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Friday, April 30, 2010

Charleton Heston 04/26/2010

Dear Family,

There's a certain type of person that just likes to talk. They will talk about anything. And they will talk for hours on end. There's no real purpose to what they are saying, and they have no direction they are going with it. They just like to talk. Robert was that type of person.

We first met Robert at Almaden Lake Park. Elder Serat spotted him about 50 yards away looking at us and smiling. We went to talk to him. After getting to know him a bit, we scheduled a time to come teach him the first lesson. He was thrilled at the prospect. Meeting a few days later at the same park, we sat down on a bench with Robert and began teaching the first lesson.

There's a section in Preach My Gospel about listening. Mostly it talks about how listening and understanding is more important than speaking. Then they add in a little bit about people that will tend to dominate the conversation and keep you from teaching. All the advice given there is "You will need to learn how to tactfully take control of such situations."

Robert was kind enough to listen to us teach about Heavenly Father and how the Gospel blesses families. He even gave good, brief answers to our questions. Elder Serat began to teach about prophets.

"...prophets are given authority from God to.."

Robert interrupted, "Have you guys ever seen 10 Commandments." We nodded.

He continued, "That Charleton Heston is a great actor. His voice. His demeanor. It's wonderful, and I just love the way he..."

He went on about Charleton Heston. Now, as many of you know, I would be the last to stop someone from praising Charleton Heston, but we had a lesson to teach. I tried to swing things back:

"Yeah, Robert, Charleton Heston is a great portrayal of the greatness of those called to be prophets. Prophets teach about the gospel of Christ, which is..."

He interrupted again, "And what about Planet of the Apes? You ever see that one?"

I don't know how we did it, but we finished the first lesson, invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it is true, come to church, set up a return appointment, and invited him to be baptized, all in under 45 minutes.

Alright I got 34 seconds left on this computer. Have a great week. I love hearing from you. Keep praying and doing what's right.


Elder Karlsven

Soy Sauce Ice Cream??? 04/19/2010

Dear Family,

I don't have a lot of time. Or rather, no time. So I'll try to be quick.

Yesterday we went to the Bishop's home to share a lesson with his family. We were teaching about the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy. Using mint chocolate chip ice cream to represent the good things we do on the Sabbath, we began the lesson. Family time, rest, church, spiritual things were mentioned as blessings of the sabbath. We then talked about some things that are good on other days, but not the sabbath - work, sports, too much tv, etc. As we did so, we put toppings on the ice cream that would be good on food other than ice cream - soy sauce, seasoning salt, ketchup, mustard. We then invited them to try it. The whole family recoiled as we waved it around toward each of them. Their 13 year old son, Thomas, said he wanted to try. The second it touched his mouth he ran to the kitchen to spit it out. This will be a lesson he will not soon forget.

Any other ideas for teaching gospel principles with food would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Have a great week, everyone. This week, I encourage you to give one high-five a day to someone that tells you something good they did.


Elder Karlsven

We Don't Need No Stinking Badgers 04/12/2010

Dear Family,

Our High Priests Group Leader's name is Hugh Hall. The other day, after speaking with Brother Hall, Elder Serat asked me in his Haitian accent, "Is his name really Yue Hall?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Really? Does he own that?" He asked.

"Huh? What do you mean?" I asked.

"Does he own that business?" He asked.


"Uhaul, does he own that?"

"Ohh! No, I don't think Hugh Hall owns Uhaul. But we could ask him."

"Yeah, let's ask him."

Communicating with a missionary from another country can be frustrating at times, but it always leads to a lot of funny moments like this one. The trick is to make sure that you both understand how to laugh. Making your companion's bed once in a while is always a good idea too.

If Becky is posting this on the blog, I'll give a shout-out to Eric Petersen because a new missionary, Elder Badger, read my blog after being referred by Eric. I told him in my best Cheech impression that in this mission "we don't need no stinking Badgers."

