We, as a house at 1260, have decided to share some of our experiences that we have had with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Once a week we will write about an experience that we have had concerning a gospel topic that will change each week. Since most of us were blessed to be missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a lot of the stories will stem from our experiences there; however, not all stories will be from the mission. We all have had great and awesome experiences with the gospel, and we hope this will help our friends and family if they ever find themselves in need of a spiritual boost.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Priesthood power in Italy
                In Italy I learned a great deal about the importance and power of the Priesthood. I should state that we in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe that the power and authority that Jesus’ apostles held was lost during a period of apostasy and spiritual darkness during the centuries after Christ’s ministry and life. We recognize the importance of the priesthood that these ancient apostles carried, which qualified them to do the Lord’s work here on earth. We also believe that this priesthood power was restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith.
                The priesthood is the power and authority of God that is given to men to act in God’s name and carry our His will. It is a most sacred and awesome responsibility. The priesthood is for the bettering and blessing of the lives of those around us. Experience and great knowledge are not requirements for holding the priesthood. Instead personal worthiness and a willingness to serve are what the Lord desires of His servants. After all, Peter was relatively inexperienced in all things except the fishing of fish; yet the Savior called him to a very prominent position in his church to lead others and to be a fisher of men. Herein lays the beauty of our Father in Heaven’s great plan for each of His children. He takes the weak and dull things of the world, polishes and strengthens them such that little by little great and marvelous works can come to pass.
                As missionaries, we were very inexperienced and raw in contrast to other individuals who spend a lifetime studying theology and other religious matters. But we held the authority and priesthood of the one true God, and in His hands we were able to accomplish many mighty miracles. It was my great honor and privilege to be able to bless the lives of many individuals who sought the guidance and comfort that only a priesthood blessing can bring. Before living in Italy as a missionary I had had very little experience with giving priesthood blessings, but as I stated before experience is not a requirement for priesthood service. The Lord requires only a willing heart and contrite spirit. I have felt many times the love of my Father in Heaven as I have spoken words of comfort and guidance that were not mine, but rather were His. It was my great opportunity to help those in need feel the love that our Father in Heaven has for each of His children and receive answers to their prayers. These experiences blessed my own life as much if not more than the lives of those who came to us in search of help and aid. I believe that there are few joys that can match the joy associated with being an instrument in the Lord’s hands as he takes you and shapes to you attain his righteous and just objectives.
                This is the true nature of the priesthood, the actions of humble righteous men wherein the pure love of Christ is infused into the lives of those who most need it. I am grateful for having grown up with a worthy priesthood holder in my family, namely my own father. And I hope that all those who have been given the responsibility and commission of holding the Lord’s priesthood do everything in their power to bless and uplift those around them.
                                                                                                                                                                       Bradley Zentgraf

Priesthood Power in Switzerland
                The Priesthood is one of the key things that make our church different than any other church on the earth.  The Priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name.  It is what allows us to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; it allows us also give the Gift of the Holy Ghost to those individuals who are baptized- the baptism by water followed by the baptism by fire.  There are countless other things that we are able to do with the Priesthood.  Heal the sick, administrate in the church, perform ordinances, seal covenants, etc.  Anything that needs to be done with heaven’s approval is performed with the Priesthood. 
                On my mission I gained a stronger testimony of the greatness of the Priesthood.  We as missionaries were asked many times to give blessings of comfort, and even times we were asked to bless the sick.  I saw miracles performed with the Priesthood.  I would also ask my mission President on occasion to give me a blessing of comfort and guidance, and I knew that there was authority in those blessings. 
                So, why is the Priesthood something that makes our church different than all others? Well, in a nutshell, and if I may be so bold, we are the only church with the proper authority and real Priesthood on the earth.  Here’s a quick overview of why.  When Jesus was on the earth, I think we all agree that He holds the Priesthood; we could even say that He is the Priesthood.  While on the earth he performed miracles, organized His church by calling apostles and other leaders, and he performed the Atonement (the most important event in the history of mankind).  After Christ was crucified, the only ones who held the Priesthood after him were the apostles to whom Jesus himself gave this authority.  These apostles then died off one by one until there were no longer apostles on the earth and no one else on earth who held this sacred authority.  A couple hundred years later, the Catholic church was organized on the claim that Peter had given this Priesthood to one person in Rome- however with the couple hundred year gap between the organization and death of the head apostle Peter, I don’t know how that would have happened.  The Catholic Church stood as the only Christian church on earth for hundreds of years, and after a while branches started coming off of the Catholic Church; the Protestants, Evangelical, Church of England, etc.  With these churches all coming from the Catholic Church, their authority and Priesthood of these churches cannot trump the authority of the church from which it branched off.  These branches are no more than different ideas, concepts, doctrines, and interpretations of Holy Scripture. 
                Priesthood authority comes from the laying on of hands. This is how Jesus Christ himself gave the apostles this authority.  Authority does not come from studying and reading the Holy Bible and other Holy Scriptures, if this was the case, why didn’t the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees have this authority of God when their entire lives were dedicated to the study of Holy Writings?  How could Adam, Noah, and Moses have this authority without much Holy Scripture?  God gives this authority to those worthy by the direct laying on of hands. 
                Our claim in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that this Priesthood authority was restored, or brought back into its original form from its original source, through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Joseph Smith received this Priesthood from John the Baptist who appeared to him as a resurrected being and gave him by the laying on of hands the Aaronic, or lesser, Priesthood which gave him the authority to baptize.  Later on, the apostles Peter, James and John appeared to the young Prophet and restored in the same manner with the laying on of hands, the Melchesidek, or higher, Priesthood.  We do not branch off from any other church.  This church was created and organized totally separate, because our authority comes from the source itself. 
                Don’t get me wrong, the other churches are great and fantastic. They teach to love your neighbors, and treat others with kindness.  They teach that God exists and the Jesus Christ is the Savior.  There is some truth in all churches.  One of the things lacking in these churches is this Priesthood, or authority to act in God’s name to be able to perform the saving ordinances such as baptism and others. I love this Gospel. I love the church and the blessing I have had to have the priesthood in my life.  This is the true church of Jesus Christ because we have the true authority to act in His name.  
Ryan Hutchings

