Monday, July 1, 2013

The Free Book

Ahhh yeah. Here we go.

Have I ever told you guys I love to write?  Well, I do. Adore it!

It is amazing how as a missionary I get to feel such love: it actually makes me very protective of my investigators when I contemplate transfer... I remember thinking to myself, "If the new elders even think about messing up with the Rodriguez family, whoo boy... I'm not sure what I'll do, but it won't be nice." As if that were even a problem. Its such a funny thought that popped into my head and an emotion that can develop in such a short time. 

I've got a scripture for you guys: Proverbs something or other: "Even a fool that shutteth his mouth is esteemed a man of understanding." Close enough. But that has been one of my take aways for this, my first transfer. You see, I learned that I want to be so very obedient that it can escalate tension. 

It's all about picking your battles, and being content to be obedient by yourself if needed. For instance, if I want to be in bed exactly at 10.30, I will only make others mad if I tell them they need to also. 

I learned from my momma that we can't change other people, and that we can't try to solve other people's problems.

Another thing that I've learned is that this is about doing your best, then being content with what your best is.

I came out here on the edge of my seat, anxious TO share the gospel, anxious WHEN I shared the gospel and anxious IF I didn't share the gospel. Just one big sweaty ball of anxiety. People noticed, and I would get very embarrassed. And then, I would say something stupid. 

I remember during one of my exchanges I was taking the lead. We were visiting with these guys and all of a sudden the exchangee said "Well, Elder Johnson has a message to share with you." 

This caused me great anxiety, as I did not have a message to share. I stammered through an awful pulled together thought, then ended with an invitation to read the Book of Mormon. Red faced and sweating, I tried to find good words to put a cap on this unprepared, awful situation. These are the words that came out of my mouth:
"Would you like a Book of Mormon? They're pretty much the only free book that nobody wants."

Ah. I'm not sure what part of my brain thought that would be a good way to alleviate embarrassment, but I will tell you now that it only served to exacerbate my shame. 

The other Elder gave me the, 'Shut up Elder' sign and as we left, I felt stupid.  Out of hearing range the Elder asked me how I felt. I told him, "Embarrased. Duh."

He told me that it was actually a great visit, and that my little outburst was more of a funny dumb moment than a lifelong shame. 

"Yeah right I thought."

He told me that once he had an investigator who, when he decided to validate, conveyed the following (straight faced):

 "Don't be afraid to ask questions. Questions are like farts. If you let them build up and never release them, you will be in pain and unfocused, and it will stink really bad. But if you just let it out, than we can move on in happiness."

That really helped me to hear, and I finally relaxed.

I love you all.



Monday, June 24, 2013


This morning I read Helaman 5-12, and it was amazing.  We are still teaching C. S., that awesome Czech guy that we talked to. Because of him, I am reading the Book of Mormon with my imagination. It is so much better because of it. 

As you guys can imagine, one of the hardest things for me to be bereft of is my books. Oof. I read Jesus the Christ a little too fast, then I memorized every poem that was from general conference, and finally I was left alone. My eyes needed it, and my spirit did too. In desperation (this makes me laugh) I thought to myself "The Book of Mormon? Yes! YES!" I cried, my eyes manic and frenzied, "That IS a book! AH HAH! I HAVE BEAT THE SYSTEM!" I started to tear through The Book of Mormon as a starving man would through a feast. 

Instead of long (and sometimes boring) doctrine and random stories, I started to realize that this all really made sense- I started to read it as a history, a story book of a people long ago. I read Alma 43 to the tune of one of the battles from the Lord of the Rings, and I actually got goose bumps. I am not saying all of this to prove to you once and for all that I am insane. But I am saying this to tell you of how blessed I am to finally read The Book of Mormon the way I normally read a book. 

To stop and digest ("To read without reflecting is to eat without digesting") about what I actually read- to imagine what it would like to be there. To have an inner music playing along with the words, to try to imagine what the author was feeling.