Also, it turns out that Sister Bushman in the Almaden ward was companions with Sister Richardson on their missions in Japan. I can't remember Sister Bushman's first name or maiden name, so hopefully Sister Richardson knows who I'm talking about.

Anyway, I'm doing well, staying energized about working and talking to people. I'll be staying in the Almaden ward for at least 6 more weeks. No complaints. President Jackson said today that "those who don't ever run full speed during the race usually run out of gas at the end." It was obviously a made-up story about a cross-country race, because I know from personal experience from being on a high school cross country team that when I ran full-speed early on, I was usually keeled over two thirds of the way into the race. But still, the message was clear:

Being able to work hard is largely just making it a habit. Also, never run more than 1 mile at a time if you've just spent 2 years driving a car and eating large dinners every night as a missionary.

Elder Karlsven

This Lady Means Business 04/05/2010

Dear Family,

About 5 people emailed me asking what conference talks I liked. Oddly enough, I really liked the General Relief Society President's talk. Mostly because she wasn't all smiley the whole time. She spoke and I got the feeling of "Whoa, this lady means business."

Going to the temple and watching General Conference were both great, but along with us moving apartments, it kind of destroyed our teaching this week. I've learned a new definition of accountability having the mission president in our ward:

Accountability (Uh-Kown-tuh-bill-itee): Getting yelled at.

No, just kidding. He doesn't yell at us, just in our direction. But always we all end up laughing. This morning eating breakfast at President Jackson's house he pulled out an old journal from his mission as a 19 year old. He read a few excerpts from it. In every entry, his girlfriend Dorothy was mentioned. As he read out loud the stories, he would burst out laughing and keep laughing to tears before being able to read to us what happened that was so funny. He would finish the story and we would all feel obligated to at least laugh a little bit.

I'm glad that I learned early on that a journal is not a record of meals eaten and daily routines ("Today I got up, showered, had breakfast, studied, then visited some people. It was a good day" = Lame.) But I don't know, maybe those things will be more interesting 30 years down the road than contests we have on who can make the other laugh first while sharing a message after dinner with the "old" couple in the ward.

Until next week.

Elder Karlsven

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Temple Trip 04/01/2010

Dear Family,

This week was our semi-annual mission trip to the temple. They made that day our Preparation day, so of course we didn't have time to email. The temple is the most peaceful place to get clarity of mind and think about things. I love it.

We got a ride to the temple with Brother Daily in the ward. He picked us up in what he calls "the Lord's taxi." Good man.

Okay, I got to go. The Assistants somehow roped us into helping out in a move. The have a "good cop, bad cop" technique down pretty well. They call us, and we never know if it's going to be the nice, apologetic, complimenting missionary, or the demanding, cut-throat, angry one.

Elder Karlsven

St. Patrick's Day Fiasco 03/22/2010

Dear Family,

Every so often you have a run-in with someone or something possessed with the spirit of the devil. Most of the time these come in the form of little yappy dogs. On this particular occasion (St. Patrick's Day) it was two little girls:

I was with one of the Spanish-speaking Elders, working in his area. He has not been feeling so confident with speaking in Spanish. It was easy to help him with this. We went in an area of town where the majority of people don't speak more than 10 words of English. I would go up to someone. I began speaking. With words or a confused look, they say "No English." Then I close my mouth and look at the Spanish-speaking missionary.

We began to knock on doors of apartment buildings. This was really refreshing after working in an area with no apartments for the past 3 months. We were on the second floor, and these 2 little girls yelled up at us.

"Hey, what are you guys doing!?" One shouted at us.

We shouted back something like, "Looking for someone to be baptized!"

A few seconds passed. The same girl shouted, "Hey, are you wearing green?"

I looked down at my tie. Oh crap.

"You're not!" She yelled.

They both promptly ran up the apartment stairs toward us. We looked around anxiously looking for an escape. There was none to be found.

"PINCH!" Each said as they pinched each of us on the arm.