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Prayer Lessons from Italy
                “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
                As missionaries we would often invite those we met to pray about our message and ask God whether it was true. We knew that if individuals would ask God with an open heart, with sincerity, and with real intent to act on the response that God would invariably give to these seekers of truth, that answers would come through the power of the Holy Ghost. We were so sure in our convictions that answers would come because we ourselves had prayed about such things as the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the gospel by the prophet Joseph Smith, etc. We had felt and seen the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and knew that others could taste and experience the joy associated with communicating with our Father in Heaven and receiving answers to our prayers.
                If God has promised us answers to our prayers, then why is it so hard to recognize answers when they come? And why is it that people don’t readily pray to our Father in Heaven? God has given us everything we have. He loves us more than we can imagine and wants desperately to hear our deepest desires, our fears, and our thoughts. Yet we don’t pray to God because we’re “too busy” or just don’t see it as a high priority. I myself am guilty of this. I find myself at the end of the day thinking to myself “oh, I should pray, but…” and I rationalize away the need to pray. And even if I do pray, it is often difficult to not fall into a somewhat scripted and repetitious prayer of “thank you for this day…for all my many blessings…” etc. Sincerity and thought are required for meaningful communication with God. If we want to have a spiritual experience and receive guidance when praying we have to prepare ourselves.
                I suppose this is why many people that we talked with either didn’t pray when we invited them to do so or didn’t receive definitive answers when they did pray. Many people in the world today have a very vague definition of prayer. Prayer takes effort and practice. And if we are not praying regularly we can easily lose touch with the spirit and find it hard to recognize answers when they come.
                As we learn the true relationship with which we stand before God, namely that God is our Father, and we are his children, then prayer becomes natural and instinctive. We will long for the opportunity to go to our Father in Heaven and pour out our souls to Him. Many of the so-called difficulties associated with prayer will disappear as we better understand our relationship with God, the Father. It is through prayer that we become more united with God and learn what He has in store for us, his precious children. It is the means by which we can obtain the highest and most choice blessings that God would give us. It is the means by which we “may come off conqueror; yea, that [we] may conquer Satan, and that [we] may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” (D&C 10:5)
                I extend the following invite to myself and to whoever may read this post: that we strive to communicate with our Father in Heaven on a daily basis through prayer that we may become closer to God and receive all the guidance and blessings that He would give unto us.
-Bradley Zentgraf
Prayer Lessons from Switzerland 
                One thing that missionaries do a lot is pray.  I remember counting and we would pray somewhere around 15-20 times a day, depending on the number of lessons that were taught that day. Prayer is an important part of drawing nearer to our Heavenly Father and it is one of the first principles that we taught as missionaries.  We wanted those that we taught to start to build that relationship with God as soon as possible.  Some of my favorite moments were listening to someone’s first prayer because it was a huge step for some people.  A lot of people that we taught had never really prayed before. 
                Not only does prayer bring us closer to our loving Father in Heaven, but it is also the main way that we gain revelation, or answers to our questions.  Our faithful readers might realize that a lot of the stories that we have shared have a prayer tied to the story.  Whether it was a prayer from people wanting to know if they should be baptized, or a whole mission fasting and praying for a father’s heart to be softened so his son could be baptized- prayer happens often!  There were numerous times on the mission when we needed guidance as missionaries.  We needed to know what to teach those whom we were teaching. We also needed to know where to go or what to do to find people to teach.  Prayer was always the answer to start moving us in the right direction. 
                Prayer also is a great source of strength.  When we would help those who were overcoming addictions such as smoking or alcohol, they would often go to pray as a source for strength.  It brings a comfort to one’s heart to help them get through the rough times in life (we all have those). 
                Prayer truly is the way that I have gained a testimony of this Gospel.  It is the way that I have gained a relationship with our Father in Heaven.  Prayers are always answered; maybe not at the time you expect, or in the way that you would anticipate but the Lord always answers a sincere prayer. Always.   If you haven’t had an experience with prayer recently, HAVE ONE! Get on your knees and start talking to God.  He’ll listen. 
-Ryan Hutchings

