Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve!

Hello friends and family.  Thank you to Mom, Dad, Martins, Jensens, Kerrs, G&G C, G&G K, Clayne, and Jakins for all the Christmas goodies.  I definitely will not have to buy any candy for the next little bit.  I appreciate all your love.  I have very little time this week and next week, so I may not get around to sending out personalized thank you's, but thank you so much!

So I'm sure that you want to hear about Christmas, but some better things have happened this week, so I'll be brief.  Christmas Eve we ate with a recent convert family.  There are awesome.  They are the Rodriguez family and they have 12 people living in a house about half the size of our main floor.  He said while we were eating, "I don't just want to be a member of this church, I want to be a leader."  That was the coolest thing I had heard.  I can't wait to find somebody to baptize that has that same level of commitment.  It has been really fun to work with them.  Christmas morning, we got a group together and played soccer.  We played our ward vs the ward to the south of us.  Much of our team was made up of missionaries, so we lost horribly.  It was super muddy, so I have some awesome pictures to share sometime in the future.  We ate SO many tamales.  I guess it's a Christmas tradition.  Everywhere we went, there were tamales.  Am I complaining about it?  No way :)  They were awesome!  But I'm not a big fan of Chumporada (spelling help please, mom?).  It's kinda weird.  We had dinner with a family from El Salvador.  We had panes de pollo (these awesome chicken sandwiches that kinda tasted like Gyros).  There wasn't anything other than these things that made Christmas Day in particular all that special.  It will definitely be a memorable time though.  Oh, the guy we ate with?  HUGE into ping pong!  His paddle cost more than $120.  We played today and he beat me twice and I beat him once (got super super lucky with my win).  He was 5th in El Salvador at one point.  I have video to share later.

As always, I would love to hear any suggestions that any of you have about missionary work:

First, the sad story of the week.  Our goal was to have Armando baptized this week, and it didn't happen.  He still wants to be baptized, but the marriage thing is still the only thing in his way.  That was rough.  We found out on Thursday that it wouldn't happen.

Also on Saturday, we found a girl that is 18 years old, pregnant, and inactive in the church.  She wants to keep the baby and come back to church so that the baby can be raised right.  She has clearly had a really tough life.  She had aspirations to go on a mission, but can't now.  She has gone through the repentance process but doesn't feel like she can pray or read scriptures because she feels guilty still.  I really hope we'll be able to help her out.

Okay, so the story of the week.  We were in our weekly planning session and I started flipping through the potential investigator list.  I hadn't done this before.  I found Raul and Rosa and note next to their names said, "very very prepared.  They contacted us!"  I found this on Friday; we went and saw them on Sunday.  We knocked on the wrong door, and nobody answered.  (I knocked on 108, when the address was really 106.  Didn't figure that out till later)  There were two ladies talking in the hall, and I went up to them and said, "Hola Senoras.  Conocen a Raul y Rosa?"  (do you know Raul and Rosa)  She responded "Soy yo."  (that's me).  In my mind I was thinking, "no way no way."  So we walk into her apartment and a guy is there.  They are both super nice and open to talk.  We ask if they've heard about the Book of Mormon.  They said that they had had the Elders come 3 times before.  They picked the Book of Mormons off the shelf and we started reading in 1 Nephi 3 because they remembered some of the questions they had about the  chapter last time the Elders were there.  They said that the Elders stopped coming because it was hard to pick a time that would work with both of them due to conflicting work schedules.  Throughout the lesson we found out the following: 1) Raul has family in Mexico that are members, 2) The always come "at just the right time" according to Rosa, and 3) they aren't married (yet), but they have heard about being sealed in the temple and like the idea of being sealed together.  They both want to be baptized!  It felt unreal the whole time.  With it being the holidays, they'll be around together this week, so we'll be able to squeeze in 3 lessons before their schedules start posing a threat again.  I was smiling so big the whole time.

I love you all!  Thank you again for all your love, support, and Christmas presents.  The scripture share for this week is Alma 26:27.  It was basically the story of this week.  To all future missionaries, I can testify that this scripture is true!

God be with you till we meet again.

