The Days Are Flying By

22 October 2016

This past Wednesday we officially became the zone leaders for the Digital Imaging Processing Zone of the mission – and, have been trying our best just to keep our heads above water ever since. We really like the previous zone leaders, but, they weren’t particularly detail oriented, so we’ve spent a lot of time organizing files, and trying to wrap our heads around exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. . . There is much to do!

We got a special treat this last Monday. Our Happy 15 group got a behind-the-scenes tour of the conference center. It was really interesting! (They were already breaking down the stage to prepare for the Christmas Devotional.) Plus we got to see the area where they do language interpretation. Amazing!  They interpret 94 different languages for every General Conference. And they have more than one interpreter for each language, plus a back up in case there’s a problem. (A fulfillment of D&C 90:11)
You may not be able to see this well, but these are all the languages that are interpreted.

We were told that during one conference session a man collapsed and the paramedics were called, but the man only spoke Farsi. Someone went to the interpretation area to see if anyone there spoke Farsi so they could communicate with the man. (They thought he may have had a seizure.) The interpreter they went to said, “Yes, I speak Farsi and I can help. And, I'm also a trained seizure nurse.” So, she was not only able to help the paramedics understand the man, but, she could give them helpful information for his care. Truly, the hand of the Lord was there!

Once a month we have a mission conference, and this week we got to attend that. We love our mission presidency! They are wonderful! One of the messages this week was on guarding your “spiritual identity” just as much as you guard your personal identity. We need a “spiritual firewall” to protect us from the false messages of Satan. (All the ways Satan tries to make us believe we are less than we are.) We have God's DNA and its important to remember that.

On Friday we were delighted to be able to visit with some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. Ken and Judy Malone were in the area, and they met us for dinner. It was great fun to catch up with them and to hear about their family and their plans for the future.

And . . I forgot to mention this earlier, but, since we’ve been on our mission, we’ve learned that we like persimmons! J When I was a child someone gave me a persimmon, and it was very bitter, so my whole life, I thought I didn’t like them. Then, recently, one of the sisters we visit/home teach gave us one and it was delicious!! A happy discovery!

Very early Friday morning I happened to catch a "test" of all the Christmas lights on the trees around the conference center. It made me so happy to see them, and excited to anticipate being around Temple Square at Christmas time. . .

A Full and Happy Week

15 OCT 2016
Its been a very full week. Though most of it was spent working on our usual mission assignments, there were other good things, too.
On Wednesday, we mailed off our absentee ballots, and, we also got our flu shots. (So, as one nurse said, we’re now “winterized.”) J
We also got a big surprise on Wednesday when Bob was called as the new zone leader! I will be his assistant. We feel like we barely got here, and didn’t expect this. It won’t be announced for a few more days, but, the current zone leaders are ready to hand things off to us! This will be interesting. . .
Friday we got to take a couple of classes at the Family History Library. One of them was on finding land records to help with genealogy research. I found the land grant patent for the 154+ acres my Grandfather Wade homesteaded in New Mexico in 1911. It was really exciting to find that! (For some reason many of New Mexico’s records (land and otherwise) are not on line, so I was happy to find this in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management records.)
After we finished our work on Friday, we met up with some old friends we knew in Missouri – from the Rolla Ward (our first ward in the church – since we were in the Berlin Servicemen’s Branch for only eight or nine weeks after our baptism.) Bob Talbert was the first bishop we had, and he and his wife, Bobbye, were tremendously welcoming and kind to us, and helped us become stronger in the church. They are also the ones who drove us to Utah during spring break of 1973 - and were our escorts for our first time in the temple. It was wonderful to see them again! They treated us to dinner and also invited us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner. They live just south of Provo so we look forward to seeing them and some of their kids at Thanksgiving.
Then, having already had a wonderfully full day, we ended Friday by attending the fall concert of The Orchestra at Temple Square. It was fabulous! Wow! Loved it!
Every Saturday since we've been here, we've had errands to run, but, today we get to stay home and just rest. Case in point, at 11:30 a.m. I'm still in my pajamas. Aaaahhhhh.
I did manage to go online this morning and snag a couple of tickets for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert, which will be fun. They're not fabulous seats, but that's okay. We're looking forward to attending that in December.

