, but now he already has 5 names to take to the temple. Paige, his girlfriend, is also taking some of his female names to the temple as well. We are so excited for him. He is a pioneer in his family and he is really being such a great example. I am very excited to go to the temple once again and feel the spirit that comes from being there. I actually found another family on our family tree. If you take our direct line down the Adair side I found a whole other family that needs their work done so I will be taking them to the temple. The Lord is really hastening His work.

Juan is doing good as well. He has now shown interest in coming out and doing missionary work with us. It is a prime example of what happened in Lehi's dream. Juan has tasted the fruit and now he wants to help others find the peace that comes from the gospel. He is such a solid convert. I am one lucky guy.

I love the work!

Elder Willden

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Family and Friends,

This week has been one of the best weeks so far in my mission. It was also one of the busiest weeks in the mission due to everything that we had to prepare for. A little overview of my week includes: Mission leadership council, zone interviews with President Palmer, Family history, Temple trip with the branch, and then a baptism and confirmation of Josh Nardini! I wish every week could be this good.

Mission leadership council went very good. We talked a lot about the way that the Savior learned. A lot of general conference was based upon the scriptures and how even Jesus Christ did not receive all from the beginning. He learned grace for grace. We counselled a lot about how the scriptures can be used well in teaching and learning situations. Also, that in the scriptures the Savior asked INSPIRED questions to teach others sacred principles. It was a great meeting. President also announced that the new Christmas initiative will be Light the World pt. 2! It is going to be a great opportunity for us missionaries to use proselyting.

This week I was able to do some family history and then was able to take the names I discovered to the Temple! It was a great experience that really showed me how amazing family history work is. I was able to find the furthest ancestor back in the Willden line. His name was Edward Wheeldon. I could really feel the spirit as my companion was able to baptize me in behalf of this ancestor. This Temple trip was very spiritual. Juan, our recent convert, was also able to take a family name to the Temple. It was his great great great grandfather. As Elder Stewart and I confirmed him for his ancestor tears filled his eyes. Juan told us he wanted to go back to the Temple as soon as possible. It was so cool. We told Juan he was able to go back and he asked, "And go inside??" haha. We told him he now had a recommend so he could go whenever he wanted! It was so funny!

We have been finding a lot of success finding lately. God is blessing this area and allowing us to teach. Just yesterday we were able to set up an appointment with Garrett, one of our potentials. We went over and we were surprised that he was living with a girlfriend. Her name is Ashley. So we asked about both of their religious backgrounds. Garrett had been to the Mormon church a lot when he was in the military. He was actually at Hill Air Force base and went to the church a lot. He said he liked how nice everyone was. We asked if he was familiar with the Book of Mormon and he pulled a copy out haha. Ashley's religious background was interesting. She told us she was from the Church of Christ...It didn't click in my head for a minute until she told us it was a branch off from our church. She used to attend the RLDS church. That is where she was raised. She told us she was also familiar with the Book of Mormon. We were able to share the message of the Restoration. We asked if they would be willing to be baptized if they found out it was true. Garret said, "No." And Ashley said, "I have already been no." Haha Elder Stewart and I were stunned! We asked why Garrett wouldn't and he said that he did not feel the need. We did our best to address these issues out of the Book of Mormon. It was so good! We talked to Garrett about the necessity of being baptized and shared 2 Nephi 31. After all of the scriptures and the spirit guiding us they both agreed to take the lessons and give it a shot. And if they found it was true they would be baptized! It was such an amazing experience.

Josh's Baptism went soooo good! His testimony was so powerful. He talked about his experience growing up agnostic and how he was always wondering if something was out there. He related the happiness he felt as he attended church and learned about the gospel. He started tearing up as he talked about how he appreciated the support from everyone at church because he didn't have a lot of support or kindness at home. And then he bore a powerful witness of Jesus Christ being our Savior. And how the Book of Mormon is true. It was an amazing service. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping Juan and Josh on their journey to salvation. They are two very solid converts.

I love this work so much!

Elder Willden

Us with Branch President Falke

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Family and Friends,

Well I officially hit my 15 month mark this past week! Time has been blowing by. I have really been pondering on the missionary service that I have been able to participate in and it has been such a blessing. When you are out on a mission you lose track of days, time, and worldly cares because you are giving your all to The Lord. When I look back to when I was in the MTC it feels like it was just yesterday. But it is amazing to see the growth that has gone on the past several months. There is nothing more rewarding than serving our Master and Redeemer.

