Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Mission!

To all our dear family members and friends whom we love so much, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and peaceful New Year. Is it really going to be 2010? An entire decade has passed since all the scares and rumors about Y2K. It is truly God's world, and He doesn't need anyone telling how to keep it going.

We missed our family over Thanksgiving but had a lovely dinner with another couple in the mission at the home of their daughter. Elder Smith became ill with probably strep throat at the end of the day and spent the next week home sick. The same thing happened last year over Thanksgiving. He hopes this isn't becoming a trend.

We moved again! To the building right next door to a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with new blinds, appliances, etc. for the same rent we were paying for 1 bed and bath. We gave up our beautiful view of the mountains and gained a bathroom. Yeah! We still have a nice view of pine trees and grass when it isn't covered with snow. We are on the second floor instead of the 7th. Moving was a cinch (relatively speaking). We packed grocery carts and went underground from one freight elevator to another without having to go outside or pack the car. Our floor is so friendly and neighborly. Sister Smith calculated that we will save three hours of elevator time over the course of a year by eliminating five floors. Elder Smith thinks she is nuts for even thinking of it. (But I will have to do jumping jacks a lot faster!)

Christmas on Temple Square is so beautiful. The concerts and lights, potlucks and more concerts are just wonderful. The mission president and his wife gave us tickets for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in the beautiful Conference Center with Natalie Cole, David McCullough, the Bells on Temple Square, and dancers galore. It was spectacular.

We're pretty wimpy, though, when it comes to mingling with the crowds at night who come to see the lights on Temple Square. We don't handle 22 degree weather very well! Brrrrr!!

To those of you who are working in New FamilySearch on your family history: The word from this morning's Family History Department with our presidency and some of the General Authorities is that right now, as you know, there is much cleaning up to do in the way of duplications and errors. The analogy was that it is like trying to clean up a pile of dirt with a tablespoon; however, in a year we will be using backhoes. It is very exciting to see the work progress. Elder Smith is much more up to date with it all than I am since he teaches it every day.

The mission office is the best place in the world for me. I can't imagine working with better people. Our president is just phenomenal. He is working miracles with our young missionaries, most of whom are trying so very hard. They are computer geniuses and do so much good in the mission. One of our dear elders, only 24 years old, was able to leave the hospital this past weeked after being at Primary Children's Hospital for 2 1/2 months with complications from spina bifida. What faith and courage it takes for some of these young missionaries to serve their missions through such overwhelming obstacles. Our zone leader and his wife in World Wide Support just received a letter signed by President Monson asking them to report to D R Congo

as soon as possible to replace a couple who had to leave immediately because the husband suffered a heart attack. We never know when or where the Lord will call us next.

We encourage you to seek out your ancestors. Find out all you can. They were real people and lived out their times here on earth just like we are. We know they want to be found and remembered. They know who YOU are and want you to know THEM! President Wilford Woodruff said: "Oh, I wish many times that the veil were lifted off the face of the Latter-day Saints. I wish we could see and know the things of God as they do who are laboring for the salvation of the human family who are in the spirit world; for if this were so, this whole people, with very few, if any, exceptions, would lose all interest in the riches of the world, and instead thereof their whole desires and labors would be directed to redeem their dead."

What greater gift can we give to our Father in Heaven who gave us life than to work to bring together the whole family of God.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

May we each recognize and feel the glory, the peace, the wonder, and the unspeakable love that came to earth that holy night when all of heaven rejoiced at the savior's birth.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We're still here!

Hopefully this will assuage my daily guilt over never having the time or energy to write. Elder Smith and I really are loving our mission. Every day is different and never boring, even though we are involved in office and computer work. The new mission presidency is building on the work done before and taking the mission to greater heights. We have 452 full-time senior missionaries, 91 Young Missionaries, and 836 part-time Church-service missionaries. The Young Missionaries are phenomenal, serving in spite of overwhelming challenges. One of our young elders has been in the hospital for a month now after complications from a clogged shunt. He, like a few others, has spina bifida. Yet they come to fullfill their life's dream of serving a mission for the Lord.

I have nick-named the Presidency the slice-and-dice team, as they continue to streamline, reduce, and eliminate programs and many of the massive reports. If it doesn't serve the purpose of the mission directly, it has to go. I am grateful that I can now go home at a reasonable time instead of 6:00-7:00 p.m. Assuming the jobs of two sisters plus the increased secretarial duties for our new president was simply not possible. I could have worked around the clock and still not have finished. We have a wonderful assistant secretary, so life is good.