Elder Tanner Christensen

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Tanner's MTC district--with Branch President, Counselor & wife, and Brother Gunter (teacher)

Tanner with Elder Matiz (from home ward)

Tanner, Elder Bergemann, Brother Christofferson, Elder Crane, Elder Reinhardt

MTC District with their teachers

Tanner with Brothers Gunter, Wright, and Russell (MTC teachers)

Tanner and Sister Connelly--headed for the California Arcadia Mission!

President Becerra took the new missionaries to a hill that overlooks their mission boundaries.
From Tanner's assigned area, he is able to see the "Hollywood" sign on the hill.

Elder Crane, Tanner, Elder Reinhardt, Sister Connelly, Sister Johnson

The new mission bike--however, Tanner is in a car area right now :)

Tanner is in heaven with these Carne Asada Street Tacos!!

One of the elders did a fire dance at their mission Christmas party

President Becerra doing the Mexican Hat Dance at the mission Christmas party

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Skype
Feliz Navidad!  It's been a fun week.  A lot of Christmas related stuff has been going on.  It definitely does not feel like Christmas because of the lack of family gatherings and the lack of snow.  Thank you to Emmy, and Tara F for the letters.  And thank you to Jensens, Martins, G&G C, and G&G K for the Christmas gifts!  I'll be opening them tomorrow morning!  You all are so kind.  Thank you for the support.

So this week was kind of a tough one work wise.  I feel like we have a lot of lessons, but nobody is progressing consistently.  We have a lot of appointments fall through, and it seems like people are only around in their homes after 6:00pm.  We've also had some difficulties getting the members involved with lessons.  I think that it's probably a lack of planning on our part, so we'll fix that this week.

So the temple trip went well with Armando last week.  Unfortunately, he still has not accepted a baptism date.  And also, we found out after we were at the temple that he had already been to the temple visitor center 2 times before with other missionaries, so it wasn't a completely new experience for him.  But the Spirit was definitely there.  He's still listening to the Book of Mormon and is deep into Alma, almost to Helaman.  He has a strong desire to be baptized.  Him living with his girlfriend is the only thing getting in the way.

Another awesome lady we started teaching more this week is Angelina.  She is the mother of one of the people we have been teaching on and off.  She has had the missionaries over a few times before us.  In getting to talk to her more, she believes that she has already been baptized by giving her heart to Christ.  Also, we found out that she is worried to get baptized because she doesn't feel like she can fulfill all that is necessary after baptism.  Tithing is her main worry.  They are pretty poor.  She basically started a church, but is no longer involved with it.  She is very religious and she would be a referral gold mine if we could help her become converted.  So let's hope all goes well there.

As far recommendations for talks, I don't know if I have already recommended this one, but His Grace Is Sufficient by Brad Wilcox is awesome.  Highly recommend it.  Another really good one is The Great and Wonderful Love by Anthony Perkins from Oct 2006.  I've been studying a lot about the Doctrine of Christ as well.  Also, we have been focusing on teaching about baptism to help them receive a remission of sins.  We've really tried to help them understand what a blessing that is.  If you have any ideas, let me know.  I'd love to hear about you suggestions.  A common doubt we hear is, "There is one God and it doesn't matter what church you join as long as you are worshiping Him."  Then we go into authority and the message isn't getting across.  That's probably happened about ten times this week.  If you have any suggestions with that one as well, I'd love to hear.

We had a Christmas dinner as a ward and we were able to get a few investigators to come.  Unfortunately, it didn't convert to investigators in sacrament meeting the next day, but hopefully it planted a seed.

I love you all.  Happy Christmas Eve!  I hope that you all have a wonderful week.  God be with you till we meet again.

Elder Tanner Christensen

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 2--Getting into the Groove

December 17, 2012

Hello family and friends. Thank you to Mom, Dad, Emmy, Tarryn J, and Morgan E for the letters this week.  Also, I received the Christmas packages from Home and Jakins.  You all are so kind!  It's going to be tough not opening them till Christmas.  I feel like a child all over again.

Quick order of business.  Since the mission home can't forward mail to my apartment, I may not receive a letter for up to two weeks if it is sent to the mission home.  If you want to send anything directly to me, you may ask my parents for the address.  (I don't think I'm supposed to publicly post what it is, so just ask them for it)  Also, I can't receive anything bigger than a normal envelope at the apartment because of the size of our mailbox, so for that stuff, send it to the mission office.  Alright, there's all the business.  I love you all!

