Historic Mission Changes

      23 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

When we had the special meeting this past Sunday (18 Dec 2016), and it was announced that our mission name will change from the Family and Church History Headquarters Mission to the Utah Salt Lake City Headquarters Mission — and, then, the changes in organization and structure were announced — I was impressed by the spirit of this change, and, with how right it feels. (Elder Craig C. Christensen of the presidency of the Seventy, presided, and President Warren G. Tate, our mission president, conducted the meeting.) Previously, we functioned independently from the Missionary Department, but, now, we’re under the Missionary Department ecclesiastically, (the newest and largest mission in the Church – though one of the smallest geographically) yet in our day-to-day endeavors most of us will still serve under the Family History and Church History Departments.

Part of this change will enable us to offer support to wards and branches in the area, as well as to provide community service in the inner city. (It feels like they’re preparing us to serve in the offices during the day and proselyte and give service on nights and weekends.)

On the stand were three members of the quorum of the 70, the three men in our mission presidency, each of the branch presidents (whose branches were dissolved as part of this change), and, the two stake presidents involved. (Those of us who are full-time missionaries will still attend church in two branches on Sundays, but now we aren’t part of any stake and our branch presidents are Pres. Larson and Pres. Hansen, the two counselors in the mission presidency.)

Our closing hymn at last Sunday’s meeting was “I’m trying to be like Jesus” and I was struck with how amazing it is to see a row of 10 strong leaders singing about being kind and gentle and loving, like the Savior. Where else but in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ would you see this?

Brochures were printed to explain the changes. Zone leaders will now play a larger ecclesiastical role in ministering to those serving in each of the 20 zones of the mission (especially to meet the needs of the single, senior, sister missionaries) – and the brochure lists each of the zones and zone leaders. So, Bob was named in the brochure as part of this historic change — as one of the zone leaders serving under President Hansen. (see below)

We also had our monthly mission conference this week, and, at the conference, they had us perform the small ceremony of officially moving our name tags from the right shoulder to the left – as all other missionaries wear them. Somehow, it felt bittersweet to do that. Ah, well. . . onward and upward!

This weekend we get to talk to most of our family. Looking forward to that!

Some Changes are Coming

December 16, 2016

It’s been a great week! We got to hear from some of the Quorum of the Seventy who are over Family History at a special Christmas devotional and luncheon. Elder Ian S. Arden and his wife (from New Zealand) showed us some slides of their family and of the beach near their home, where they will be spending Christmas. Then, Elder Erich W. Kopischke and his wife (from Germany) shared special Christmas memories, and a cute video of some of their family singing a carol (in German, of course). First though, Elder Kopischke said, “I know what Elder Arden was trying to do there. He was trying to make us all jealous [only he pronounced it yell-us] that he gets to spend Christmas at the beach! (It was fun to see their banter with each other.) Then, we also heard some special memories from Elder Bradley D. Foster and his wife. Elder Foster is over the Family History Department.

All the missionaries in our mission have been “invited” to a special meeting this Sunday (Dec 18). Elder Craig C. Christensen, one of the seven presidents of the Seventy, will be presiding. Our mission Presidency said “We can’t really say it’s mandatory, but, all full-time missionaries are expected to attend.” Of course, there are all sorts of rumors flying around about what might be announced at this meeting – so it will be interesting to learn what really is presented.

Currently, we are the only mission in the Church that is not under the Missionary Department. (We’re under the Family History Dept.) – so one rumor is that we’ll be moved under the Missionary Dept. . . Also, right now, we have two branches that meet on Sundays that are entirely composed of full-time missionaries. So, another rumor is that those two branches will be disbanded and all the missionaries will be scattered among the various wards in Salt Lake City. Plus, lots of other ideas are being batted around as well. It’s kind of funny to hear some of them. But, we shall see. . . A member of our mission presidency DID say that there are changes coming, and that they are the result of counsels and prayer among the Family History Dept., the Missionary Dept., the First Quorum of the Seventy, the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency.

Thursday night we went to a wedding reception about 30 miles south of SLC. It was for Ben Housley and his bride, Krysta Moss. We were in the Morrisville Ward with the Housleys several years ago – and it was fun to see them again! We also got to see Jordan Rawlings and Quinn Volpe, who were there!