This week we were able to really work with Juan on his family history. We have found him some names and cannot wait to go to Oakland with him on Friday. He is such an amazing convert. There is no better feeling than walking someone through their conversion. I hope that he continues to use his agency righteously and endures to the end.

We have another baptism coming up on Saturday. Josh is going to be baptized. He has a girlfriend that is in the branch and he has been coming to church for several weeks. As we have taught him we have had some super cool spiritual experiences. We are so happy for him and his decision to be baptized. I think I mentioned before, but before we were teaching Josh he was totally agnostic...Now his faith has grown and he has a testimony of Jesus Christ. Seeing this growth in someone reminds me of when Alma talks about faith being a seed. Over the past several weeks Josh has had immense growth and conversion as he has exercised his faith and read the Book of Mormon.

This takes me right into General Conference. I thoroughly enjoyed conference. There were messages shared that I needed as a missionary and I felt like I was literally spiritually fed. The message I got most out of it was that none of us are perfect, but we can keep "striving" to be like our Savior. I really enjoyed Elder Holland's talk. I will be listening to all of the talks over the upcoming week to see what other insights I can get out of conference.

Funny story for the week. We were knocking doors and we knocked on this guys door and it was smelling like some major skunk up in there. Well he opened his door and asked us immediately if he could smoke weed. We told him he had his agency and he went and grabbed his weed, sat down, and told us to share a message. lol. We gave him a Book of Mormon and it seemed like he was very happy about it. It was really interesting when we started to share our message. We could totally tell he was high as a kite, but it was entertaining. When we left he told me I was his friend...I pointed to him and told him that God loved him and with enthusiasm in his eyes he pointed back to me and said the same thing. It was a great experience hahah. The weed is out of control here though.

I had a great week and I hope you all have a good one as well!

Elder Willden

At YSA Monday night Activity 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

Family and Friends,

This week was such an amazing week! Elder Stewart and I are ballin' out here in the YSA branch. Seriously...we are ballin'. Last Monday we played basketball for 5 hours total. My feet were JACKED up all week. I had to do some surgery on my big toe because I had a gnarly ingrown toenail.

Last week President Palmer invited all the Zone Leaders to a service project at his house. His neighbor had to take a fence down because they are putting up a new one I guess. So we went there and it took about 45 minutes due to the amount of missionaries that were there. While we were doing this project it reminded me of doing things with Dad and how technical it was hahah. I loved getting Dad all those screwdrivers, holding the flashlights, and picking up sticks.(: Man I miss all the yardwork at home lol.

So...yesterday Juan was baptized! It was such a great experience. He was so ready to make this step in his life. I was so excited for him and for his decision. He bore such a powerful testimony of the Savior and the impact the He has had on his life. He talked about how Jesus Christ has made it possible for all of us to repent. He then went on to talk about how the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith is a prophet. It was such an amazing testimony and I felt the spirit so strongly. It was also a rare opportunity for Juan as he was able to receive the Holy Ghost font side after the baptism. It was such a great day. Cody, one of our members, baptized him and he said when Juan went to the changing room after he said a prayer to Heavenly Father thanking Him for that experience. I am so happy for him. We will be going to the Temple with him next week!

While on exchanges this week we had a couple of amazing experiences. It was a testimony to me that the spirit really does guide us wherever we go and if we listen we can experience miracles. So I was with Elder Christensen this week and as we were wrapping up our night and heading to institute we decided to hop on our bikes...we could have easily just driven up. So we started riding. We felt like we should take the back roads...we could have easily just went up a main road and had the time cut in half. So as we were riding through the neighborhoods we saw a lady that was frantically moving things out of her house to her car. We asked if we could help and she happily accepted. After we finished loading her car she had us pray for her. She started crying and then told us about how hard the past few weeks were. Her husband had fallen off the uhaul truck they had and had to go to the hospital. She told us while they were in Merced the missionaries down there offered to help her as well. We were able to get her info and send it to the missionaries down there again so that they could help her get everything in order at their new apartment and then teach them! It was awesome. The next morning we went out in the morning and we decided to go to this potentials apartment complex. While we were there I had a prompting to go knock on this former investigators door...I had only heard about him a couple times, but I saw the door as we were coming in and I had an impression to go there. Well as we were parking our bikes the door opened and the former's brother was talking to his mom about the missionaries and said as he was telling his mom he wanted us to come over we showed up. We were able to teach him and give him as a referral to the family ward Elders. It was super crazy.