So some more info about my area.  It seems like there is a dollar store, a liquor store, and a laundromat on every single block.  And I think the population of dogs to humans is about 1:1.  I haven't had any encounters yet, just a lot of barking.  On a really really clear day (which is extremely rare) you can see the "HOLLYWOOD" sign on the mountain miles away.  That was kinda cool.  Also, on a clear day, you can see some mountains that are snow capped.  Cool stuff.  I've had more good food this week.  There's a guy that's going to teach me how to make tortillas and carne asada for street tacos.  That will be VERY valuable info.

We had a mission wide Christmas party this week.  It was so much fun!  I kinda wish that I could have had a break like that a little bit more into my mission, but it was still a great time.  I got to see all my friends from the MTC again which was great.  Also, I met Aaron Wheatley's cousin who is serving here in Arcadia speaking English (Aaron is one of my closest friends for those that don't know the name).  The whole day was basically talent shows and missionaries singing songs.  It was awesome.  The best act of all was President Becerra dancing.  His family is from Mexico and he did a traditional Mexican dance with some of the Hermanas. (this computer isn't letting me upload the picture, so it will come later)

So do you remember the semi-homeless guy that I talked about last week, Antonio?  We ran into him AGAIN!  It was the weirdest thing ever.  We were talking with Marta, from Guatamala, who just arrived from Denver looking for a new job.  She had no money and was waiting to be picked up by an acquaintance to go to her home for the night.  We bought her lunch and sat on a bench and we were talking to her for a bit.  Then right in front of us as we were talking, we see Antonio.  So we stop him and start talking to him.  He thanked us for the help again, but he said that he had been sleeping outside still.  My companion gave him his nice fleece coat, we bought him some food, gave him some water and gave him a pass-along card and told him to call us if he needed anything else.  And, of course, we had a gospel conversation.  I feel like there is now a good chance that we'll run into him again somehow.

Scripture share for this week is a very simple one:  Phil 4:13.  I don't think I had ever read it before this week, but I think that it is very powerful.

Also, I want to share a quote from Pres. Uchtdorf's Conference talk from Oct 2012.  I'd like to invite you to read it a few times, because there are some huge promises in there:

"Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self. Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents. The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us."  -Pres. Uchtdorf

On Tuesday, we will get to go to the LA Temple Visitor Center with Armando Hernandez.  Armando was my very first lesson in the mission field.  He knows everything is true, but is hesitant to marry his girlfriend that he lives with.  They have a few kids together.  These past two weeks, he has been listening to the audio of the Book of Mormon because he doesn't read very well.  It has changed him so much.  He says that he listens to it at work all the time.  It's really cool to see.  He was really confused by the scripture in the Book of Mormon that says that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one.  We tried to explain it was talking about unity, but I don't know how well that got across.  We are hoping that the spirit of the temple will be thing that helps him accept the baptism date.  The goal is to get married on Christmas, then get baptized on Dec 30.  We really hope it will work out well. (He is the first of our investigators to come to church. It was so good to see him there yesterday!)

Thank you all for all the prayers.  I think I can feel them.  I hope that you all have a fantastic Christmas.  Not having family around (or even snow for that matter) will definitely be a change.  I love you all!  As always, I would love to hear from anybody that is reading this.