Later tonight, Catherine Plautz is arriving and will spend a couple of nights with us. Her sweetheart’s mother is serving here in the same mission as us, and Cat and her beau are flying out so she and his mom can meet. Since we have an extra bedroom, Catherine is staying with us, and Derek will be at his mom’s. I think we’re all going to the temple tomorrow afternoon.

We also learned that LouAnn Brady’s brother is a patient at the Veteran’s Hospital here in SLC, and we have a goody box ready to take to him – hopefully, this weekend.

Last December, Bob had bariatric surgery, and while it has cured several health issues, nevertheless, I've been concerned about him for a while, now. This week he had his second endoscopy in as many weeks. He’s been having a really hard time eating anything, especially meats and vegetables, for several months now. (Has mostly been living on protein drinks, Greek yogurt and snack crackers.) He’s had frequent episodes where he would try to eat, but, after one or two bites, had to stop. He couldn’t eat and was miserably uncomfortable, yet, at the same time, couldn’t bring anything back up – it felt like any meat or vegetable he tried would get “stuck.” (even with lots and lots and lots of chewing to soften it.) He finally saw a Bariatric specialist in mid-November and that MD scheduled these two endoscopies to “stretch” the little bit of stomach Bob has, as well as the small intestine connected to it. When the first endoscopy was done, they discovered an ulcer, as well as the stricture, and between those two things, he was struggling to eat much of anything. He was given a prescription to help with the ulcer, and, with that, and the two “stretchings”, he seems to be doing much better. He actually ate most of a small hamburger for dinner yesterday! Hopefully, now, he will gain back some weight — because he’s gotten too thin. (i.e. He currently weighs what he did when he was 14, and a freshman in high school.)

On another note, I think I’ve discovered why so many of the women out here use hairspray. With this dry, cold weather, there is so much static electricity in the air that whenever I run a brush through my hair, it flies all over the place – and I look like I stuck my hand in a light socket!! (I think I need to put hair spray on my next shopping list.)

We are participating in giving gifts to some refugees in the area, so it’s fun to see a few presents under our little tree – for a few days, at least. We’ll deliver them to the refugee agency in the next day or two.

And, we look forward to visiting with family via Facetime on Christmas eve! Of course, the best part of Christmas is remembering the best gift of all - Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ!

Making Christmas Memories

10 December 2016

We LOVED President Eyring’s story (at the Christmas Devotional last Sunday) about their family acting out the Christmas story every year – and when the group got really big, they added Samuel the Lamanite, and the unbelieving crowd, who threw things at him! I laughed out loud at that!
( https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/christmas-devotional/2016/12/gifts-of-peace?lang=eng )

I’m remembering sweet photos from years past when our family acted out the Christmas story from Luke 2. . .

And, I am loving the mindfulness of participating in this year’s Christmas initiative to #LIGHTtheWORLD. 

Our son, John, also told us about a challenge one of his mission presidents gave when he was on his mission. The idea is to make a point, in every action we take between now and Christmas, to act for the benefit of another — to focus on giving, and to consider how, when we focus on giving, it affects how we act toward others. Then, at the end of each day, reflect upon how this way of acting helps us be more like Christ—and how it brings us closer to the Spirit. (And, then, record these experiences in your journal.)

I’ve decided to give this a try, along with the Light the World initiative.

This week, my oldest brother and his wife were here. I was on the phone with this brother a few weeks ago, and he said one thing he has always wanted was to be able to go to one of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts. I was surprised to hear this, but, I told him I happened to have been lucky enough to get two tickets for this year, and that I would give them to him if he wanted them. He declined at first because he didn’t want to take our seats, and said, “Maybe we can try for next year.” I talked to Bob and we agreed to give them our tickets, so, I emailed and encouraged him to take advantage of my offer, because there’s no guarantee that we’d get them next year. They drove up from New Mexico on Tuesday and have been seeing some of the sights in and around Salt Lake City. Last night they went to the concert. (And, of course, loved it!!)

