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Friday, October 16, 2009

Minority Report and Mormons 10/12/09

Dear Family,

I now know the temptation that many of my teachers in high school faced. That temptation is to just show those you teach a video, and let that do all the teaching. I'm just glad I don't have an office to go sleep in during our videos.

But I'm grateful for the videos the church puts out about Jesus and about the Restoration of His Gospel. They can be a great tool for helping others understand these things better, and also give more variety to the teaching. Also, because they are translated into several languages, it gives us something to offer to those who do not speak English.

But I think I've taken this video technique too far on occasion. A lot of times, we talk about prophets, and then refer to Moses, often citing Charlton Heston's performance in The Ten Commandments. I guess that's not so bad.

Another time, someone asked why bad things are allowed to happen to us, especially why God allows evil people to hurt others. We read certain verses from the scriptures that touch on this, but they didn't really get it. Eventually, out of frustration, I just recommended that they watch the movie Minority Report, and then they would understand.

In Los Altos we were teaching our investigator, Lenny, about the Plan of Salvation. We got to the Spirit World - where we go right after we pass away from this life. He had many, many questions about this. We answered what we could, but when his questions became more about what the Spirit World looks like, and details like that - I finally just told him to watch the movie Ghost.

I was told that unexpected things would happen on my mission, but I never NEVER thought I'd recommend to someone a Whoopi Goldberg movie.

People are really friendly here in Salinas. I love it.

This week, I had my first donut from Winchell's since we had them after Family Home Evening at home. I think the last time I had one was when I was 12. I was delirious with joy and sentiment as I finished my 4th donut. But a lot of those feelings could have been from sugar overdose.

I'm doing great, and I hope you all are too. You are in my prayers, and I'm again so grateful for your prayers for me and the missionary work.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Conference Recap 10/05/09

Dear Family,

You know, since I've started taking notes at General Conference, I feel bad when I'm furiously writing notes for one speaker, and then for another speaker I can do little more than draw a rough sketch of the speaker's face. I suppose that's how the Spirit works though, letting the things you need to hear penetrate to your heart so you will remember them. I also suspect that the Spirit wants me to work on my skills on drawing facial features.

Every area I've been to, the hardest part of the day to find something productive to do is from 7-9 pm. It's dark - so most people do not want to hear you ring their doorbell, or they're waiting for their next victim to come knock on their door. Both situations do not usually turn out well for us missionaries.
Yesterday was not a day where we had this problem. I woke up eager for the day - General Conference, and then we were booked with appointments until 9pm. Around noon, we checked our messages; all our evening appointments had cancelled.

Dang.

But the Lord does provide in times of need. As the 7-9 pm dead hours approached, we wondered what we would be doing.

We get a phone call. It's the Spanish ward Elders. They need a ride. They won't tell us why they can't drive themselves. They give us instructions how to get to where they are.

As I pulled to the side of the street, we saw both of them standing next to their car. No flat tire, which was what I suspected. Maybe out of gas?

Nope. When we got closer, we saw that both airbags had deployed, and the front bumper was pretty banged up.

On the bright side, I guess we don't need to wash and wax their car this week.

Also, I wanted to give a shout-out to Kacy Faulconer (I assume someone is posting these letters on my blog). I was pleased to see that she was quoted in this month's Ensign magazine, page 27, saying how a blog should not be used for complaining about people or things (or something like that). Good for her. I will probably continue to not follow that counsel in these letters.

Anyway, I was glad to hear that everyone had a good time with family and watching Conference this weekend. Have a great week!

Love,
Elder Karlsven

P.S. Essay question: Which was your favorite speaker at Conference and why. 200 words or less. Illustrations optional.

Hump Day 09/28/09

Dear Family,

It was perfect - the "Hump Day" package I mean. It arrived right on my year-mark. It was very satisfying, lying on my bed, eating the homemade cookies, listening to the tape of the family, and looking through the Zoo Books magazine about camels Mom sent me. I especially liked the part of the tape where the Vistaunet family spoke. My companion thought that there were 3 or more men in their family because Steve kept doing different voices. The Hump Day song by the hit band Tijuana Bible was also great to hear.

I've been thinking about it, and decided that really all that's left is doing what I did for the past year, but just one more time. Also, if I schedule things out right, I can do the same amount of work I did, but in half the time. So I guess I really only have 6 months left. I'll bring this up at interviews with the mission president this week.

It doesn't seem like I've been out this long, until I start to think of all the people I've met, and big things that have happened since I've been out. There are so many good memories from each area I've been in (which is only 3 so far, but still). Ushering at the Catholic Mission in San Juan Bautista. Having an explanation of why metal forks should not be placed in the microwave - this from the man WHO INVENTED THE MICROWAVE OVEN. Reading past entries of my journal is always great.