Humiliated, we returned to the car and sat there for an hour, both too ashamed to even look at one another. The memory of that menacing little girl's voice continues to rob me of sleep.

Elder Karlsven

Mission Stats 03/15/2010

Dear Family,

As a mission we had a goal to talk to 20,000 people this week. I talked to more people this week than I have any other week of my life. Interesting facts learned:
-White people were no less receptive than those of any other race, except Latino.
-Most people are more likely to take a business-card for the church than a pass-along-card.
-Surprisingly, Iranians here are in abundance, and are more likely to be a Christian than any other religion.
-2 out of 3 times that we went to the Costco parking lot we got a free lunch.
-100% of the people that wave signs for Subway or Little Caesars on the side of the street are church-going Christians.
-Groups of people of 3 or more are more likely to stop and talk to you than individuals or couples.
-No one ever wants to talk to you after they just talked to the Girl Scouts.

It was kind of a downer week. We lost 2 investigators. One wasn't really interested in taking the lessons, and the other got pressure from his family to not meet with us again. But church here always, ALWAYS without fail brightens the day. Before we even went in the building we got a referral from a member. During church we got 2 more. To put this in perspective, other wards I've been in have given maybe one or two good referrals in a month. And that's a good month.

Take care.

Elder Karlsven

P.S. Elder Serat has not found out any more about his family in Haiti. He is emailing the mission president there (who he used to play basketball with) to find out more info.

Derise and Sanka Together Again! 03/08/2010

Dear Family,

In every email I got it was requested that I tell more about Elder Serat. So here's the basics:
-Elder Serat is from Haiti, from the city of Port-au-Prince.
-He has not gotten much news from his relatives there on how they are after the earthquake.
-His mom lives in Florida
-He is fluent in English and has lived in the U.S. for 2 1/2 years. He initially learned English from watching Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.
-He is 5'8" and can dunk a basketball.
-He made friends with the huge African American man that lived underneath me in Los Altos that tormented us on a daily basis.
-He understands an American sense of humor, unlike many other missionaries from foreign countries.
-He can do an adequate impression of our mission president.
-Imagine a Haitian Derise (from Cool Runnings) and you got it. Since I could easily be described as a white Sanka (also from Cool Runnings) we get along wonderfully.

We had fun on Sunday. Our Relief Society president invited us to help out at the beginning of Relief Society. I love coming as a special guest places. The young women were there too. They asked for everyone to stand and recite the Young Women's theme. Standing there, I wasn't sure whether we should just smile or try to fake like I knew it. We then got to sing "As Sisters in Zion." Nice. Everyone had a good laugh at all that and that we needed a third priesthood holder to be with us there as a chaperone. Despite all this humiliation, I'd jump at the chance to help out in Relief Society again.

Not much other news this week. Does anyone know how Zoram Quintana is doing? I've been worried about that guy.

Oh yeah, and I have a new email address. The address will be shut down in a couple weeks, so send all email messages to Thanks.


Elder Karlsven

New Companion 03/01/2010

Dear Family,

This weekend several 16-18 year olds in the stake went with us missionaries on mini-missions. It was a lot of fun, they even said so, even though I think most everyone was dreading it for some reason. Our bishop asked the 2 boys that went with us how it went. One said, "It's intense." Our bishop was impressed. Earlier that day we drove by a regular blue car and the same boy said, "Whoa, that car is intense." So yeah, he's got to learn some more adjectives.

Elder Valencia got transferred this morning to Santa Cruz. It was really sad to see him go - he was the type of companion I could work with for 6 months or longer and have no problem with it, so 3 months didn't seem long enough. This is the first time I knew who my companion was going to be before the day of transfers, possibly due to some sneakiness on my part:

We were in a meeting with the stake presidency and high council yesterday with our mission president. I knew all the missionaries coming into the stake except who my companion would be. I was reporting this at the meeting: "All these incoming missionaries are great men We are also getting a new missionary in the Almaden ward, but I have forgotten his name," and then I looked at the mission president to fill us in.