God be with you till we meet again,

Elder Tanner Christensen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

1st Week in the Field

December 10, 2012

Hello family and friends! It is so nuts that I'm here. It's all kind of been a blur this week.  Thank you to Mom, Emmy, and Tara for the letters.  I'll try to get responses out this week, but no promises.  So I thought that I felt good about Spanish leaving the MTC.  It is definitely not the same language coming from the lips of a native.'s been tough.  My companion is Elder Flores.  He is from Virginia and his parents are from El Salvador.  He speaks English better than Spanish, but he's pretty good at both.  Unfortunately he can only give me my least favorite response to any grammar question: "I don't know, it just sounds right."  Ugh...!  He's been speaking to me in all Spanish.  I admittedly have been getting a little frustrated the last two days, but I'm seeing improvements.  I just need to be more patient.
I am serving in the Belvedre 2 ward and I'm in the north portion of the ward boundaries.  It's right in the middle of East LA (it may technically be LA).  It's pretty rough, but I haven't ever felt in danger.  I've just been "cautiously aware" of my surroundings.  If you want to see what my area looks like, hop on Google Maps and look at were the 10 and the 710 cross and that's my area.  Most of our investigators live near City Terrace Drive.  Our area is huge, so we have a car.  That's a huge blessing.
Mom and Dad, that bike you got me was sooo pretty.  I am so grateful that you bought it for me. 
P1000171.JPGWe've eaten with a member almost every night.  Nothing scary yet.  But I attached a picture of some carne asada street tacos the Elders Quorum President's wife made.  They were everything I wanted to experience in the realm of food while being here.  I've seen a lot of Orange Fanta, a lot of bottled water, and a lot of iPhones and satellite dishes in homes that I know can't afford them.  It's been sad to see that.

We don't have any solid progressing investigators at the moment.  There are potentially some really really good stories coming, so stay tuned.  We had a confirmation on Sunday of a guy who had to come over a heavy drinking problem.  He is such a funny guy!  And he speaks English really well, so that makes it easier to relate to him.
Cool story of the week.  We are teaching a lady named Flor.  She speaks English and Spanish equally well, so we teach in English so her son can understand.  We drop by her house to talk to her, but she was busy.  We walk out and start talking to this 75ish year old man sitting on a bus stop bench drinking a ton.  He said that he had an appointment of some kind in the morning and he lived in a different city.  He traveled there because there would be no way to get there in the morning (for some reason).  It was kind of a cold night and he was planning on sleeping on the street.  His plan was to drink until he passed out so that he wouldn't need to deal with the cold.  We tried to convince him that it was too cold and that we would try to call somebody to come take care of him.  He refused to move.  We finally convinced him that he couldn't stay there.  So we walked back to Flor's house (maybe 50 feet away) and asked her if he could stay the night on her couch with how cold it was.  This single mom living in the roughest part of the town takes this drunk old man in for the night.  We later found out that she fed him too.  Sooooo cool!  I don't know if I would have done that.  The people here have such big hearts.  I love it.  Almost everybody is willing to strike up a conversation.  It's super cool.
Well, I love you all!  One of the things that I've liked doing here is listening to conference talks while I'm showering, getting ready, or am in the car.  So, PLEASE download some of your favorite talks and burn it on an audio CD and send it to me!  I would absolutely love it!  That's what I want most for Christmas, to be honest.  That, and letters.  So write me!  Thanks for all the support.  Have an awesome week, because I know that I will!
Elder Tanner Christensen

p.s. I GAVE A TALK MY FIRST WEEK!!  It went pretty well.  Nobody believed that I got here on Tuesday.  It was awesome.  The topic was the Ministry of Christ.  LOVE YOU!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hello from California!

Tanner with President and Sister Becerra
December 4, 2012
December 4, 2012

Hello, Hello, Family!!!

I am alive and well! :)  President Becerra seems like he is going to be a great Mission President. I think he and Dad would get along very well. He has an awesome sense of humor. So, I didn't know that Grandma Christensen helped keep President Becerra's grandfather in the Church. He said that Grandma's area was Pueblo and she helped him stay active or become active again. It's amazing how many overlaps we have in our lives.

The flight was probably the smoothest flight I've been on. An Hermana in my district from the MTC was very kind to talk to me through the whole flight. That helped a lot. So with everything that has happened so far, it's all feeling very right.

In the middle of writing this letter, President Becerra pulled me aside for my first interview. He asked what the best lesson was that I learned in the MTC, and I told him everything I was feeling the last week. Oh...I never told you what I felt in the temple. So, I was praying with all the faith I had, and I asked to feel more faith in my abilities and trust in the Lord. I felt prompted to read D&C 5:10. I'll let you read it. Crazy, crazy, crazy! Then I read D&C 6:33-36 (I think those are the right verses), and then I read my mission scripture (D&C 68:6,8). I was pretty misty-eyed by the end of it. So tying this back to my talk with President Becerra, I told him that I knew I needed to live my life with more trust in the Lord. He said that was a good lesson to have learned because I'll need it. This is going to be very good!