I cannot wait for General Conference this weekend! I am going to miss the spaghetti and cinnamon rolls, but it is a sacrifice that I can make for the happiness I feel right now. I love my area, I love my companion, and I love the work!

Elder Willden

"Me and Stewey"



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

Family and Friends,

I mentioned in my letter last week that I was getting a new companion... Well he is here! His name is Elder Stewart. He is from Roosevelt, UT. We both played basketball in high school! The branch down here has nick-named us the "Twin Towers of Turlock." I think that we are the tallest companionship in the mission. We get along very well and I am excited for this transfer with him. It will be a 7 week transfer and then we will have a 5 week transfer after this one. So basically this is going to be the greatest transfer of all time lol.

President Palmer took our district to Apricot BBQ in Patterson this past week. It was super good BBQ. It is super crazy though because this transfer we were assigned to the Crows Landing district which is a 45 minute drive from where we live so it has been pretty crazy. We go to Modesto every week anyway, but it is just pretty hard because we have a mileage allotment and we are all over the place!

 Juan is getting baptized this Sunday! We are so excited for him. We are wrapping up the lessons this week and his interview will be this Saturday. Something happened last week in one of our lessons with him that I thought was really cool. We were teaching him and just reassuring him that he was ready for this step in his life. After we shared a scripture he told us that when his dad and sister were investigating the church several years ago he wanted so badly to learn more and to take the lessons, but he didn't speak up. And unfortunately the missionaries did not ask him if he wanted to learn more. So I feel very lucky that we were able to find him and teach him. He is so ready to receive this message and enjoy the happiness that comes from it. 

We taught Josh this week as well. He is doing good! It was a good lesson on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and receiving the priesthood. We shared the bible video of Jesus Christ in Gethsemane and then read a little bit of Alma 13. It was a good lesson and the spirit was so strong. I feel like the best lessons that I teach and where I am able to feel the spirit is on The Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is everything.

We had a new leadership training this week. It was basically about being loving leaders and not speaking ill of others. I always appreciate the reminder to be like our Savior in everything that we do. Elder Stewart and I enjoyed it and are trying to apply that into our companionship. We are having such a good time down here in Turlock!

My spiritual thought this week is from the young adult broadcast that Elder Bednar spoke at. It was sooooo good. He talked about how we need to be a "welding link" in our generations. What touched my heart from this broadcast is that we cannot have any grey areas in our lives. We need to be all in. As we do this we will bless our posterity. Elder and Sister Bednar did a super good job and I invite you all to watch this. Especially Corie, Chase, Bailee, and Kyle. I appreciated everything that Elder Bednar taught!

I love you all and hope you have a great week!  

Elder Willden

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

Family and Friends,

Transfer calls came last night! I will be staying in the Turlock YSA, but I have a new companion! Elder Stewart! Him and I were in the MTC together and actually were in the same room. I am so excited for this next is going to be so fun! And he is one of the few Elders in our mission that is taller than me. As for Elder Robison, he will be going to co-train with my previous companion Elder Payne! He will do a great job!

Oh I forgot to mention that I hope Luke's birthday month is going good! I hope there has been plenty of recreation and fun. I am also very happy for him being able to advance to the office of a teacher!

This week was definitely slow, but we were able to find some success with the investigators that we do have. An update from last week's letter. We taught Juan Lopez twice this week! He is progressing very rapidly. We had a wonderful lesson with him on the Plan of Salvation and he committed to be baptized on Sept. 24. I am super excited for that. He is one of the most humble investigators I have ever had on my mission. He is sincerely trying to come closer to his Savior. He has also been reading the Book of Mormon; he told us that he knows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. As we teach him he always just thanks us for teaching him more and that he is excited to continue learning new things. When we taught him about the fall of Adam he was mind blown. After that super spiritual lesson we asked him to pray. It was a very cool experience for me because he told us that he was speechless. He was so excited to get baptized that he didn't know what to say! It was a super good lesson.