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Hope of Italy
                The word hope is sometime misunderstood. In our everyday language, the word often has a hint of uncertainty. For example, we may say that we hope for a change in the weather or for a visit from a friend. I’ve noticed that “hope” often has a weak and wavering connotation. We hope for good things to happen to us, but we rarely are ready or willing to put in the work to see the success that we “hope” for. We hope that things will be handed to us on a silver platter, that we will “win the lottery” so to speak and then things will be all right. I am guilty of this myself. In Italy most of our time was spent trying to find people who would listen to our message. We generally tried to find people by talking with whoever we could find on buses, streets, and knocking doors. I “hoped” that someone would take pity on us and listen to our message. However, experience taught me that this was rarely the case. It was hard to be hopeful and positive in these circumstances.
                In the language of the gospel, however, the word hose is sure, unwavering, and active. Prophets speak of having a “firm hope” (Alma 34:41) and a “lively hope” (1 Peter 1:3). The prophet Moroni taught, “Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4).
                I can honestly say that I have experienced this kind of hope. I felt it most often while teaching people about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the love our Father in Heaven has for us. As I testified to the Italian people who sat down with us and read the scriptures with them, I did feel hopeful. I was hopeful (in this more traditional sense that is often associated with “wishfulness”) that they would listen to my testimony and recognize it as truth. But I also had hope that was more like a sure knowledge that if they would listen with an open heart and pray sincerely about the things that I was teaching them that they would receive an answer that confirmed that what I was saying was truth.
                I pray that we can be more hopeful in our everyday lives. That we can set attainable goals that push us and hopefully seek after these righteous desires that we have. 
-Brad Zentgraf

Hope of Swtizerland
                Hope is such a key aspect in life that it’s hard to pick out just one story, especially from the mission, about hope.  One can hope for many things and missionaries had some strange hopes. I hoped for mail and in said mail I hoped that I would find cookies or some other delectable surprise. I hoped for investigators to progress.  I hoped to find families to teach. I hoped to be transferred to certain areas due to landscape, ward, amount of investigators, and companions.  I remember many times hoping to catch the train or bus on time to avoid a few kilometer walk to our next appointment. Every day I would find myself hoping for something new. 
                What I learned about hope on the mission is that it is definitely a motivation to get out the door and to go to work.  The book of Ether explains that hope is “an anchor to the soul.”  It is an anchor because it keeps us in place. It keeps our eyes focused on the things that matter most.  Hope truly is a motivation; not only in the gospel aspect of things, but in everyday life.  You usually don’t do something without hoping for a certain outcome.  One studies for hours on end in the hopes of doing well on a test or assignment. One applies for countless jobs in the hopes of gaining employment.  One gets up and tries again after failing in the hopes of one day being able to succeed.  One follows the commandments of God in hopes of pleasing our loving Heavenly Father. 
                I felt that Satan tried hard and many times to shatter my hopes during my mission.  Even the devil realizes that if you take the hope away from an individual, that individual will more than likely not accomplish anything! No work will get done without hope.  Sometimes, the only thing that kept me going out in the mission field was a hope that I was pleasing the Lord, and at times I could feel Satan try to take that hope away from me. 
                Always keep a hope for a brighter and better world.  Always keep your hopes alive that your dreams will one day become a reality.  Have a hope that the Lord does love you and wants the best for you in life.  If you’re going through a trial, keep the hope that better times are just around the corner.  
-Ryan Hutchings