So, first day to this point...It's currently 2:05 local time. We landed at 9:20. We walked out to meet the Becerras. We got all our luggage loaded and headed up to a point on the mountain where you could see almost our entire mission. It was pretty cool, and really smoggy. You'll see in the pictures I took how bad it is. In our mission, there are 6 million people, according to President. There are tons of trees, which is nice, and houses everywhere. No concentrations here and there, but just packed everywhere.

So from the mountain, we went to the mission office. We took a quick tour and then some pictures. (I think you'll be getting some of them.) The office is smaller than the one in Texas, but it is still nice. Then we had lunch. Panda Express! Oh...ya...real food. It was awesome! I forgot how much I like that goodness. Then we got some very general training...intro on bikes, and cars, and money cards.

And now, I'm writing this letter. :)  And wait, it's going to get better. From here, I'M TAKING A NAP FOR 2 HOURS. OH...YES!!

So, good night family. :)

Elder Tanner Christensen

p.s. For now, just send all mail to the mission office. Zone Leaders are in the office at least weekly, Once I know my address, I'll give it to you just in case something's going on.

p.p.s. I LOVE YOU!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Last Week in the MTC

Tanner & Brandon Wardrop
Tanner & Aaron Wheatley
District (only 4 of them go to Arcardia)
Thanksgiving Day--assembling 9,000 humanitarian kits
Elders Crane, Brueggeman, (Tanner) & Reinhardt
He's going to miss this!

Wow, the time here has flown by so fast!  The last six weeks have felt just as long as the first three.  I'm glad to hear that you all had a good Thanksgiving.  Thank you to the Kerr family for all the quick notes from Thanksgiving.  Thanks to Tara, Kenna, Emmy, Mom, Dad, and G&G K for the letters as well! (I apologize if I forgot to shout out to anybody that wrote me a letter.  If I did, send me a DearElder to scold me)  And Sister Jakins, thank you so much for that amazing treat!  That is the first of the treats that I haven't been able to conquer quite as fast :)  Congrats to Tara on her mission call to NYC!  Spanish will be sooo good!  You'll love it.

So this week has been a huge growing experience.  I'm glad that I was studying Hope and Faith, because I ended up needing it.  I haven't been sleeping very well, and my mind always races when I'm low on sleep, so I've needed that Faith and Hope to dispel all negative thoughts that came when my mind would start racing.  Thank you to everybody that gave me their insights into the subject.  Scripture share for this week is 1 Pet 5:2-11 and Moroni 7:31.  For the scripture in Moroni, missionaries are doing the exact same work that angels are doing.  I think that's cool to think about.

I can't think of anything that was super special about this week in particular, so I think I'll just spend the time I have writing about my overall MTC experience for all of you that are headed here in the coming months or years:

I have learned so much here in the MTC.  The MTC has this way of pointing out your weaknesses fast.  But that's okay, because then you have the chance to improve them.  In the first weeks, I realized how much I was lacking in patience with others and in the latter weeks I realized how much I was lacking patience with myself.  I feel like I've grown more in these 2 months spiritually than any other 2 month period of my life.  There are many missionaries that considers this place prison or just some pit stop on the way to the mission field.  It is so much more than that.  I'm sure the following statement will change once I get to California, but right now the MTC is my favorite place in the world.  

The work is hard, the schedule is long.  Satan does everything he can to try and stop you, but you keep going day after day.  The thought of giving up has come into my head dozens of times, but I know that it's not me putting that thought into my head.  It seems like I have felt the Spirit here almost hourly.  I have never had that happen before.  I have found dozens of golden scriptures that I didn't even know existed, and I've just scratched the surface.  Many people come into the MTC thinking that it's all about the language.  In fact, I would say that may be at the bottom of the list of important things to learn here.  More important lessons learned are: learning about yourself, learning how to interact with other people, relearning the Gospel, remembering how great the plan is that God has for us, learning how important yet simple this work is.  And then at the end of that list, learning Spanish.

Thank you all for the support that you have given me throughout these weeks.  I would appreciate your prayers throughout this upcoming week as big changes are heading my way.  I love you all!