We also had a very good lesson with our investigator Josh. We have been working with him for a month now and he originally set a baptism date for Oct 22. Well, yesterday we were teaching him and we had planned to try to move his baptism forward. So we taught tithing and fast offerings and we were getting into Mosiah 18 (a wonderful passage on baptism and what it entails). After we read the scripture he told us that he wanted to move his date to Oct 7. The spirit is so awesome. We hadn't even extended the invitation to move it and he already wanted to move it forward. So we had a very good lesson with him too. He is in 2 Nephi (my favorite book in the Book of Mormon). So we are trying to help him through that!

We have also been working with some other investigators not as consistently as the former stated. Their names are: Marcus, Alexis, Valerie, Shayla, and Jonathan. We are trying to find some commitment out of them. Marcus is a really solid guy, but is not available most of the time. We have taught him once. He had a lot of questions about religion in general so we didn't get too far into the Restoration. Pray that we can get these people to commit to meet with us more. And that their concerns may be resolved. Thank you!

I want to share a story from this week that I felt was a way that Heavenly Father makes us better in the process of being a missionary. I was on an exchange with another Elder this week. We use the hours from 10AM-12PM to find. So we were out knocking doors...doing our thing. Well that morning could have defined the word "dead." We knocked on 28 doors and no one answered. It was then 11:30AM and we had not talked to but one person on the street. It was rough. I felt like I was not being put into a position where I could train this Elder on how to do a door approach. After a spiritual prompting we started our way over to the college to street contact. We had a total of 20 minutes left until we had to run some errands for other missionaries... Well we got to talk to four people. Three of them were not very interested. The last person we talked to was a girl that was getting ready to go to class. The Elder that I was with shared the picture of Jesus in America. We were able to have a very good conversation about the Book of Mormon and share a copy with her. I thought about this experience and how if we wouldn't have endured those 28 doors and then came to the college we wouldn't have been able to give her that Book of Mormon. If we wouldn't have followed the spirit that morning we wouldn't have been able to do the Father's will. I think this applies to life as well sometimes. Something may seem pointless, but God's timing is perfect. I love my mission and all of the things I am learning. This is a once in a lifetime thing!

I have a spiritual thought from my studies this week. I would invite each of you to read Mosiah 23:1-19. I was thinking about what this chapter could symbolize... I came up with replacing some words. Replace King Noah with Sin. Replace power of God with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As I read through this I thought about how we need to flee from sin. And once we have fled from sin we need to stay away. We cannot be afraid to be different. Alma knew that they would become corrupted if they chose another king and followed the "precepts of men." (2 Nephi 28:14) So he being a righteous prophet of God warned them and led them to build the city of Helam where they "prospered"! Be courageous, be worthy, and be different! As we run from sin as Alma and his people ran from the armies of King Noah, we can find our land of Helam!

I love this work so much!

Elder Willden

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

Family and Friends,

Hey everybody this week was so good! I hit my 14 month mark this past week and it is scary that I will be in single digits next month...Where is the time going? First I want to tell you all about a miracle that happened at taco bell this week. We were on exchanges with the assistants...I was with Elder Cook. We decided to roll through the bell. Well... We were ordering and the cashier asked where we were from and we told her. She told us that she had talked to missionaries down in San Diego and then she moved up here. She continued to tell us that the missionaries had helped her out a lot in the past. So they will be going by her house in this next week!

We had mission leadership council last Tuesday and it was a really good meeting. We talked about how to correct missionaries in the Savior's way. As we all were learning and being edified the theme of the meeting was to counsel. If you notice in the scriptures it talks a lot about counseling together to make decisions. We even call a quorum of our leaders the "council of the twelve." As we counsel and figure out how to best move the work forward we can have better, more effective ideas than just having a single man make decisions...a scripture that has been ringing through my mind as I have been writing this letter is in Alma 37:36-37 and it reads:

36 Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

As we heed this counsel Alma was giving to his son Helaman we too can be "lifted up at the last day." Recently I have really been pondering my mission. As I was doing that I was thinking about what my personal motto would be if I had one. The words that seemed to ring through my mind were, "ALL IN." With a tag to the scripture Matthew 6:24. Ever since I have thought of this I have had more motivation. I think about my missionary purpose and vision. And then combine it with some personal revelation that I have received. It has been a great tool for self motivation and desire to serve the Lord. I feel like when you are a missionary you always want to give more. So I have decided to just give everything and go all in. I think that this can also apply to life. I have always been taught to finish something when I start it (thanks Mom and Dad). I think this is something that we all can work on...including myself.