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity in Italy
                One of the most difficult things that I had to overcome while living in Italy was actually learning how to speak Italian. In high school I had become pretty proficient at speaking German, and I must admit that I thought Italian would be just as easy. But in the first 3 months of my missionary service, the Italian language still eluded me. I studied hard every day trying to learn new words and correct grammar. But it seemed that the harder I tried the worse I became. I couldn’t really express myself in a coherent way, and it was even more difficult for me to understand things that were said to me. Every sentence that I heard sounded like one really long word. The worst part was that on Sundays when I would go to church (a place where I should have been able to at least recognize some of the vocabulary) I was just as lost as I always was.
                It was almost too much to take. I wasn’t used to having my honest efforts not be rewarded with success. I remember thinking that my best just didn’t seem like enough. It was then that I realized I need help. I began to pray earnestly for help and strength to overcome this trial. I still worked just as hard to try and improve my language skills, but I slowly began to notice that there seemed to be some tiny improvements in my capabilities. I began to start to kind of recognize some words. But it still wasn’t enough. I still was met with adversity and became depressed and frustrated when I couldn’t communicate with people.
                One night it became too much for me to bear. That night I knelt down and poured out my soul to my Father in heaven asking for help. I had worked so hard and had yet to see significant results. All I wanted to do was understand the people we were trying to teach and help them overcome their problems.
                The next day we were at church in the middle a lesson and I remember that one of the church members stood up to read a quote. Inexplicably as the quote was read I understood every single word. I was filled with joy. I turned to my colleague and said, “Did you hear that? That was a great quote!” He looked at me confused (because of course he had understood what was read). For me this had been a modern miracle. I had understood and entire sentence of Italian and it felt great.
                This is exactly what I had needed. I needed to see a modicum of success. Something that showed me that what I was doing was working. I know our Heavenly Father cares about each of us and is aware of our struggles and difficulties. He knows what we need to do to grow and just what we are capable of becoming. He loves us and for this reason we are allowed to face and overcome adversity.  
-Bradley Zentgraf
Overcoming adversity in Switzerland
                One great example of overcoming adversity that I witnessed on my mission was from one of my favorite families- the Kargbo family.  I’ve mentioned them a few times in these posts, but just a reminder they are the family that I had the privilege of seeing baptized in my first area of Winterthur.  They were a family that escaped from Sierra Leone to Liberia and then onto Switzerland where I found them.  They had amazing faith, and they were great examples to me.  Even while we were still teaching them they would bring their friends to appointments to be taught as well.  I remember some lessons where they would start teaching and bearing testimony to their friends about principles such as fasting or the Book of Mormon.  They were, and are, a tremendous family.
                That family went through quite a bit of adversity before and after their baptism.  I don’t remember everything that happened to them, but I remember that we would receive a phone call from them a couple of times a week because they were struggling.  Most of their struggles had to do with their family that was still down in Africa.  Shortly after their baptism, they got a phone call saying that Margaret’s brother was killed.  That was a hard night for all of us, but especially Margaret.  We went over to give her a blessing, and it helped a little bit; but those are rough situations. 
                I remember a couple weeks after their baptism, one day after church we were walking with the Kargbo family and I was talking with Augustine.  He was telling me of some of the trials they were going through. He would mention temptation to smoke, temptation not to go to church, and all of the stuff going on with their family down in Africa and he seemed to be feeling a little down.  He told me that it was hard, but that it was worth it if they were on the right path.  I was able to bare testimony about enduring to the end, and the blessings that come from it. 
                A few weeks after that, I was talking to him again, and he was telling me about how good he felt about having been baptized, and that they were living the gospel.  He said that he had never been happier.  That family had great faith that led them through the trials that they were having.  A great scripture is in the Book of Mormon, found in the book of Ether chapter 12 verse 6 where it says, “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”  Our faith will be tested. We will be required to do things that seem hard, or that seem difficult.  But if we endure to the end, I promise that the blessings that we receive are worth more than the price that we pay while going through our trials.  The Kargbo family was a great example to me about overcoming adversity and sticking through it.  

-Ryan Hutchings

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Awesome Fasting Experience in Italy
                While living in Bolzano, a small city tucked between the beautiful Italian Alps, I had an amazing experience with fasting. There was a long time, older member who had fallen ill with terminal cancer. This man had lived an exceptional life full of service and love for his fellow man. He had lived a Christ-like life and been an example to many around him. It was sad and unfortunate that such an amazing individual would have such a trial in his life. The entire ward loved this man and their deepest desire was to receive a miracle that would spare this man his life.
                This man received many priesthood blessings from his sons and church leaders asking fervently for increased health and strength, but then one day a suggestion was brought forward from the congregation that we should fast for this brother’s recovery. It was decided that for a period of two weeks the members of the ward would fast, one person or family each taking the responsibility for fasting for one day. This was a wonderful idea. The members of the church in Bolzano were all unified in this cause. Each day my thoughts fell upon the person for whom we were fasting and also upon the person who was sacrificing for their brother and friend. The day that my missionary colleague and I had volunteered to fast turned out to be a blistering hot day. But we were stalwart in our desire to fast and pray for our brother and friend who had given so much to serve his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My heart was continually filled with a silent prayer for this man. And it seemed that every spare moment that we rested from our proselyting work that day I couldn’t help but think about how I might be able to help this man who was in such great need of assistance. It was a very powerful experience to be so focused on helping someone else, and I could feel the love and compassion that the entire congregation had for this individual. We ended our fast after the 2 week period and left the rest up to the Lord.
                Shortly thereafter I left Bolzano to go live in another city in Italy. But several months later I met up with my colleague who had served in Bolzano with me and he recounted the amazing story of how this man had stood up in front of the members of the church one Sunday and informed them all that his doctors had discovered that his cancer was in remission. It was a mystery to these medical experts as to what had exactly happened. Inexplicably this man’s cancer had gone away.
                I was grateful to the Lord for letting me here the stunning conclusion to this story involving fasting. And I was especially grateful for the faith and prayers of all of the members of the church that carried such power and had helped save the life of such an inspiring man.
                                                                                                                                         -Bradley Zentgraf