More Mission Happenings

9 Oct 2016

As I write this, our hearts are drawn out to everyone affected by Hurricane Matthew. And, we’re especially praying for all our family and friends in North Carolina. Hope they are all safe and sheltered from the storm. 
We attended a wonderful dinner last night at our stake center. Our RS put on an international dinner. We have a lot of people here from other countries, so it was truly authentic foods from 13 different countries. I helped a sister from Armenia with some of her food prep and setting up. I also enjoyed getting to know her. She is Sister Zohrabyan and her mission assignment involves writing software for the Family History Library that is specific to research in Armenia.               

​Sister Zohrabyan with her son (who lives in Orem)
and all the beautiful food she made.

When I’m not auditing or scanning for the mission, I am often working on my own family history research. I’ve truly come to appreciate (more than ever) the work being done by indexers, everywhere. From time to time, in recent years, I have kind of dabbled with indexing because I thought it was a good thing to do. Until I came here, though, I really didn’t GET the need, and the urgency, for doing indexing. Of the millions and millions of records in the Family History Library, (and more are added every day) only about 30% have been indexed. 30%!!

When records are indexed they are easily searchable, and it makes the research go w-a-a-a-y faster. Without the indexing, once you locate a record, you have to go through the labor-intensive task of scrolling through every single page in hopes of finding what you’re looking for. I am SO grateful for indexers!!

This past Wednesday, we had our first “up-close” apostle sighting. We were on our way to lunch and passed Elder Bednar, in the hall, in conversation with a couple of other men (who were unknown to us).

Most days we have our lunch in the cafeteria located in the basement of the Church Office Building. One nice perk about that is that every day, we are serenaded by lovely piano tunes. The man who comes in each day to play for us is W. Herbert Klopfer, president of the Ensign 3rd branch (that’s the other branch in our mission. We’re in the Salt Lake 2nd branch.) 

Pres. Klopfer has a fascinating story. If any of you listen to the audio conversations on the Mormon Channel, you may have heard him tell it. He’s an amazingly accomplished musician and he and his wife co-wrote the hymn, “Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth.”

He was born in East Germany in 1935. His family lived in a small town in the southern part of E. Germany. When it was clear that WWII was about to break out, the Church pulled all of their American missionaries and personnel out of Germany, and Pres. Klopfer’s father, though only 28 years old, was made the mission president for all of East Germany. His father was also drafted into the German army shortly after that, so, he had to wear two very different hats during that time. His counselors in the mission presidency were both too old to be drafted, so, when he was deployed to other areas, he communicated with them by phone and letter to carry on the business of the mission. (There were full-time German sister-missionaries still serving.) 

Eventually, as the war progressed, his father was captured, and, the family later learned that he died in a camp in Russia. In 1950, when he was 15 years old, Pres. Klopfer, his mother and his younger brother, made a daring escape into West Berlin (traveling through Checkpoint Charlie.) After they were safely in the west, their family was sponsored so they could come to the U.S.

At one time Pres. Klopfer was stake president in the Salt Lake Stake, and was the stake president to three different prophets — Presidents Benson, Hunter and Hinckley. He visited each of them as he served in that calling. 

And now, he serves as the branch president for one of our missionary branches — and he plays the piano for everyone in the COB during lunch. With his talent, he could command audiences in some of the best concert halls there are, and, yet, he comes each day — though largely ignored among all the people moving about, the rattling of dishes, and the hum of many conversations — and he plays the piano to enrich our day! We are blessed by his service!

And, we feel blessed to be serving where we are.