Elder Smith has been teaching many new missionaries including an 85 year old widow whose great-great grandfather Alexander McCrae was in Liberty Jail with the prophet Joseph Smith. Alexander was the tall red-haired man who was too tall to stand up in the jail. He also taught the former chief personnel director for the Library of Congress.

Sister Smith continues to teach the mission president how to use the computer, which must be terribly amusing to her family that she can teach ANYBODY about the computer. I've actually become quite competent.

Elder Smith is very excited to be finding so many of his own ancestors. Sister Smith is so busy in the office that research time for her has dwindled.

Our Saturdays are spent doing regular "P-day" activities - cleaning, laundry, Costco (Elder Smith's favorite) and exploring Salt Lake City, driving through the beautiful canyons, going to the varous temples (We have been able to do over 100 sealings for our ancestors in the past two months.), visiting our nephew Greg Schern and his family in Ogden, etc. Autumn has been very beautiful here. The mountains have been blanketed in colors. We had our first snow followed by beautiful sunny weather the last few days. Alas, it will change again next week. We enjoy finding new places to eat. The Mandarin in Bountiful is our all-time favorite. It is seven miles to Nielson's Frozen Custard in Bountiful!

Sister Smith can get in 24 jumping-jacks in the apartment elevator from the 7th floor to the underground parking. That is good since Elder Smith keeps wanting her to share his desserts in the Church Office Building cafeteria.

Sister Smith is still singing in the Elijah Mission Choir.

In August we attended the Martin Harris Pageant in Clearfield. Cold! Brrrr! Glad we took coats and blankets. We went to the annual Swiss Days in Midway near Heber City. We were part of an up and coming performing group of old missionaries that lip-sinced (sp?) a R & R song for our Hail and Farewell party. We were the Fat Rascals!

We have had visits from Ruth and Richard Farnsworth, our son Mike Schern, our daughter Sherry Stevens and her family, Jason, Maddy, and Jaxon, and our daughter-in-law Kristen's parents. We have cherished those special visits with family and friends. We are so thankful for the constant watchcare which the Lord gives our families as they seem to incur one crisis after another on a weekly basis: surgery, paint-ball gun blast to the neck, lacerated foot, dead horse, one daddy with flu falling down the stairs. Enough already!!!

Elder Smith and I served as sentinels for the beautiful art exhibit at the Conference Center several Sunday evenings. We loved attending the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference. It is very special to feel the spirit of conference there in person. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke to all the missionaries in a temple devotional the Wednesday of Conference. He read excerpts from his grandfather's journal, a real treasure.

Elder Smith and I collected 51 white shirts, 129 neckties, and 18 pairs of reading glasses that we took to our nephew in Ogden. He will ship all he's collected to his parents who are serving in the Fiji Suva mission in the Republic of Vanuatu on the teensy island of Espiritu Santo where the people have nothing. We hardly mentioned it, and the donations came pouring in.

The most important thing we have to tell about our mission is that it IS the work of the Lord. The inspiration, revelation, and miracles that take place in this great work are many, and most are too sacred to even share. Lives are changed, people are able to do the impossible, and the bonds of eternal friendships and families are forged in testimony and sealed in covenants on both this side and on the other side of the veil. We know the work of God will go forth, and no power can stop it. What peace that gives us in this ever darkening world. Our prayers are with our dear family and friends.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pioneers, Builders of the Nations

We are thankful for a 4 day, much needed weekend. I'll never be able to catch up the last sixweeks, so I will just have to begin from today with what I remember. Most days are 10 to 13 hours from when we leave the front door to when we return. Elder Smith is usually able to finish earlier than I am. When we get back to our aparment, I am just too tired to write. We have truly loved all the pioneer commemorations here including picnics, the Tabernacle Choir concert in the Conference Center, singing in the Elijah Choir pioneer concert, watching the Pioneer Days of '47 Parade from right outside the front door of our apartment on the 24th, and even performing with 4 other couples singing pioneer songs and dancing the Virginia Reel on stage for our branch of about 400+ missionaries (a real first for Elder Smith!). Glenn did a part of the narration and played a hand drum. We must never forget our pioneer heritage, the sacrifices made for future generations, and the legacy of faith left to us. I know we must write our own stories and make sure, in this world of depravity and declining values, that our children and grandchildren and all those who follow will have these stories of faith and testimony to carry with them in their hearts.