The Power and Effectiveness of Fasting
                To be completely honest I can’t remember any particular stories that were “ensign worthy” about fasting.  Never did I fast for someone to pop up out of the blue as a new investigator and say that they wanted to be baptized which later came to fruition. My experiences with fasting were more of experiences that everyone usually experiences with fasting.  I do have a testimony of fasting. It works. It shows the Lord that we are willing to sacrifice a lot for an answer, or an extra need of strength.  There were many times on the mission were I needed a boost of strength, and fasting and prayer did the trick.  I remember a few times specifically where we had had bad weeks with teaching, and I didn’t have a lot of hope.  In these times I would turn to fasting, prayer and scripture study.  Every time, I would feel the extra strength and hope that I needed to get me through the challenges that I was going through. Fasting is also a way that one can gain a testimony of Jesus Christ and the truth.  This is a huge principle that has helped me with my own testimony.  I have had great experiences with prayer, but I feel that the moments where I was asking and desiring to know of the truthfulness of this gospel, my most firm answers came while I was fasting for the truth.  I know that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ because of prayer and fasting, and I have felt the Holy Ghost bear testimony to me that Christ lives, and that this is His church- led by a living prophet of God.  I hope that we can all fast and pray more fervently in our everyday lives to find the truth, and draw nearer to our loving Heavenly Father.
-Ryan Hutchings

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Perseverance/ Enduring to the End

Persevering in Italy
                Most days in Italy we didn’t have a single appointment on our schedule. During these days we had a lot of opportunities to learn about ourselves and about persevering.
                It would have been so easy to get depressed and throw a pity party for ourselves since we didn’t have an appointment. Our lack of success and teaching could have been a source of contention and argument between me and my missionary colleagues. It would have been so easy to bend the rules and leave the apartment late in the morning or return home early. I remember how difficult it was to summon all the positivity and strength I had on a daily basis to overcome these setbacks and persevere, hoping that blessing would come and things would get better.
                Often times we didn’t see and tangible results from our persevering. I remember returning to our apartment at night on time, thinking, “Well, the only thing we accomplished in those last 45 minutes was get closer to hypothermia than we were yesterday!” But looking back on these tough and trying times I think that in addition to finding the frostbite thresholds of my body, I was taught about and learned better work ethic and character. These trials shaped my personality. They made me into the person I am today. 
-Bradley Zentgraf