General Conference, Oct 1 & 2

2 October 2016

We’ve been enjoying General Conference this weekend! Like Pres. Uchtdorf, I, too, am awed by our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness for us! When he referred to the motto of Belfast, “What shall we give in return for so much?” my heart was touched. We have truly been blessed!
When Elder Hales talked about “quiet, unheralded service” I thought how that can apply to everyone serving in our mission (and probably to all who serve in the church, really.) Most of what each of us do is done “behind the scenes” and yet is so important. 
And, I loved when Sis. McConkie pointed out that prayer involves all three members of the Godhead. It truly is a sacred gift from our loving Heavenly Father that we’re able to commune with Him in this manner! 
Bob and I drove up to Immigration Canyon after we finished our assignments on Friday and enjoyed seeing a little bit of fall color – but, it’s not like what you see in the NC mountains. Made us miss home a bit. We also stopped at the This Is The Place monument on the way back.
We’re going back there next weekend with our mission social group. We’ll all drive up the canyon, then, stop on the way back for a picnic lunch at the monument. Since there are 15 in our social group we’ve decided to call ourselves the Happy 15. We’re going to try to do something together at least once a month.
 I was reminded today of something the senior missionaries were told at the MTC. “A true "senior moment" is when we recognize we are here to give our all to the Lord.” We are aiming to give all that we can to help the Lord’s work move forward.
Also, we finished the Book of Mormon challenge for September (Mark all reference to the Savior and His atonement), and have begun reading it again, for the October challenge (Liken the scriptures unto ourselves).

First full week in our mission assignments

25 September 2016

So, we are finally getting settled into the mission and to our assignments. What Bob and I are primarily doing is called auditing. The section we’re assigned to is auditing periodicals (mostly genealogical publications that each focus on a different surname). These records have already been digitized and catalogued by others and we are one of the final steps before they become available on-line for research. We look at each entry to verify information and, if needed, made corrections or add descriptions that may help researchers. (Again, I’m reminded of the scripture that admonishes us to have records “worthy of all acceptation.”)
We work at terminals with two monitors so we can have the original doc up on one screen and review the information about it on the other screen. While there is, naturally, an element of the mundane in what we’re doing, I find that the spirit of it is a lot like doing family history research. There is joy in doing it.
I am also being trained in scanning. There is a push to complete the digitization of all paper records, so I’m helping with that.  The records I scanned and recorded this week were from the Philippines. 
They have plans for Bob to start doing some programming (in addition to auditing) next week. They seem delighted to have someone on board with his skills.
Another couple who came in with us is also assigned to audit records, but, they are doing visual audits of images being sent in from around the world. There are 56 different places in the world where records are being filmed and those films are sent in to Salt Lake for processing. Once they arrive, they’re reviewed for readability. Auditors don’t have to be able to read Chinese, or Latvian, etc., they just have to see that the image is clear, in focus, and legible. If any of the images need to be re-shot, they’re sent back for correction.
Until we got here, I had no idea of the scope of the work being done behind the scenes to provide us with the many records we have available to search. (And, of course, everyone who is indexing is helping with this work, too.)
On Friday, a couple in our area who are leaving the mission next month, gave us their tickets to the Saturday morning session of General Conference next week! They said they were able to go this past April, so they offered them to us. I'm so happy we get to be there, live, for at least one session! Also, Bob has a ticket for the Priesthood Session Saturday night.
Thursday evening and Friday morning we saw a big shift in the weather. (It was in the 80s on Wednesday but was 48 degrees by Friday. Friday morning we could see the snow on top of the mountains near us. (We were told there was 6”-8” on the mountain, though, in the valley we just got a cold rain.)
View from our little balcony.
We attended a free concert at the Assembly Hall Friday night. It was a husband and wife team who play piano duets. They were truly exceptional! Lovely evening,
I experienced my own special little miracle Saturday evening. I really wanted to be in the conference center for the Women’s Session of Conference, but, I didn’t have a ticket. Our Stake Relief Society had a pre-conference meal and social at the stake center across the street, so I went to that, prepared to watch the broadcast in the chapel. However, after we ate, I felt prompted that I should walk over to the conference center and I’d be able to get in. (I had heard that people without tickets can often get in, but, usually its to fill seats after the session has begun, so I was thinking I’d probably have to wait a while to get in.) When I got to the conference center, I walked up to a man with an official-looking badge near the ticket office. Just as I reached him, another sister approached him and asked, “If I have an extra ticket, would I give it to you?” He said, “Oh, no. It wouldn’t work to give it to me.” So, I said, “Actually, I came here in the hopes of getting a ticket. Would you be willing to give it to me?” She said, “Sure!” and handed me the ticket. I was able to go right in, and I even had a pretty good seat. (Not in the nosebleed sections) I was thrilled! It felt like the Lord had provided that ticket just for me. A real blessing!
When we came out on our mission, I think most people assumed we’d be serving in the Family History Library. However, of the 13 who were in our group, only one is at the library. Four of us are auditing digital images, three have been assigned to the temple records zone, and, one is in the World-Wide Security zone. (She answers queries from around the world that have been translated for her.) One couple, I’ve mentioned before, are working with International Translation Services. And, two sisters are assigned to help in the Mission Office. (Still, others keep leaving, and there are needs in every zone for more senior missionaries!)
Another little tidbit before I end: When we were at the concert Friday night, the couple who were sitting next to me, struck up a conversation, and it turns out that we know the same people in a couple of different states. It’s a small world in the church! This couple served a mission in Salem, Missouri (near Rolla) a few years ago, and a friend of ours was the branch president while they were there. And, then we learned that the wife’s sister is someone we know from Texas! As they were leaving, the man handed me a card. Turns out, his name is Clark Gable!  LOL!