In addition to that, at the office on Thursday, someone came to me and said she had two tickets for the MoTab Choir Concert for that night that she couldn’t use, and did I want them? I said, “Yes!” However, Bob was sick and didn’t feel well enough to go — and I was able to give them to two different missionaries in our zone. (Sister Filip, from Romania, and Sister Zohrabyan, who is here from Armenia.)

So, I’ve had four different tickets (opportunities) in my hands to attend this wonderful concert without being able to go myself. Yet, I feel such joy at being able to give them away! It feels like I was meant to get these tickets so that I could give them to others. It’s a great feeling!

Yesterday, Bob and I were allowed to take the day “off” and one of the things we did was take our guests to visit Welfare Square. My brother was really impressed to learn about all the different ways the Church provides assistance, both for Church members and for humanitarian aid. (Although he and his wife don’t attend any church, they are very generous and conscientious about giving to worthy causes.) It was a great tour!

God is Good!

This will just be a quick note – December is a busy month.

This past weekend, I was troubled about something, and, during our meetings on Sunday, the Lord spoke peace to my soul — and it's been a good week! 

I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, who knows us and loves us – and for the blessing of the Holy Ghost in my life!

Most importantly, I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. And, I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve in this mission, at this time. 

Our Heavenly Father’s plan is the Great Plan of Happiness! He loves each of us. He knows each of us. And, we each matter to Him!

How glorious that all people, everywhere, no matter when they lived, have the opportunity to receive the message of salvation! God is good.

Bob and I are looking forward to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional tomorrow night! Christmas-time is beautiful on Temple Square!!

Holidays are Here

25 November 2016

This Thanksgiving, Bob and I enjoyed spending the day with a wonderful family, the Talberts, whom we’ve known and loved for many years, but, haven’t seen most of them for a long time. We enjoyed the day immensely – even though we really missed being with our own family.

And, now, with thinking about Christmas, I love the Church’s Christmas initiative this year - for us to Light the World (#lighttheworld) this Christmas season. It’s truly inspired!
There’s a short video introducing it that is absolutely beautiful! I could watch it again and again.
The initiative is based on two scriptures: Christ said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) Later, He taught, "Ye are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14). 
Beginning with a worldwide day of service on December 1st, we’re encouraged to be a light to the world by following the example of Jesus Christ and serving others.
There’s even a small calendar we can download from Mormon.org with suggestions for ways to serve “25 Ways in 25 Days.”

After Thanksgiving, it didn’t take long to put up our few Christmas decorations. We got a free table-top tree at a swap shortly after we got here. Then, I made the “ornaments” for it – they’re pictures of each of our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren. At least they'll all be with us in photos this year. :-)
​I still need to make a star for the top, but, otherwise, it’s finished. 
Besides the tree, we have one nativity set, a couple of throw pillows, and something festive on the door, so we’re good to go!

We know we’re where we’re supposed to be, and there are many wonderful sights and activities all around us this year, but, we especially miss our family and friends at the holidays.

A Remarkable Week

19 November 2016
We had some remarkable experiences this week! 

On Tuesday morning we were given a rare opportunity to be among a relatively small group of people who got to sit in on a meeting of the five brethren (of the 70) who are over Family History in various parts of the world. (i.e. One brother is from New Zealand and he has stewardship over Australia, Asia and the South Pacific; one brother, from Germany, is over Europe and Africa; one brother, from Uruguay, is over Central and South America, etc.)
It was a one-hour meeting where they “counseled together” about the vision of the Family History Department. It was a regularly scheduled meeting for them, but, Bro. Rockwood, who is the staff member over the Family History Department who reports directly to the First Presidency, arranged to have some of us be there so we could observe, and begin to catch the vision ourselves. 
I’m realizing as I write this that I wanted to share more details, but I left my notes from this meeting in my desk at the Church Office Building. :-/ 
It was a wonderful meeting, however – and I left filled with the Spirit of Elijah. It was an honor to see how these good men serve together to accomplish the Lord’s work.