           Enduring to the End in Switzerland
            When I was in my 5th transfer in the field, or about 7 months I was emergency transferred from a city in southern Germany called Freiburg, to a small town in Switzerland about 10 km away from my first area, where I would become senior companion; the town was called Frauenfeld.  I was pretty excited to go back to that area of the country.  I knew a lot of the missionaries in the district and zone, and I was only going to be a 10 minute train ride away from Winterthur (my first area). 
            When I got there, I met my companion Elder Tingey, who was a tall, very skinny fellow with dark hair that was perfectly parted to the side. If he had glasses, he would look like a typical nerd you see on T.V.  I can say this, because we became good friends over the next 4 and a half months while he was my companion.  Having been in the same district as Frauenfeld before I got transferred to Germany 2 weeks earlier, I knew that they didn’t have many solid investigators- in fact, I couldn’t remember one solid investigator.  This fact was then solidified with Elder Tingey as I was talking to him that first day in the area.  This was an interesting situation I was in.  I get emergency transferred to become senior companion to an Elder who is 6 weeks out in the field and I’m in an area where there are no investigators, and my German wasn’t the best. I mean, come on, I was only learning it for about 8 months! I felt a little overwhelmed, and humbled to say the least. 
            With the situation not so ideal, Elder Tingey and I went to work.  We worked hard too.  I remember days getting out of bed, and I was barely able to move my legs because we had walked so far the day before, and then we would do doors or be on the streets all day to find anyone to teach.  It was an intense area.  To make a long story short our hard work paid off. We actually got to the point where we were leading the mission in lessons taught in the week. We got along great with the branch, and we were working with them awesomely.  We had investigators, and we were finding people too! I was enjoying the mission, and we were working hard to get it that way. 
            It came time for Elder Tingey to leave me and I got a brand new fresh missionary, Elder Fawcett. He was a great kid, and not really knowing how to train, I was just going to work hard like Elder Tingey and I had done.  We did this. We continued to work hard, however sometimes the Lord tests his servants, and within a matter of weeks all of our investigators we were working with (it wasn’t more than 2 or 3) told us they didn’t want to meet with us, or they moved out of our area. Even most of our less-actives started to not meet with us.
            We had to go back to finding with sore legs and all! Oh happy day! At this point in time, I was pretty discouraged. Everything that I had already worked for had just gone away in the matter of 2 weeks.  Unfortunately, over the next 3 months, it wouldn’t change either.  We were having a hard time finding people, setting up appointments, and just finding people who would talk to us.  It was a hard area, and I did get pretty discouraged. 
            At the end of my 7 months in that area, I was looking back at what I had done, and on paper it showed that I had done nothing.  We were teaching maybe 2 or 3 lessons a week, just as many as we were teaching 7 months ago when I came into the area.  It’s hard to think that the past 7 months of hard work were almost for nothing.  When I knew that my time was coming to an end, I started praying for one last miracle to happen before I left; if for nothing else, just to let me know that my time wasn’t wasted.
            One night on my last week in the area, I was feeling pretty depressed and discouraged about things and I couldn’t sleep. I decided I needed to pray…alone.  So, I went into the living room while my companion was sleeping. I started letting the Lord know my thoughts and my feelings about the situation, and just asked for one miracle to happen.  While I was praying, I had a great feeling come over me, and I was happy! I knew that the Lord was pleased with the work I put in that area, and that my hard work will count for something, and as long as I finished out strong He would provide the miracle I was looking for. It was one of the most spiritual experiences in my life! I felt good and great and confident about the work I had done.  The next day was Sunday, and the ward was planning on throwing a BBQ after church, so we used that as leverage to invite all of our investigators and less-actives and even people that we would meet on the doors to church. 
            That Sunday was probably one of the best Sundays on the mission.  We had an investigator, Ronny show up and he even brought his girlfriend with him! It was awesome! I was super stoked that they came because Ronny had moved out of the area and it had been a few weeks since our last lesson with him. We had invited him, I believe, through a voicemail.  I then remember sitting in the Sunday school lesson, and sister Klaumuenzner comes and taps me on the shoulder and says that there’s a guy here that we invited.  We invited a lot of people, so it could have been almost anyone off the street. I walk out to the foyer and see a man whose door we had knocked on a week or two before and given a Book of Mormon.  We had tried to get in touch with him a couple times after that, but he wouldn’t answer the phone and he was never home when we went by.  Talk about a miracle! Then I said good-bye to the ward, and they were talking about missionary work and how they could help us out. I made quite a few good friends in that ward, and I knew that I had made a difference, with the Lord’s help.  I knew that the Lord was always there with me helping me through the rough times in that area.  It taught me to keep working hard and to never give up on the Lord!
-Ryan Hutchings

Perseverance in Guatemala
            I’m sure many missionaries talk about the struggle of waking up everyday at 630 to exercise and start their laborious day until 1030 and how they endured that schedule for 2 years. However, even after I was privileged to work that hard for two years I could never compare to Q’eqchi’ people’s normal life. Everyday they woke up before dawn to go to their fields and work hard so that their family could eat. They would carry hundreds of pounds of crops daily to last them the year. However, what most struck me was their attitude. I would greet a man with more than 100 pounds on his back and he was always happy to see a missionary. They would be working in the exhausting heat but always have time to make a joke. They learned how to persevere. I always enjoyed the context people hear when they see the line “Endure to the End”. I used to see that negative connotation too. However, I don’t think that’s what it means. Like the Q’eqchi’s, our life is exhausting but it is incredibly fun. I would see men walk 2 and a half hours just for the Sunday meeting. If our life is the gospel then I wish I could learn from the Q’eqchi’. What we may see as tedious and ‘a hard thing’ that the Lord commands us then I think we haven’t quite learned what it is to endure to the end. We persevere the opposition, we persevere the temptations, and we persevere the world, but we take pride and joy in sharing the message of the restored gospel. I know that this particular doctrine is hard to see right away, but once we do we will realize why it is such a blessing to be a part of this church and a part of God’s eternal family.
-Will Valdez