We Have our Mission Assignments

18 September 2016
Its been another great week in what our mission president likes to call, “The Best Mission in the World!” :-)
We completed our training Friday morning, and during a special “Go Forth” meeting, in the chapel, right afterward, each of us new missionaries learned our mission assignment. Bob and I are assigned to serve in the Digital Imaging Processing zone of the mission. (Affectionately known as the DIP) We’ll be on the third floor of the Church Office Building (COB).  So, we’re serving in the DIP, in the COB. 
Church Office Building
We won’t know exactly what our tasks will be until tomorrow, but, we met our zone leaders, Elder and Sister Browning, and learned a little about this part of the mission. The good news is that we will be working Monday-Friday, 7:45 a.m. until 4 p.m., with Saturdays and Sundays off. We feel very blessed! Quite a few other full-time senior missionaries work evenings and some Saturdays, depending upon where they’re serving. Of the 1200 missionaries in our mission, most are senior missionaries. About 90 are young, full-time Elders, and others are part-time Church Service Missionaries. The Church Service Missionaries live locally and come in two or three days a week to help out.
I think I mentioned before that we start each day with a devotional, and Elder Chastain, one of our trainers, told us about something interesting during his devotional thought the other day. He said he and his wife served in this mission (in the Family History Library) four years ago. One day while they were in the library, a man, in his late 50s or early 60s, came in. He had driven from California because he had felt a strong impression that he needed to go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to find his family. He explained that when he was 16 years old he had become interested in the church and after taking the discussions he chose to be baptized. His mother, however, didn’t like his decision. She packed his clothes in a suitcase, handed it to him, and told him to get out and not come back. His siblings were not allowed to have contact with him and though he wrote home several times, he never received any response. (He learned later that his mother tore up all of his letters.) Just after he started talking, another man walked up and stood nearby, listening to his story. After he finished, the other man put his hand on his shoulder and said, “I am your brother.” (There was a joyful reunion!) It turned out that all of this man’s siblings had eventually joined the church and his brother was in the library that day doing research. He had been on the third floor when he felt strongly that he should go down to the second floor, but, he didn’t know why. He went down and that’s where he found his brother! 
And, the best thing is, these kind of events are not rare. They happen a lot, here. Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants our families to be together!
Another great thing from this week was the talk by our mission president, Pres. Tate, at our “Go Forth” meeting Friday. He said a few years ago he was serving as an area seventy, and was asked to accompany Elder David A. Bednar for the creation of a new stake and the calling of a new stake president. Elder Bednar taught him that Doctrine & Covenants, chapters 6-9, is the best place to go to learn about revelation. Pres. Tate pointed out and expounded on several verses for us and, then, told us how he and Elder Bednar had worked together in the selection of that stake president. It really was interesting and inspiring.
Pres. Tate assured us that the same process had been used in determining where each of us would serve. And, I feel confident that Bob and I have been assigned where we are most needed.
On Friday, after we all got our assignments, the mission presidency and their wives, all of us new missionaries and some of the trainers went to the temple together. The Salt Lake Temple is massive! (I only got lost twice, though!) And, it is amazingly beautiful!! I’m so glad we were able to go.
One scripture that has left a real impression on me this week is the latter part of verse 24 in D&C 128. It says, “Let us offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” The “worthy of all acceptation” part has really stayed with me — and helped reinforce for me the need for plenty of correct documentation and for including reasons for everything you do in
In this mission, we’re each given one day a month off that we can use for our own family history research and temple work. We love it! The Family History Library is just a couple of blocks down the street from us, and the temple is directly across from that. I doubt we’ll ever be anywhere else, again, where doing this work is more convenient! And, our better understanding of is making it easier than ever to find family and do the work. 
With Gen. Conference coming in just a couple of weeks, I found this photo of the conference center on-line. The building in the background, at the top of the photo, just right of center, is the apartment building we live in. (Although we’re on the 7th floor, on the back side of the bldg., and can’t see the conference center from our place, we walk out the front door on that side of the building every morning and cut across part of the (paved) conference center grounds to report to our mission assignments.) Thought you might like to see. (If we're able to snag any tickets for General Conference, all we have to do it walk across the street!)