Our former mission president, Ronald T. and Linda Halverson, invited the administration zone and spouses to their beautiful cabin outside of Morgan, Utah. What a picturesque setting on the bend of a river that winds around their rustic cabin surrounded by giant trees, rolling green grass, and a trout filled pond.There were about 40 of us, and we had a marvelous time.
President H deep-fried in a big pot 300 huge shrimp and with steaks on the grill and yummy homemade rolls, baked potatoes, salads, it was a feast like no other. We shot skeet (Do I have that right?) and I got one with a 16 guage (missed a bunch!). We went on a pioneer "trek" by car and followed the Mormon trail. What a beautiful place at the backside of Big Mountain where Mary Fielding Smith's ox died and where Johnson's Army camped, the rock wall the Mormons built on top of the pass to fend off the army should they begin shooting. President H was telling the story to a group of people once with Elder M. Russell Ballard present. Elder Ballard cheerfully and politely corrected him and said that it was Mary Fielding Smith herself who annointed the ox and restored it to life. The ox got back on its feet and pulled their wagon on to the Salt Lake Valley, beating the captain who didn't want her on the trip in the first place by about two hours. Many of you know the story but have not known that it was she who blessed the ox and raised it up. We stopped to see the Overland Trail way station, way off the road, the original little building that people have kept up and are living in - not members of the Church. The pouring down rain stopped right before we returned to the cabin and dampened everything but our spirits. The evening concluded with Pres. Tom Davis, counselor in the presidency, reciting his hilarious cowboy poems and Elder Marvin Kuchar, Training Zone leader and retired BYU chemistry prof, showing us slides and telling us more intimate details of the mummys he was sent to Egypt to study. Absolutely fascinating. It was a beautiful, memorable trip.

Our new mission president is Dennis E. Simmons and his wife Carolyn. He is a former member of he 2nd Quorum of Seventy, mission preident in Africa, and president of the Logan Temle. They are really lovely people. My first two weeks in the mission office, Sister Simmons and Sister Staples, the assistant secretary, were out with pneumonia. What a time I had!!!

One day we were returning to the Joseph Smith Bldg underground from the cafeteria when we stopped on the sidewalk by the door for the cart carrying Presient Eyring, President Uctdorf, and Elder Oaks to go by. What a treat to share big waves and smiles, especially from Pres. Uctdorf.

On the lighter side, we enjoy finding good places to eat. There is a new food court going in across the street in the refurbished high-rise. Right now only McDonald's (of course) and a really good Chinese place are there. MMMM. On the Fourth of July we drove up the mountain north of us and watched fireworks going off all across the valley from the grassy park of a stake center there. I was glad we had a blanket and jacket. (Eat your heart out, Mesa!) The weather is great for me, but the Utah natives think it is beastly hot. In the winter, you can be the ones laughing, Mesa. Too cold for me! We love to go on impromptu trips driving through the many beautiful canyons. (You'd think we have lots of time on our hands. We don't!)

How wonderful to see all the Temples here. Elder Smith went to the Bountiful Temple last week with the new missionaries on their Go Forth day. He said it is his favorite. I was too busy in admin zone to go. Next time!

This weekend we drove to Ogden to the beautiful 1918 era home that my nephew and his wife, Greg and Melanie Schern, just bought. What a Norman Rockwell house and neighborhood. It was just wonderful to see them, two other nieces and their families and 8 of our great-nieces and nephews. Elder Smith said it was the "family fix" we needed. We had a cook-out, told stories and laughed our heads off. Yesterday we all met at the open house of the beautiful new Oquirrh Mountain Temple in South Jordan. What a sweet experience. We hope you all will have the opportunity to visit a temple open house.

An update on our grandson, Danny Branch, for whom so many of you prayed and fasted for so long. He is continuing to recover and make progress at his parents' home in Mesa. Another miracle was manifested when he was able to baptize his wife Ashley all by himself on June 20. He had to immerse her twice, and he was shaking, but he did it, and most wonderful of all, SHE did it! We have no words to express our gratitude for the goodness of our Heavenly Father. There is nothing more important or more precious than the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Light of Christ, and ultimately the blessings of His Holy House, which we all seek, and most all people would if they knew where to find it. (See p. 73 of July Ensign) I believed it then, and I know it now with all my heart.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Where was I? So much to remember!

View from our balcony.
In the mountains on Saturday.

Beautiful flowers everywhere.

View from our balcony.