I also donated blood on Tuesday and the intake nurse made me smile. When she asked my birthdate, and realized it was just the day before, she said, “If anyone asks what you did to celebrate your birthday, just tell them – ‘Oh, I saved lives.’” :-)

On Wednesday night we heard an inspiring story from Sister Phillips, who is serving here in the Family History Library. She wrote a book a couple of years ago about a tragedy that happened in her family in 2013. Yet, her telling of it was remarkably uplifting. (She lost five members of her family in a plane crash in a remote area of Northern Idaho that December.) 
Her book tells about the 41 days it took them to discover the plane after it went down, and of all the many, many strangers who just showed up and offered help. Someone gave them lodging near the search area, others with planes, and even a helicopter, showed up to volunteer with the air search (during the few days the weather was clear enough for one.) Someone else set up a website so that other volunteers who were searching satellite images could post their findings for everyone to see. They were in such a remote area there was no cell or internet reception, making communication difficult - and another stranger showed up with a device that enabled them to receive these services. One man drove from California with his large snowcat! That piece of equipment is what eventually helped them get close enough to find the crash site. (Of course, much of the searching still had to be done on foot – in deep snow.) They didn't know any of these people beforehand, and yet, they all just came and helped. It was amazing! And, I’m so impressed with the strength, the faith, and the testimony of Sister Phillips and her family!

Thursday we had a wonderful session in the temple. I love this temple!!

Friday, we got three new full-time missionaries in our zone. (Bob and I are zone leaders over the Digital Imaging Processing Zone) We currently have 36 missionaries in our zone (20 full-time, and 16 part-time, church-service missionaries) and there's pretty much a constant flow of people leaving and others arriving. We've had several leave since we got here, so were really glad to get these three!

And, we got some fun news this week that we'll have company soon – my oldest brother and his wife are going to drive up from New Mexico in early December and stay a few days. We’re looking forward to their visit!

OH! We also got tickets to attend the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional. I’m excited! We've been so blessed!

Beautiful Zion

12 November 2016
The other day, I needed to walk over to the Family History Library and on the way I captured this shot of the sun lighting the top of the temple. I love seeing this temple every day!! (And, knowing that it is only a 5 minute walk from where we live!!!) What a blessing!
And, although crews have been hanging Christmas lights on trees and shrubbery all around Temple Square since August, I wasn’t quite prepared for the fully decorated tree that appeared in the lobby of the Church Office Building on November 1st. (It is beautiful, though)
Once a month we're encouraged to take a whole day “off” so we can work on our own family history and take names to the temple. We are allowed to travel within a 60 mile radius of the mission, so that includes 10 different temples. We mostly attend the Salt Lake Temple because it’s so convenient, but we hope to attend all of them, eventually. When we first got to the MTC in late August, we attended the Provo City Center Temple. And, yesterday, we went to the Bountiful Temple. It was lovely!
(Bountiful Temple)
We feel blessed to be able to serve where we are, and, to serve with all of the wonderful people here! It’s a great place! 

And, finally, this week, I got my hair cut — and even treated myself to having it professionally colored. (I usually color it myself.) The color is a bit darker than I typically have it, but I like it!
I also ordered some new glasses, and can hardly wait for them to come in! Generally, I'm not a fan of selfies (at least, not my own) but since I turn 68 in a couple of days, I decided I may as well document it. Here's to birthdays!! May we all have lots of them! :-)  (And, at my age, I'm happy to say that I'm still flexible enough to touch my toes.) Heavenly Father has blessed me in so many ways!!

People We've Met

5 Nov 2016

Most mornings we start our day with a short devotional time (15 min) with just the 30+ missionaries who are assigned to our zone.  (Song, scripture, inspirational message and prayer)

However, on Monday mornings, we have a one-hour, mission-wide devotional. During this time we usually hear from several different missionaries. They take a few minutes each to tell us about themselves and share their testimonies. 

I’m always impressed by what a diverse group we’re in!! There are senior missionaries here from Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, Japan, Cuba, Canada, American Samoa, Russia, Armenia, and more — as well as from all across the continental U.S. And, their backgrounds are just as diverse as their locations. 

- One sister told us that she got her pilot license before she turned 15! 

- One elder was the mayor of his town before coming out.

- We loved meeting one sister who is here from Brisbane, Australia. 

- One couple we know — both served as EMTs before their mission.