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eternal Families

Eternal Families are awesome
                One of the best, and most important, parts of the gospel is the fact that families can be together forever. Our family relationships can continue on after we die. This is something that excites me quite a bit because I love my family. 
                My story for the week also did not happen on the mission, but as I mentioned last week my dad helped build a temple down in southern Mexico and we all lived down there for about 9 months.  One of the coolest experiences I had, happened towards the end of our experience there.  When a temple is completed there are a couple of days where they have an open house, where pretty much anyone can take a walk through the temple and see the beauty of it.
                Right before the open house on a Monday night, my dad told us that he wanted to take us through the temple as a family to look at the finished product.  When we got to the temple no one else was there! It was a Monday evening, and we were pretty much the only ones in the temple.  If I remember right, there might have been maybe 2 or 3 people doing some final cleaning; but other than that we were alone.  My dad showed us the different rooms, and the temple was extremely beautiful.  The end of our tour ended in what’s called the celestial room; a beautiful room representing the celestial kingdom.  We were in the room, just my family and myself, and I remember sitting there as a family (except my brother, unfortunately, who was serving a mission in Mexico City at the time) and just thinking how awesome it is that we can be a family forever.  I felt the love of our Heavenly Father, and I was extremely grateful for the family that he sent me to. 
                I know that the authority to seal families for eternity is found within this church, and needs to be done within the Lord’s temple.  I love my family and I’m grateful we can stick together forever! 
-Ryan Hutchings 

Eternal Families in Italy
                One of the core beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that family bonds are eternal that families are central to God’s plan. It is within families that we can find true happiness, discover our true potential, and better understand who we are, namely sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. I loved talking to the Italian people about families. I had the blessing of growing up in a home with a loving father and mother who supported and loved me. And so I naturally loved trying to share the joy I felt in my own family with others.
                 I specifically remember one day on my mission where we were talking with a man about how much God loves us, and that one of the manifestations of His love for us is that we have families that we can spend the rest of eternity with. The man seemed very leery of this idea. He said, “So let me get this straight. You say that living forever with your family is your idea of heaven? I hate my family! I really can’t stand them, and quite frankly that sounds more like hell than heaven!”
I was so taken aback. It had never occurred to me that someone would have had a negative experience growing up in their family and would subsequently not love being with their family. I understand that not all families are perfect. And don’t get me wrong, my family is far from perfect. We have our quirks and weird idiosyncrasies. But I wouldn’t change them for the world. A family provides security from the evils around us in the world. A family helps us learn how to work hard and reach our full potential. A family teaches us what love is and how we should show love for our fellow man. I firmly believe that a strong unified family and home in which love prevails, support is felt, and life lessons are taught would improve the world more than anything else. I feel that Satan know this too, and it is precisely for this reason that the family is under attack. Satan knows how important the family is to God’s plan. He understands what a wonderful thing a family can be, and this is why Satan is constantly trying so hard to undermine and destroy them.
                  I had a missionary colleague whose family were all converts to the church. He often talked with me about what an amazing experience it was for him to be able to go to the temple and be sealed to his parents and brother for time and all eternity. I can still remember the spirit that he brought whenever he spoke of and testified of families and their eternal nature. Seeing how the knowledge of eternal families had blessed the life of this mission colleague has had a great influence on my life. Hearing his testimony on this subject has helped me reflect on how much I too love my family.
                 Probably the most important thing I have learned from my family is that they love me. They love me in spite of my many short comings and imperfections. The love that they have for me is almost indescribable. This knowledge alone is probably blessing enough, but the fact that I know I have a loving Heavenly Father who has perfect love for me that is infinitely greater than the love that my own family has for me is almost too much for me to comprehend. I will be forever grateful for the lessons that my family has taught me, and I am also grateful that thanks to the atoning sacrifice of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I can be with them for all eternity. 
-Bradley Zentgraf

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The House of The Lord

Temple Experiences from Italy
                Growing up I always knew that the temple was an important and sacred place. Living in Virginia, the nearest temple was in Washington D.C., which on a good day with little traffic was at least a 3 hour drive (one way), on a bad day it was more like 5 hours or more. I have to be honest that my temple attendance before my mission was sporadic at best. To me it was just too far away and too much of a sacrifice to go on a regular basis, or go at all sometimes.
                Oddly enough it was on my mission in Italy, a country without a temple (the closest one is in Bern, Switzerland), that I really learned to appreciate the temple and understand how important it is. The Italian people served as an amazing example to me. Their faith and diligence in attending the temple showed me that no matter the sacrifice, the reward of serving the Lord in His house is worth it. Some members would travel up to 18 hours one way to spend a period of time at the temple. Some would even take a flight to England because in some instances it was cheaper and less time consuming than driving to Switzerland. Once at the temple, the Italian people would try to maximize their time there. They would often stay for 3 or 4 days. They would serve, seek inspiration, and genuinely enjoy their time in this refuge from “the world”. I could always tell when members of the church had just returned from being at the temple. I could see how rejuvenated looked and feel the strength of their spirit.
                This was astounding to me! Comparatively I had grown up with a temple “in my back yard” and had not taken advantage of it like I should have.
                The members in Italy sacrificed, prayed for, and deeply desired a temple inside their own country. In so many ways having a temple is such a strength to the local members. It galvanizes the people. It is a tangible display of their faith and hard work. Shortly after I left Italy, the Italian people were blessed with the announcement that a temple would be constructed on a patch of land on the outskirts of the city of Rome. Friends I had in Italy told me that this was a day that they would never forget. They told me that when they heard the announcement there was a cheer that erupted from the members that made the chapel resembled more of a soccer stadium than a church building!
                After leaving Italy I was determined not to forget the lessons the Italian people taught me about the importance of going to the temple. No matter how big the sacrifice may seem the reward is always greater! And we can be blessed to find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. 
-Bradley Zentgraf