Now I would like to share a little bit about how our week went with investigators and prospective elders. We picked up a new investigator this week! His name is Marcus. We tracted into him the other week and were finally able to teach him. He had a lot of good questions. Basically what he believed in is that he can take all positive principles from different religions and apply them into his life. That is what he has tried to do his whole life. We taught him the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We really emphasized the pattern of Apostasy and how some truths were not lost, but a lot were. This man really liked to talk, but we ended up reading a scripture out of the Book of Mormon about our duty as sons and daughters of God. There is nothing more rewarding than showing someone their true identity in the eyes of God. Because some people do not understand that our Heavenly Father prefers the title of Father! He loves us all! It was just a good lesson and hopefully we can get back in there soon.

Kirk, one of our progressing prospective elders took us out to dinner the other night and then we had a lesson with him. He recently started  coming back to church and does not hold the Aaronic priesthood yet. It was an amazing lesson about repentance and God's love for us. We taught him about how repentance is a daily process that helps us change. It is a gift from our Savior, Jesus Christ that allows us to become like Him and our Heavenly Father. It was such a great lesson and we were able to invite him to continue to repent and get ready to receive the priesthood. He is excited for these changes in his life. It is amazing to see the growth of the people we teach day in and day out. Being a missionary is a blessing you only know when you do.

We were blessed to have two of our investigators at church this week! Josh and Juan came! The attendance was weak because of Labor Day weekend, but we think they enjoyed. Josh comes every week and he is preparing for his baptism. We have had such a great experience teaching him the lessons and helping him come closer to the Savior. He is in 2 Nephi and always has really tough questions for us to answer. The Lord helps us out to answer these questions. We knew that Josh was going to come to church so we were trying to get someone else. We decided to call Juan and see if he would come. When we called he told us that he was getting ready for church! And it was his first time coming. It is always so awkward when it is someone's first time...also because of the low attendance, but hopefully he liked it. We were also blessed with a new potential that came to church. She is living with two different members right now because of her not having a place to stay and it seemed like she really loved church. Keep praying that we find new people!

I love the work and I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder Willden

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 28, 2017

Family and Friends,

I had a very good week! A lot of great experiences have happened and I am so happy! To start off my letter this week I would like to share an experience we had last week with one of our investigators. Josh, who is progressing towards baptism on October 22, was saying a prayer after one of our lessons with him. In this prayer he said something really significant. He said, "Heavenly Father I am thankful for being able to remember what I learn in the Book of Mormon." We asked him about that after the prayer and he explained that usually everything he studies whether it be a document, movie, you name it... He usually cannot remember anything. He told us that it is different with the Book of Mormon. He said that he can remember everything he learns and it has a profound effect on his mind. We were able to explain that being the power of the Holy Ghost. As a testator to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the Holy Ghost can and will help us remember the spiritual principles that we learn each day. It was very amazing to see the way the spirit has been working with Josh. I am thankful for Heavenly Father being mindful of our investigator. We are being blessed.

A couple weeks ago we taught a college student named Sal. We have not talked to him since, but we have stopped by his apartment a couple times. One of those times was this week. Right when we knocked on the door his roommate answered the door. He was holding a Book of Mormon...the one that we had given Sal. He explained that Sal was at school and we asked him what he was holding. He said that Sal had shared it with him and told him to check it out. Apparently Sal had told Kevin, his roommate, to check out this Book because it was really interesting. We are hoping that something comes out of it. So please pray for someone in that apartment to feel the spirit!

On Saturday morning last week we went a contacted a referral we had gotten from the assistants. His name is also Sal. Haha. Well we went and we taught him the Restoration and he was pretty open to the message. We talked to him a lot about the Book of Mormon and what it is. He told us that he would read and pray about it. He actually prayed at the end of our lesson. It turns out that two of his supervisors at work are Mormons and that he also has a co-worker that is Mormon. It was a really good lesson and I could really feel the spirit there. Well.... After the lesson and prayer we were walking outside. And we saw two guys coming up the driveway. Sal kind of chuckled in the back and it turned out these were the JW's doin' there Saturday morning rounds! It was the funniest reaction I have ever seen from a J-dub. They looked at us coming out the front door...and with an "oh crap" look they turned around and walked off. We smiled and asked how they were doing and they said they were doing good, but they kept walking. It was so awesome! Totally showed them who's boss.