- Another sister said she’d never been outside Missouri until she came on this mission! 

- I loved the story one sister told who is an adult convert. She said she had always been what she described as “spiritually curious.” She remembered that when she was about 6 or 7 years old, she asked her mother if she was sure they were in the right church. It was years later before she understood why her mother got so upset with her question and told her never to ask such a question again. Her father was a Lutheran minister! LOL. 

- And, finally, though there are many stories, I was touched by something one sister shared. She said she and her husband had 8 children, and the budget was always tight, so buying life insurance was just something they always put off. However, one week, day after day, they kept getting flyers in the mail advertising life insurance. After a few days, she thought, “Maybe the Lord is trying to tell me something.” So, she prayed about it and asked Heavenly Father if they should buy a life insurance policy for her husband. The answer she got was an immediate and emphatic, “Yes.” Then, because the answer was so strong, she asked if her husband was going to die. This answer was also “yes” but, she said it almost felt like the heavens opened to her and she was surprised because she wasn’t sad or upset, but was happy for her husband for what he was going to experience. (She said it felt weird and wrong to feel happy when you find out your husband is going to die. – which, of course, it would.) The other part of the revelation was that she was told she was not allowed to tell her husband. So, she moved forward from there, not having any idea how long he would live, but, making the most of what time they had left. He lived for one year after she received that revelation. And, she expressed her profound gratitude that the Lord gave her that knowledge ahead of time and gave them that year together. (A rare gift!)

Of course, we hear from the young elders, too. Since all of them (in our mission) struggle with some type of disability, it is very sweet to hear their testimonies. We especially enjoyed hearing from Elder James Stephens (great-nephew of our former stake patriarch) who is here from NC. He shared a remarkable testimony.

A lot of the senior missionaries we serve with are close in age to us, though some are older. Some must deal with varying states of health. A few have physical limitations such as having to use a cane or even a motorized chair to get around, and, yet, they are here. It is inspiring to see the cheerful service they render in spite of the challenges. 

Its Been a Full Week

This past weekend was our stake conference and we were presented with the prophetic vision for each of us to: “Become, and help others to become true followers of Jesus Christ and enjoy the blessings of the holy temple.” 

What great meetings we had! 

On Saturday night, one member of the stake presidency quoted from Pres. Henry B. Eyring, who said, “As good as you are, you can operate on a higher spiritual level . . . to do this we need the Lord’s help, . . .and, Heavenly Father, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, are standing by saying, “Please, please let us help.” “

At our Sunday morning conference session, two of the speakers were Pam and Richard Norby. Brother Norby was the senior missionary who was with the two young Elders and one sister missionary in the Brussels airport when it was bombed this past March.

They both spoke softly about that experience; yet, their testimonies were very powerful! Sister Norby spoke of how she knew she had to turn her heart over to the Lord – and when she did, He strengthened her and helped her through. She spoke of the miraculous healings that have taken place for her husband and for the other missionaries.

Brother Norby still has difficulties with his legs, and though he could carefully walk to the podium unassisted and stand and speak to us, he did mention that he often uses a wheelchair. He spoke of the overwhelming peace he felt after the bombing and also of the great love he felt for the Savior as he laid in the airport waiting for someone to come help him. (He had tried to move but his leg was broken and much of the soft tissue destroyed.) The three young missionaries found him and one of the Elders gave him a blessing before other help came.

He talked about how, in the Book of Mormon, the theme for Laman and Lemuel was always, “This is a hard thing you ask of us . . .” - while for Nephi, the theme was, “I will go and do” -- It wasn’t I will go and know – because he didn’t know how he would do what he was asked to do – he just set out to do what the Lord commanded, and discovered the way as he went along. Bro. Norby referred to Nephi’s way as having 20/20 “foresight” – trusting in the Lord’s vision for the future.

He said he knows that the Lord comes to the rescue . . .we just have to hold on and trust in His ways and His timing.

Bro. Norby will carry the scars and other effects of the bombing for the rest of his life, but, he said, “When I look at the scars, I am reminded of my Savior’s love for me.” “Because of Him, I am not a victim, I am a survivor.”

I was deeply touched by their testimonies.

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!