Anyway, I think I've made the Salinas 2nd ward Elders about 20 minutes late for an appointment, so I'll have to end here.

I'm excited for the next year, now that I have a year of experience of what NOT to do.

The mission is great. Tons of blessings, and my testimony gets more sure and more expansive as time goes by. I love you all, and thanks again for all the letters and support.

Have a great week, and enjoy General Conference this next weekend.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Lack of Laptops 09/22/09

Dear Family,

When I think about it, leaving Los Altos was probably harder to do than leaving home for my mission. I hope none of you are offended by that. But I'm not one to live in the past (my only regrets in Los Altos is not getting a picture with the guy who invented the microwave, and the founder of KFC) - I'm really excited to work in a city where many can be labeled "poor and humble," even though many don't or claim to not speak English.

The majority of our ward missionaries here play for the Hartnell College basketball team. One we went out with this week is named Bo Hunter. Not only does he have a name fit for a celebrity, but I found out he went to Provo High. He was a freshman when I was a senior. It was nice to get updates on mutual friends in Provo from him, and to know that D-Wing of Provo High is somehow still standing even though we were predicting its collapse since I was a freshman.

I also found out that at one point, Kenyn Koop was seriously considering coming to Salinas to play for Hartnell College. I heard that from Coach Vasher here (who also happens to be in our ward's bishopric). Man, that would have been awesome to have him in our ward. I could've have brought up all the embarrasing scout-camp stories about us when I bear my testimony in church. On second thought, maybe it's better that he didn't come here.

Our ward is great, and is a bit different than that in Los Altos. For instance, the lack of lap-tops in ward council meeting tells me we aren't in Silicon Valley anymore. Also, there are more who work blue-collar jobs, which is a nice break from having to interpret computer-programmer lingo at every dinner appointment.

I can tell Elder Finlayson has worked hard here. We have a baptism coming up in October. It also seems that wherever we go, he can point out some sort of service he did for one home or another. And not just little things - but things like painting an entire outside of a house, removing huge trees, planting new trees and bushes, etc. He loves to help people.

The ward is great. The bishop is great. My only awkward moment at church was when I called Brother Birchall "Brother King" even after I had asked his name twice and he had given me a business card to remember it. I still maintain that he looks like a "Brother King."

Have a great week. I'm praying for you - so the least you could do is do the same for me!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Transfer 09/14/09

Dear Family,

I was expecting to stay in Los Altos into October, but I've been transferred down to Salinas. My companion is Elder Finlayson, from Las Vegas. That's about all I know about him.

The Salinas population is about 70% Hispanic, so I see my Spanish-speaking skills increasing from "Hola" to "Que Onda," and even more. I miss a lot of people in Los Altos, and I'm glad that I will have many opportunities to keep in touch.

We have a dinner appointment in 15 minutes, so I'll have to wrap this up. I hear a lot of people in the ward like to BBQ. So far so good.

Until next week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Braveheart Style 09/08/09

Dear Family,

Yesterday, I was very pleased to know that a great American Labor Day tradition is being carried on in the Bay Area of California. That tradition is the stake-wide pancake breakfast. I'm talking buckets of pancake batter, sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, etc. You get the idea.

I also discovered another blessing of being a missionary - it's easier to get seconds and thirds without shame or being rebuked. This is because: A Most people just see the white shirt, tie, and nametag, so when you get in line again, they don't see you as a glutton, but just as another missionary that just showed up. And B. Missionaries are always assumed to be hungry and needing to be fed. This assumption is correct.

In the next coming weeks we'll be starting doing service at the Senior Center in Los Altos. Sounds boring, you say? Well, I should also mention that one of our responsibilities is to help them stay fit - and what better way to stay fit than by doing Wii Fit. I just can't wait to see a room full of 60+ year olds playing Wii.

Lately our Mission President has been trying to help us become better speakers. To those who haven't really heard my voice, you'll be surprized that I'm not quite the charming, smooth, loud-speaking handsome and attractive young man that I come off as in these letters. Yep, I need to work on speaking louder and with more inflection. For this purpose, we've taken to reading aloud the scriptures in companion study, but doing it in the fire and brimstone preacher style. One of my favorite chapters to do this with is Alma 44, the battle between courageous Moroni and vengeful Zerahemnah and their armies. My favorite is verse 14, where one of Moroni's soldiers has cut off the scalp of Zerahemnah, puts it on the tip of his sword, and says:

"Even as this scalp has fallen to the earth, which is the scalp of your chief, so shall ye fall to the earth except ye will deliver up your weapons of war and depart with a covenant of peace."

Awesome.

I like reading more spiritual verses as well, but still, that one is my favorite right now. I like to imagine one of the warriors from Braveheart saying it.

The work is coming along. Blessings have come and I'm told more are in the pipeline. I hope the same is with you.

Love,

Elder Karlsven