So I had another once in a life-time experience this week on my mission! Al Fox Carraway the "tattooed mormon" came to the Turlock YSA branch. I thought it was gonna be sort of overrated....but I was wrong. She is an amazing person. I wish I could read her book....but I am on a mission. She told her story of how she met missionaries and how she joined the church. And then the sacrifices that she made to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. These were not small sacrifices. On her 21 birthday she went to dinner with her Dad and he told her that she needed to choose between him and the church. Well, she chose the church! She eventually came to Utah and went through many struggles. After a lot of struggles and trials she is now speaking with her father and living a very happy life sharing the gospel and inspiring others to do the same. It was an inspiring story! I got pictures so I will send them.

Brandon was confirmed this Sunday! It was a great experience. I had a very spiritually edifying sacrament meeting this week. I would like to share the lyrics from what is now my second favorite hymn:

1. Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.
2. Never can I repay thee, Lord,
But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.
3. O’errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above.

As I was studying this hymn while we were partaking of the sacrament I pondered on the words contained. If you think about this hymn it is very personal. I have found in my life times when the Redeemer has "filled with sweet my bitter cup" He does that because He loves us. Also the lyrics "Chasten my soul till I shall be in perfect harmony with thee. Make me more worthy of thy love and fit me for the life above." Isn't that why we are here? To learn and to grow? This prayer hit me hard. I know that the Savior loves us all because of what He did for us. And we cannot repay Him, but we can try our best to be worthy. I know my Savior lives and He cares for each of us in a very personal way. I am very humbled to be able to proclaim His love and His gospel. I pray that each of us can live our lives knowing that we have a Helper, a Comforter, a Savior. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Willden

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21, 2017

Family and Friends,

I had a great week this week! It started with a great zone conference that we had in Modesto last Tuesday. It was focused on using the scriptures to present doctrine and then to show the blessings that come from applying that doctrine in our lives. I felt the spirit so much. While President Palmer was bearing his testimony I could see him glowing. I think that it is a real thing to be able to physically see somebody's countenance shine when they bear their testimony. It was an experience I will never forget. I cannot really even remember what he said, but I remember how I felt. It was great. We were able to conduct a zone break out after the meeting and we talked about having the faith to find those who are prepared. I felt the spirit as I bore my testimony on finding people who are ready. As missionaries we sometimes get discouraged because of how many people say no, but the joy you find when someone lets you share is priceless. I am so grateful for the scriptures that we have. They touch people's lives. The Book of Mormon is the tool we use to convert others.

Now I would like to share about a couple of our new investigators that we picked up this week from knocking on doors and what the experience was like. Our first is Tiara. We knocked on her door in a complex close to the college. She opened up and was extremely kind. We asked if we could share a message about eternal families. She said that would be nice, but for us to come back. We went back the next week and took a member with us. As we taught her the Plan of Salvation we really focused on our Savior and why he is important. We shared Alma 7:11-13 with her which reads:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

We asked the member that was with us if he could bear his testimony on that scripture. I could see Tiara tearing up as our member bore a powerful testimony. It was a great lesson. We have a return appointment for this Friday. So please pray that she read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it. Our next experience was with Flower. We taught Flower the Restoration on her doorstep. It was a good experience and we shared Moroni's promise (Moroni 10:3-5) with her. We told her that if she prayed to know if Joseph Smith is a prophet she would find her answer. Our return appointment fell through with her, but we hope to meet with her soon. Please pray for her.

To give an update on other investigators mentioned in previous letters... Josh is doing really good. He is reading his Book of Mormon and praying to know if this is true. In our lesson last week he committed and picked a date to be baptized on October 22. We are excited for him. We wish it were a little bit earlier than that, but that is what Josh was comfortable with so that is all that matters. Our investigator Brandon was baptized yesterday! It was such a good service. It was so amazing to see another one of Heavenly Father's children enter the waters of baptism. Missions are so great!

We were able to attend our Branch Conference yesterday as well. It was such a good meeting. Our Branch President gave a very good talk on Repentance. Something that stuck out to me that he shared was that from his experience the hardest thing to teach someone is how to forgive themselves. I am going to try to paraphrase what he said, "If we want to follow the example of our Savior he forgave everyone so we need to do the same including forgiving ourselves." I got so much from this talk and I cannot do it justice... I don't even know if I quoted it correctly, but I know that if we look to our future with a brightness of hope and not dwell on the sorrows of our past we can feel the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ bring us the joy of salvation.

I love this work!