Temple Experiences from Switzerland
                I love the temple.  It is by far my favorite place on earth, and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunities and experiences I have had in my life in connection to the temple.  I have had experiences that not everyone gets to experience.  When I was 12 my dad took the family with him to Mexico while he helped build a temple.  I was able to see the construction of a temple, and all the miracles associated along with that.  It was an amazing experience.  Then when I got home from the mission, I was able to volunteer as a temple worker for a few months.  It was awesome! I love the temple. I have had some of my most sacred experiences in the temple.  It truly is the House of the Lord; a heaven on earth.  The Spirit is stronger in no other place on earth.   I love the temple. 
                On my mission, I never had the opportunity to take a family to the temple to get sealed, which is the ultimate goal of a missionary (so I would think. Baptism is a great step! However, the gospel is about uniting families for eternity).  The work was slow in Switzerland, and in the majority of my areas I saw 0 baptisms, and very little other “successes.”  So, numbers wise, my mission wasn’t extremely successful.  I loved the mission, and I worked my hardest every day I was there and the lessons I learned made it all worth it, and in my opinion it was the biggest success of my life; although it would have been nice to have gotten a few successes on the numbers side as well. 
                Like I mentioned before, when I got home from the mission I was able to volunteer as a temple worker for a few months; and there was an experience I had as a temple worker that connected my mission experience with the temple.  In the temple we do proxy ordinances for the deceased, so EVERYONE can have the opportunity to receive all the ordinances of the gospel necessary to receive eternal life.  If the idea of proxy work seems different to you, then just think of the Savior standing proxy for yourself as he suffered for your sins. He performed something that we could not do for ourselves.  It’s the same idea in the temple, the deceased, although their spirit lives on, cannot perform the ordinances themselves if they never had the opportunity while in this life.  These ordinances are done in the temple, or House of the Lord. (If you have any more questions about this, please visit Mormon.org, or leave a comment here, and we’ll do our best to respond to it. Also read 1st Corinthians chapter 15)
                While working at the temple one Tuesday night, I was helping some sisters during the endowment session and one sister came to me with the name of the deceased sister she was doing the ordinance for, and I noticed that the deceased sister had lived in one of the cities I served in on my mission.  It was a great feeling to know that I was helping people from my mission, although I was no longer in the mission field.  I could still help them, and others, receive the ordinances necessary.  And although I never spoke with those people, for whom the temple work was being done that day, I still felt a great connection to them.
                The temple makes it possible for us to do missionary work for those who are deceased.  We become as it says in Isaiah, “Saviors on mount Zion” as we do the temple work for those who cannot perform it themselves. 
                 -Ryan Hutchings

Temple Experiences from Guatemala 
            The greatest experience a missionary could have would be to see one of his converts go to the temple with their family and be sealed for all time and eternity. This was particularly difficult for me in my mission because the temple was 15 hours away. However, I was able to see many go on to the temple and serve missions. I never really recognized the importance of the temple until I was so far away from it. I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and the closest temple to me was the Washington D.C temple until the year 2000 when they erected the Boston temple in Belmont. Both temples weren’t really that far away. Although I was only able to go about 5 times prior to leaving on a mission I was aware of the difference I felt in such a holy place. On a mission, one would expect to live a higher quality of life and not really need that segregation from the world that the temple brings. Oh how wrong I was. I went approximately 18 months without going to the temple. It was just too far for me to go to on a P-day and we didn’t have the permission. I started to long for the temple because I had forgotten what that feeling was like. I guess I never really appreciated the blessing of having a temple so close. At around 18 months I was able to go to the temple because of a meeting my companion and I had to attend with the mission president and other missionaries. The spiritual experience was phenomenal! I remember feeling so good and so accomplished. The covenants and level of spirituality are so sacred there that ever since I have made it a goal to go twice a month. I exhort all to work hard to get to the temple. There are always obstacles that prevent us. Whether it be 15 hours of distance, personal unworthiness, or financial stability I know that if we make going to the temple a priority we will be able to feel a constant flow of confidence in the eyes of the Lord.
-Will Valdez