Irritated, President Jackson's booming voice filled the room, and it was directed at me.

"You didn't forget who it is because I never told you who it is."

He paused a moment, and then told us who it would be. Elder Serat, from Haiti. Sweet! He was the one that replaced me in Los Altos. I've heard he works hard and can dunk a basketball. A double-threat. I'm sure it will be a blessing being with him, for one because he can update me the progress of people in Los Altos we both worked with. You see, when I left Los Altos, I couldn't help but feel like the 7 1/2 months there were a waste and my efforts there didn't really affect more than 1 or 2 people. Don't get me wrong - I'm really grateful for those 1 or 2 people - but the area seemed a lot worse when I left it than when I came. So far I've found out that one person we taught went from thinking Joseph Smith is a scoundrel, to bearing testimony of the church, and Ben Prudence (the one we baptized there) will be going to the temple soon. Awesome.

Happy Birthday to Dad. It's still weird to think that he will be 60 this week. That seems like "grandpa age" to me. But I guess he actually is a grandpa, so it's cool.


Elder Karlsven

New Found Respect for Elder Scott 02/22/2010

Dear Family,

The high point of this week was Elder Richard G. Scott (Apostle) spoke to our mission at a meeting Saturday morning. Before he began, he had each missionary shake his hand, introducing themselves and saying where they are from - city and country.

"Elder Karlsven. Provo, USA"

He greeted me, and what was impressive is that he pronounced my last name perfectly - not "Karlston" or "Carlson," but "Karlsven." Immediately I had respect for this man, even though he was probably 5 foot 5.

The central point of his comments was this direction: Choose a good wife and choose her fast.

Towards the end of the meeting, he gave us about a half an hour to ask him questions. I'm sure our mission president was worried about the caliber of questions being similar to those asked of the last general authority that visited our mission. The first question of that meeting was "What's the church's stance on dinosaurs?" I think the response was something like "Stay away from them. Especially the carnivores."

Unfortunately I was sitting in the back, and we ran out of time before any of my soul-searching questions could be answered by Elder Richard G. Scott:

"Do robots go to heaven?"

"What's the 'G' stand for in your name?"

"What about a robot with a human brain?"

"Will you autograph my White Handbook?"

"What's the church's stance on cavemen?"

It actually was a really good meeting. The more I learn and think about it, I realize how in tune with the spirit the general authorities are, as well as how demanding and exhausting their callings are. I don't know how those old guys do it - I can barely stay awake in church meetings after a long day.

Thanks again for all the support you all give me. I'm doing great. Either I'm really lucky, or you guys are praying for me and for the work. Seriously, thank you.

Elder Karlsven

Cheating on Missionaries? 02/15/2010

Dear Family,

Alright, it's been proven. Missionaries can be categorized in the "super-hero" section in the encyclopedia. My proof: Missionary action figures. We were helping out at the community center here and one of the workers gave us 2 of them she picked up at an LDS store in Las Vegas last weekend. Awesome.

We went to an old folks place on Tuesday. One of the workers set up a big sound system with a couple keyboards hooked up to it. Needless to say, all the 70+ year olds there are now very familiar with songs about the food pyramid, and the songs from Nacho Libre. We concluded our performance with "Nearer My God to Thee" with a Euro-dance beat going. They clapped enthusiastically after every song, even at the beginning when I was just fooling around with the different sounds on the keyboards. This was one of the few times when I could say "You've been a great audience" and mean it.

Okay, I'm sorry to say it, but some people we teach are just weird. I won't go into detail about the weirdest ones, but I will tell this story:

We have been teaching John (name has been changed) for a few months now. He comes to church weekly, but has some changes to make before he can be baptized. We invited him to a baptism on Saturday. He showed up, but accidentally wandered into another ward's ward party. We found him talking to several members of the other ward and their missionaries. This was very surprising because David, I mean John, is usually very shy and keeps to himself.

We went over to him and directed him to the baptism. He came, enjoyed the baptism, and went home shortly afterward.