I legitimately love the Book of Mormon. I am increasingly convinced that the Book of Mormon is (without a doubt) the word of God. It is beautiful. The book reads wonderfully. It is full of poetry and description. Each author has his own distinct voice that leaves the words with his individual spirit. You can feel who each person is. The Bible is a wonderful book, but it takes a lot of work to decipher what the heck is going on, which stuff is relevant and which stuff is just Saul or David just killing some tribe that stands in the way. The Book of Mormon is abridged and contains only the stuff we need to hear.

So I am going to go get a replica of the first copy of The Book of Mormon after this library time and read it through as I would any other book. I am so excited to do this. No sane person should be this excited to read the Book of Mormon in a novel format.  

Last Tuesday, when we taught a lesson with C. S.  (He is the bomb) We taught the Plan of Salvation. He is answering most of his own questions with doctrine, and at one point (to our astonishment) he answered his friend why we need prophets. I am so blessed to watch him move towards the gospel. I am just the lucky guy that gets to watch as he starts to take in the truths. Beautiful. Beautiful.

 I wrote in my Journal the other day: "Imagine a place where people wake up at 5:30 and play basketball for an hour. One might rightly call this place hell. If I told you that they do it willingly, we might call it an insane asylum." This is morning sports, and as you could tell, I was a bit frustrated with sucking at basketball every morning.  (Just thought I'd include for a laugh.)

I love you guys so much. Hurrah for ISRAEL!



Saturday, June 22, 2013

We Thank Thee In The Long Run For Chicken Fajitas 6-20-13

Elder Johnson, a servant of the Lord, by the will of God.  To my family, my dearly beloved family:  Joy, hope, charity and peace.

Paper letter the first...

The dinner we ate last night was SO good,
6:00 a.m. we went to play sports with the zone...( you may need to edit this for delicate audiences) a troubling thing started to happen...  chicken fajita gas out of both ends.

7:00 a.m. we are home, both of us were feeling rather sick.

12:00 p.m. we were in bad shape...i.e... RATHER SICK

We received counsel from El Presidente to rest, and so we came home and napped with much caution.

2:00 p.m.  bodily evidence it was clear we were going nowhere.

Evening... I felt determined to make it to our lessons, but my poor companion wasn't moving he seemed to be worse off so I found someone to go with, Elder T--- a kind and good teacher and another man from the ward.

I realized I could ask these men for a blessing.  For a moment that stands in bold, I wondered if it would help.  I then realized all the miracles and blessings I have felt, I was called by a prophet,  I would be healed,  I knew that by the spirit and I fixed it in my mind with all the determination my blond eyebrows could muster from the Holy Ghost.  I knew that by faith we are blessed.  Receiving revelation is easy.  Believing and acting on it is the hardest part.  That is, we are blessed with free will, and we are given time to see how we use it.

They blessed me, and though I was still burping fajita, I was able to make it to the lesson.

All our trials can be for our gain.  This morning I was reading "Our Heritage",  I was quite surprised that as I was reading I honestly began to cry.  I was reading about the mobs, the massacres, and I remember thinking, "What Infamous Cowardice!"

I don't normally speak as if I were a 90 year old, but this morning, as my companion was sleeping, I cried on my reading chair.

Now, I'll admit this may be a stretch or sound really stupid, but those fajitas (Or the blessing from the trial of the fajitas) ended up giving me a strong testimony of the Lord's hand in His people's life.

I love my family so much.  Thank you Brynn & Davis for the letters, Thank you Bruce! Thank you Eliza!  Thank you Alida!  I love you SO much!  Thank you Zac, I reread that pink letter!  Thank you Mom & Dad - you have blessed my life from the beginning!  Send a thanks to Uncle Mike and Aunt Roxanne!


Elder Johnson

p.s.  I've noticed that generally Washington drivers are the worst.  But then I moved to Utah, and they were the worst.  Las Vegas follows this pattern as does Boston and Lousiana.

I think this is less about geography and more about the fact that everyone else is an idiot.   ;)

Alma 26:37

*editors date on letter, but best guess- written on or about 6-15-13 received in mail 6-21-13)

Best Friends and the Mob Boss 6-17-13

I am increasingly aware of the fact that my family is a rarity, a treasure. 

This is funny, but everybody I've lived with since I first left home has been measured up to Zac. I know this is unfair, but when you live with your best friend then all a sudden have no one to make Lost references to, an-- acute sense of loss fills the soul. 