The days are flying by like a whirlwind. It is easy to lose track of time. Sometimes I leave at 6:00 a.m. and don't return to the apartment until after 5:00 p.m., too tired to eat supper until after a short nap, and then it's late. The learning curve is HIGH for both Elder Smith and me in our new assignments. He is just about ready to start teaching new missionaries, and I'm not sure what I'm ready for. I am still working back and forth between the mission president's wife's office and the secretary's office since I will be doing both jobs. At least that's the plan, but I still haven't figured out how to make two of me yet. Elder Smith and I love working in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The people are just wonderful. We still find time to go to the library, especially on Saturdays, to work on our certification books and on our own family history. The resources there are like no other, and the biggest regret some missionaries have when they leave to go home from this mission is that they have failed to use their time here to work on their genealogy. The following was quoted in a devotional this last month: "Going to the Temple without doing our own family history is like fasting without paying fast offerings." There is a time and a season, though, and you young mothers with lots of children ARE doing your family history! You're making it happen!
I told Elder Smith I wasn't going to the library or anywhere until this apartment got cleaned. So we jumped in, and one and a half hours later, it is spotless. He is now resting up before we finally head out for the library.
The missionaries in the JSMB keep the following site minimized on their computers, ready to pull it up when the chirping begins. Go to: wildlife.utah.gov/peregrine
Peregrine falcons have been coming to nest on the side of the JSMB way up toward the northeast corner for years. Someone actually built a box on the side of the building and installed a camera and microphone. Click on camera 2. These falcons are quite fascinating. They can fly 200 mph. They kill pigeons and bring the dead birds to the nest to feed to the babies. There is one egg that has not hatched and probably won't. When Elder Smith first watched them, he said, "Aw, this is liking watching grass grow," but now he is hooked. The mission has adopted this little falcon family and is cheering them on.
We had a wonderful time going to the symphony with President and Sister Nielson and are going to miss them SOOO much when they go home the end of this month. We are in the middle of so many changes and transitions right now preparing for new leadership. I am going to miss our mission president's wife, Sister Linda Halverson, terriby. It has been such a blessing to have worked so closely with her this past month. They are going to have a combination monthly birthday party and zone "last hurrah" party at their cabin next Saturday. President Halverson has done an incredible job and has "grown" this mission in remarkable ways.
Last Monday evening we went with our missionary activity group (the group that came in together on Jan. 5) to watch "Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration". I just cry more every time I see it. Then we walked to JB's for supper or dessert. There were twelve of us. A couple sitting at a booth next to us mentioned that they were from Indiana. Of course I began talking to them about where in Indiana, things we love about Indiana. I told them I was from there. When our group was ready to leave and asked for our bills, (We had requested separate checks.), the waiter said we were all paid for. The couple from Indiana had paid for our whole table and didn't want us to know until they were gone. We never got their names. We pray they will be blessed for their generosity.
Two weeks ago we attended the US/Canada zone party for Family Home Evening and even did a little line dancing. Over Memorial Day weekend, we headed out through one of the canyons and picked wild flowers and enjoyed the incredible beauty of Utah. We went to the Hill Airforce Base Museum on Memorial Day. If any of you have the opportunity to visit it when you come, it is well worth the time.
Last night Elder Smith and I walked down to the park near us and enjoyed a great concert. They have free concerts on Tuesday and Friday evenings beginning in June and running through August. It was a little chilly (in the 60's. Ha!), but we had fun and the rain held off.
Last week we had another wonderful devotional in the Temple chapel with Elder Marlin K. Jensen. What a humble, good man. Elder Smith and I were able to shake hands with him and visit with him for a few minutes afterwards which was very special.
President Halverson has asked all the missionaries in the Family and Church History Mission to join together in a special fast tomorrow for the purposes of increasing the numbers of missionaries and increasing the spirituality in the zones. The zones are "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and borrowing missionaries from each other. The economy has taken its toll on senior missionaries' ability to fund missions. We need greater faith to prioritize and sacrifice for this sacred work. We are down to 413 senior missionaries in this mission as of last month's statistical reports. Thirty new ones are coming in, but many more are needed.
From the Administration Zone Journal: "Some come on missions in wheel chairs, on crutches, and those who walk and work in constant pain, and yet all are willing to serve. To add to the magic of it all, we work long hours, struggle to learn new tasks, leave the rearing of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to those we have taught, and we then pay our own way. Our daily prayers contain the words of thanks to our Heavenly Father for the call to serve Him, and we count it as blessings to be able to do so." After Elder Smith finishes folding the laundry and I get my shoes on, it's off to the library.

Sunday, May 10, 2009