Elder Waiwaiole, of the other ward, came to talk to us a few minutes later. "How do you two know Dav..John?" he asked. We told him he has been an investigator for a while. His face went blank. He then told us that they found a record for him in their area book and had began teaching him each week for the past month. He had also attended their ward for the past 3 weeks as well. At this same time, we had been meeting with him weekly and he has come to our ward also. He had not said anything about us to the other missionaries or anything to us about meeting with them. He also acted like he hadn't been taught anything about the church when they first met him.

See what I mean? Weird. But hilarious too.

Have a great week, everyone. Enjoy the Olympics. I can't believe I'm missing them, even though snowball fighting hasn't been accepted as an olympic sport yet.

Elder Karlsven

Note: Matthew did not have a chance to write an email for the blog on 02/08/2010

1 Degree of Separation from Steve Vistaunet 02/01/2010

Dear Family,

I'd say about half of the members in the ward here have lived in Provo at some point or have relatives there. The first sign of this is when, after I tell them I'm from Provo, they ask "Where in Provo?" I tell them, they know exactly where I'm talking about, and then they ask, "Do you know the _________ family?"

The answer is almost always "no." Even if they are within a quarter of a mile of our house, they could be in another stake.

I met a couple yesterday that lives in Oak Hills in Provo. They told me their exact address, and I asked if they knew any of the people I know in that area. They didn't. I then mentioned that one my friends there bought a giant bus. Their faces immediately lit up.

"Yes, we know them! They live across the street from us!" Then the husband's face went dark and he said that the only time he talked to them was when some band was playing at their house and he went over and told them to turn it down. I chose not to mention that that bus was used for our high school band, Radical Milhouse.

This week I was teaching with our recently released bishop, Bishop Hayden. He's the type of guy that always has a smile on his face, but somehow seems genuine at the same time. I was impressed the first time I met him when we came to his house without warning. He gathered his family to hear us, and when we asked him to call a less-active member he barely knew he said, "Sure I'll do that right now," instead of "Yeah, I could do that. I'll call you in a week or 2 to tell you how it goes."

As we sat down together to teach, we began the regular conversation.

"I'm from Provo," I said.

"Oh, do you know..." he began to ask. Of course I don't know your friend from 20 years ago at BYU, I thought.

"...Steve Vistaunet?"

"Whoa. Yeah!"

It was difficult to continue teaching the Plan of Salvation after that connection was made. Pretty sweet. (Vistaunets, I'll trust you to not tell certain stories from my pre-mission life. As far as I know, Bishop Hayden still trusts me as a missionary and we're trying to start teaching a couple friends of theirs).

We had a great week. 4 new investigators. All of them are friends or family of members of the ward here. First off, one member had us over for steak and twice-baked potatoes, after which we taught his wife the 2nd lesson at the request of their missionary son.

Next, we were sent to a friend that a member goes walking with pretty often The first visit they invited us in for dessert. We came back a few days later, and now are teaching their son.

Last of all was this Saturday. We were invited by the Halls for lunch. They invited 2 less-active members and 2 non-members for lunch with us. After lunch, we taught everyone the Restoration lesson.

Somehow, eating and teaching go together. We're considering making that a requirement that a meal must be served before any lesson we teach. We'll see how that offer goes when we are knocking doors.

In conclusion, the ward here is awesome, and a connection with the Vistaunets makes them that much cooler.

Have a great week. Thanks for your continued prayers that I will meet people out here that know people in Provo.

Elder Karlsven

Origins of Tracting 01/25/2010

Dear Family,

After so much searching, we finally found it! That's right, we finally discovered where the word "tracting" for knocking on people's doors came from. Or rather, we have 2 theories that come from long-time members of the church:

1. Church pamphlets used to be called "tracts." So when a missionary would hand out these "tracts," it was called tracting.