So when I got Zac's letter it made me laugh so much. I wish he could meet Elder --- who, incidentally, caught a pigeon by hand. That was pretty hilarious.

We got sick last Tuesday & Wednesday, but on Thursday and Friday, we were blessed (or rather, the Lord was blessed?) with 6 new investigators. 

We had a wonderful lesson with the M family. She was bearing her testimony most of the time.  It was amazing.

Then, Chen. You would all love Chen. He has studied much philosophy, religion, etc. Long hair, from the Czech Republic (but completely American), played baseball. At different times throughout the lesson, he said things such as: 

"Oh. Yes! (throws little foam pad across room) I am learning something! This is good!" 

"You mean three dead Jews just showed up to Joseph and were all like 'God told us to tell you to baptize people'?"

 "The Book of Mormon is some gruesome stuff. Like, Nephi was all like 'there's that jerk that won't give us the gold scriptures' and God's all like 'Pop his head off!'" 

and Nephi's like 'I don't know man...' 

and God's like, 'trust me, do it for your kids.' So he cuts the dude's head off and wears his bloody clothes and steals his stuff! God seems like a mob boss."

It was the greatest lesson ever..

We also met two other great people we will be working with from the singles ward, it's looking like President is going to be sending us just to work only with the singles ward, because of the huge amount of work coming from it (Last week we filled a progress record).

I love you so much. I memorized invictus is like 10 minutes. It is my encouragement. I'm going to buy a replica of the first Book of Mormon to trick my brain into thinking I'm reading a long divine story, rather than the verses. 
I love you so much Mom. I will send pictures and stuff soon.


Elder Johnson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Feast - No Famine 6-9-13

Oh, I love those pictures!

It is marvelous to be a missionary. A lot of the time, I'm really quite tired. 10:30 comes and I'm out like a light. Bizarre. 

Everyone here has something with missionaries and food. I can't figure out if they're terrified that I will starve, or if their is some mother guilt thing going on, or whether people in Vegas just love having good dinners, but we are getting stuffed full.

It has been a bizarre revelation to the other missionaries that I do not get a sugar coma or a sugar rush at all. People keep sending us home with dessert, and my companion won't eat any of it, as he is a self proclaimed health guy. I have been sacrificing my sugar tooth. lol. Send me some info on how to prevent early onset diabetes. 

It was 113 the other day, which was... rather warm. We have a game, as there are many stupid missionaries, it is not new, although we thought it was.  The game is called Sahara. 

We get in the car (only when we are in non-proselyting clothes) and turn on the heater. (Except last time we played, the heater was cooling the car down.) 

So we just sat in there for a good 35 minutes. 

I also love the poems that you sent, because those were the best. I've been reading them over and over. I love poetry. Soooooooo much.

The work is moving along. We are the busiest missionaries ever. Ever. In the world. We have been teaching, trying to contact the long list of referrals we keep getting, trying to remember faces, eating a ton... phew. 

We taught a guy named *** who is a really nice guy. we were worried that he only wanted to get baptized because when we commited him, he said, "Yeah. I mean, its just the next thing after going to church, right?" Worried, we taught the next lesson at a members house, and  watched the restoration. I remembered what you taught me about identifying the spirit, and as we did, and he told us he felt such a good vibe in the house.  We all felt it, and it was beautiful.  What fools we mortals be. It was great.

I have been wearing the tie Dad gave me from Grandpa Johnson.  I hope he (grandpa)  is helping me.  I can remember all of the beautiful stories that you've told me about him, and it inspires me to be more like him.  I loved that people gave me ties that were sentimental to them.
As I've been out here, I've been maybe a little too anxiously engaged (grinning) and in my effort to try to work my tail off, I've been a bit over-zealous. This work is not about sweating and working like crazy. 

That is a part of it. But this is an intensely social work, and I have learned that to be the best missionary I can be, I need to relax. That way I can use my natural charm and winning smile to help people open up. :) Where I can work the hardest is in studying for our investigators, by truly getting to know them and see what they need. In that way, this work is a much more beautiful and intriguing work.