The Mission Begins!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Monday, August 29 was our official start date at the MTC. We checked in at 10 a.m. to get our orientation package. From there they sent us to a few other places on campus for information, materials, etc. Then, after lunch, we had a large group meeting with all of the 73 senior missionaries at the MTC this week. We got an overview of the week's schedule and were divided into smaller districts for training. We were told that the average number of senior missionaries at the MTC in a given week is about 80, although sometimes it's over 100 and sometimes its below 40. (I thought the numbers would be at least twice that high.)
The whole week we were trained in Preach My Gospel. The first day we focused on our missionary purpose. (Invite others to come unto Christ!)
Following our afternoon training, Bob and I were set apart for our mission by Presiden Michael J. Bertasso, 1st counselor in the MTC presidency.
Elder and Sister Bertasso
(Since we left home so long before the beginning of our mission, our stake president didn't set us apart before we left. Instead, he arranged for us to be set apart after we got here.) The blessings we received as part of that setting apart were truly wonderful. It feels too sacred to talk about them, but, it was, by far, the best blessing I've ever received.
This is us, shortly after we were set apart.
After dinner, we got to see a fabulous video of a talk by Elder Bednar about the character of Christ. We were told it is only available at the MTC, otherwise, I'd get a copy so I could watch it again.
The rest of the week followed a similar schedule. It was mostly small group study and training in classrooms, with occasional large group meetings. All very inspiring.
On Tuesday night we got to hear from Elder Watkins of the 70 at the weekly MTC devotional for everyone at the MTC. There are 2,400 missionaries here this week, and when that many of us are singing together, it's awesome!!
During our Thursday training, focusing on the Holy Ghost, we saw another MTC exclusive video with Elder Bednar. Wonderful, wonderful talk. Fabulous. Again, I wish I could have a copy of it.
We did a lot of role playing during the week with other senior missionaries and it was helpful to have these experiences. I actually wish I could have had this kind of training way before this - I'd have been a MUCH better member missionary! (Of course, there's still time after the mission) :-)
Friday afternoon we drove to Salt Lake City to meet with some of the housing coordinators, etc for our mission, sign our lease, and get instructions for our first few days in the mission. Although there are only 12 new senior missionaries in our group, there are more than a thousand missionaries in this mission. In fact, I was surprised to learn that we are not under the missionary department. We're under the family history department - a mission unto itself.
Then we moved in! Oh, boy!!
We unloaded everything we had with us at the MTC and then went to get all the stuff we had in storage. I'm not sure how many trips it took for us to get everything inside, up the elevator and into the apartment. One nice thing was that members of our new branch (Salt Lake 2nd Branch) left us a goodie basket with a variety of food items and snacks. That was a sweet surprise.
Since we had a completely bare cupboard and refrigerator, we headed to the grocery store before we did much in the way of unpacking. Fortunately, the apartment building has some courtesy shopping carts that help get multiple shopping bags into our apartments. That helped!
Saturday we did more unpacking and also ran some errands to pick up a few things we don't have that we didn't think of or were too tired to get Friday night. (kitchen utensils, bath accessories, etc.) Its been a long time since I needed to think about getting some of these things.
We're mostly unpacked and organized now, but, I'm looking forward to having everything in place and getting into a routine. . .
Its a blessing to have this opportunity.
I forgot to say that when we had our meeting with some of the mission staff Friday afternoon, they had us move our name tags from the left shoulder to the right — because we're working for people who are on the other side. :-) Everyone in this mission wears them that way.