2. A group of houses was called a "tract." So knocking on the doors of such a group was called "tracting" or "housing."

The second theory came from a member of the stake presidency here. The first came from a guy who was really really old. You decide which has more authority on the subject.

The other day as we were doing some "housing," I saw an older man across the street. I greeted him. He walked over to us and began a lengthy explanation of why the world is going to the dumps, citing several examples. After 10 minutes (and I still didn't have any clue why he was telling us these things) he let us on our way. We knocked doors for about a half an hour and were walking back toward the man's house. He was in the front yard, and Elder Valencia jokingly said we should hide behind some bushes to avoid him Sadly, we didn't do this, and the man came over and said, "I wanted to tell you one more thing." He then took 15 minutes to tell us about 50 more things, among which were several Biblical ways to practice birth control. It was surprisingly informative, but still intensely uncomfortable.

As we drove away, I wondered how many people see us to be as crazy as we saw this man.

I am running out of time here, mostly since there's a new manager at the Apple Store who earlier asked me, "So what's it going to take for you to buy a laptop?" I struggled to not reply with "I think it's pretty obvious to see that I'm broke."

One interesting thing that happens when all your time is devoted to sharing the gospel - you constantly think of ways to apply everything to be used in missionary work.

We were washing our car the other day - "We should do a free car wash with free church videos!"

We met a graphic designer in our ward - "Oh, would you like to make some fliers for the next fireside?"

An older lady quilts - "Let's do a quilting night and invite our investigators!"

We heard about the Tiger Woods stuff - "Hey, we could go golfing with non-members and teach them the Law of Chastity at the same time!"

I'm really not sure what I'm going to think or talk about after my mission. I'm planning on most of the things I say to begin with "Back when I was on my mission..."

It's been great to hear from a lot of you this week. Have a great week, and remember, never trust a missionary over 30 ( or under 60).

Elder Karlsven

Advice From Stephen Colbert 01/18/2010

Dear Family,

Sister Hunter, the wife of the Oakland Temple President, spoke in our stake conference yesterday. One thing she said that stuck was "there are no coincidences in the temple." On Saturday Elder Valencia and I got permission to drive up to the temple to see a man that he taught get his endowment. While in the temple, I saw about a dozen people from different wards that I've served in.

It often takes a second for them to realize who you are when you are dressed in white and not wearing a missionary nametag. I saw the Salinas 1st ward bishop and the Los Altos bishop along with several other members. It was a good way to sort out which ones I will keep in contact with. Those are the ones who when they saw me said, "Hey, Elder Karlsven!" The rest said after a moment, "Oh, hi Elder," (obviously forgetting my name) I plan to send each of the latter a chain letter.

I am SO tempted to bring a hidden camera along when we go knocking doors. This weeks best one was an old man with a big beard and an English accent who yelled, "I don't believe in fiction! There is no God!" and slammed the door. The funny thing was that we were just asking for any extra canned foods he had to give to a local shelter.

I haven't been able to use it successfully yet, but by applying the wise words of Stephen Colbert, a tracting approach I've used goes like this:

"We wanted to get your opinion on something. The Book of Mormon (hold up a copy of it). Do you think it is 1. A great book about Jesus OR 2. THE GREATEST book about Jesus?

Elder Hinckley of the Seventy (President Hinckley's son) presided at stake conference. He remarked that the number of young missionaries are down mostly because people are having less children. I'd like to take this time now to rebuke those few friends of mine that have returned from their missions and are not yet married with twins on the way. He also asked for more senior missionaries. Apparently they are the most coveted missionaries of mission presidents. His advice was to fill out your application saying that you are broke and have several medical problems, and they will send you somewhere nice in the United States.

Anyway, I've reached the unwritten time limit here at the Apple Store - it is measured by the glares of workers I can see in the reflection of the monitor, and how often they ask if I need any help. Right now the glares are about every 8 seconds and increasing, and they've asked 4 times so far.

I'll be in Almaden with Elder Valencia at least 6 more weeks. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Have a great week. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!


Elder Karlsven