Elder Willden

Elder Miller and I at zone conference

Elder Guerrero and I

Brandon's Baptism
I got athletes foot, but it is all taken care of now. TOO MUCH HEAT!!! FUNGUS

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August 14, 2017

Family and Friends,

It was a very good week this week! The YSA branch is so fun to be in. Last week there was a karaoke night for FHE and let me tell you it was so funny. Basically members got up in front of everyone and sang some oldies songs. Tyler, one of our members, sang two songs and one of them was a backstreet boys song. Tyler is so awesome.

I think I am now immune to rejection and probably tick people off a lot. Everyone back home knows that I can push buttons...well me and another Elder were on exchanges this week and we were knocking doors. We got about halfway through the area that we were working on and this man answered his door. He stared at us momentarily and I asked him how he was doing. He replied, "Well I am not happy at all to see you!" And usually people just slam their door or something, but he kept it open. So I gave him a big old grin and said with the most enthusiastic (maybe a little sarcastic) tone, "And why is that??" Then we made some gnarly eye contact for a minute and I could kind of just feel the fumes coming off of this man; so I just kept smiling just to see what he would say. He said a few things but then clearly stated, "Just don't even try." And then....he slammed his door. I slipped him a little Jesus card in the door so that when he opens up again he can be reminded that we tried to share the good word with him, but he didn't want to hear it... Californians are so awesome(: I hope that he didn't notice my sarcasm and just took it as we were very happy. Maybe he will realize in the spirit world that his hostility was in vain. He probably needed a hug...

In our efforts this week to find new investigators we found 2 more new investigators named Juan and Arturo. Juan's Dad and Sister are baptized members of the church and he has seen the positive effects of the church in their lives and he wants to learn more. We are excited to teach him and to get to know him. Arturo is a college student that is fairly busy, but he wants to know the purpose of being here. It is going to be great teaching them. Our hardest bump in the road right now is getting investigators to church. Especially YSA members. They are so busy and it can seem like there are better things to do on Sunday so please pray that we can teach the Sabbath Day to these people and have them feel the spirit. We have seen so much success over the past couple months. We now have 9 investigators...2 months ago we had 1. So it has been a growth process and our branch is really seeing that we are working hard and trying to find those who are prepared. It has been a good experience for me!

Update on Brandon. Hopefully he will be getting baptized on Sunday. He might be moving the day after so if that happens we cannot baptize him here. So we are crossing our fingers and hope he stays in the Turlock area. We have taught him pretty much all of the lessons and we have everything in order for his baptism so please pray for that!

My spiritual thought is going to have two parts today. The first part I was studying in D&C 93 this last week it gives a great definition of truth in verse 24, "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;" Well this section is super interesting and I think all of you would benefit from substituting the definition of truth for every time it says truth in that section. And I have gone as far as to substitute it even in the Book of Mormon and it makes so much sense. All that Satan does is try to distort truth...every temptation we have leads to him clouding a truth. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I just thought this was amazing. So try it! Also we had a dinner appointment and I was able to share the message. I decided to do a scripture in 4 Nephi 1:5 and it reads:

5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

I will try to share what I did in the dinner. President Palmer shared this scripture with us several months ago and talked about how miracles can only be done in the name of Jesus Christ. What I got from this is that we need to have faith in Jesus Christ before we can do anything to further the work. It is the first principle to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you correlate faith with miracles the bible dictionary talks about how faith cannot be based upon miracles, but because of miracles we can have our faith confirmed (see BD Faith). I thought about that and as I thought it came to me that as we strive to recognize miracles in our lives...even the small ones it can confirm our faith and we will have even more of a desire to come closer to Him that provides them. It takes faith to look for God's hand in our lives. So I invite you to look for little miracles in your life. Always seek Him. (Ether 12:41)

The last thought I wanted to share was an experience that we had the night we shared that message. We decided to street contact at 8:45...not a very good thing to do in the Central Valley. Haha. But we went out and we were not finding anyone. Well we were walking back to our apartment and ran into a guy named Nanif. He is friends with several of the members of our branch. We taught him the Restoration briefly and gave him a Book of Mormon. It was a great experience. Hopefully he will feel the spirit and accept the divinity of the Book.

I love this work! Have a great week everyone!

Elder Willden

Elder Freitas and us...Leaves tomorrow for the mission

Elder Robison took this I don't know when?

At one of our lessons with Brandon

Sick glasses I found at the church