Elder Tanner Christensen

P.S.  Two quick notes on letter writing.  I leave Tuesday morning.  If you want to write me using before I leave, it needs to be written by Monday at 11 a.m. for me to receive it.  For writing letters to me in the field, the mission office is no longer able to forward mail due to changes in the Arcadia postal service.  So, for the first week or two, you can email the letter to my sister at and she'll forward it to me through the email available for missionary families. Once I know where I'll be living, my mom will post my address.

P.P.S  I love you all!  Goodbye Utah. Hello California.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pictures from the MTC

Tanner & Elder Brueggeman with MTC President Brown
Tanner (California) and cousin Morgan Evans (Madagascar)
Tanner and cousin Morgan in front of picture of
G&G Christensen, former MTC President

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from the MTC

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! (even though it's a day late)  I hope you all had an amazing day.  I also hope that you weren't worried I wasn't having a good day myself because, well, yesterday was probably my favorite day in the MTC!  Before getting into the details, thank you to Jessica, Tara, Karly, Emmy, Mom, Dad, G&G C and Clayne for your letters.  I don't know if I'll have time to respond to all of them this week, but I'll do my best.

Alright, Thanksgiving Day.  So we woke up usual time, had a simple breakfast, then had a few hours to study.  Then we had a morning devotional with Elder Holland!  As you probably could expect, it was sooooo good.  His main focus was about how grateful we should be that we live in this, the last dispensation.  We have more temples than ever.  There have been some projections that the total number of missionaries could jump over 90,000 and even approach 100,000.  In Elder Holland's words, "We've never had 90,000 of anything."  And he asked, "What did we do to deserve living in these days?"  then he paused for a few seconds, letting us think about it, then he said, "I don't know."  All past prophets saw our day, and they knew that our dispensation would be the one where the good finally wins.  All those prophets had to do their work knowing another apostasy was on its way.  He likened it to a sports game in saying, "Nobody wants to walk onto the field with a knowledge that you are going to lose."  But we don't have to worry about that.  All of our efforts will be worthwhile.  The thing that helped me most went something like this, "Some of you may feel that there is some pressure on your shoulders.  Well, ya there is.  But don't let it discourage you.  Let that pressure pump you up.  Go out and win this thing!"  Unfortunately I don't think they release the text from those talks, but always remember what a blessing it is to live in 2012, not 1835 with the rest of the Saints, or not in 835 when there wasn't a fullness of the truth on the earth.  This year I'm grateful for the Church!

After the devotional with Elder Holland, we had our Thanksgiving Meal.  It was pretty good.  They did a good job with it.  Standard mashed potatoes, gravy and the rest of the works.  After lunch we went to walk around the temple and to talk about what we learned in Elder Holland's talk.  It was a really spiritual experience.

Every year in the MTC, they do a huge Humanitarian Project on Thanksgiving Day.  This year, we made 4500 health kits and 4200 education kits for the Ouelessebougou region of Mali.  It was, admittedly, kind of a mad house, but it got done.  It was really cool to be a part of something so huge.

After the Humanitarian project, we got to watch 17 Miracles.  Oh wow, that's a good movie.  You all know I'm not much of a crier, but that moment that the text shows up at the end of the movie that says, "it'll all be worth it" I'll admit I got misty-eyed.

So from here, the day took an interesting turn.  We went back to the residence hall and a missionary needed to talk to me.  He said that he doesn't have the desire to be here that everybody else has, so he was wondering if I had any advice for him.  I had almost nothing since I hadn't dealt with that very much.  Any feelings I did have like that went away after the first week or so.  He's been in the mission for a little over a week now.  We got him in touch with a member of the Branch Presidency since I wasn't any help.  It sounded like they had a good talk.  While they were talking, I ran into President Brown and I asked him if there was any advice he had for me, as his zone leader.  He said that he would personally, or have one of his counselors, talk to this missionary tomorrow (meaning Friday).  That gave me a lot of comfort.  Once I talked to the member of the Branch Presidency for a few minutes, we went back to the residence hall.  So that part of the day wasn't as great.

Once I got back, there was an Elder in my zone that needed a blessing, and he asked me to give it.  It was really cool.  Almost all his district was around, and he chose me.  I think it was the third blessing I've given, and I'm getting to the point that my hands don't shake the whole time, so that's good :)

So, everybody, that's my day!  It was awesome!  I hope your days were just as good.  Family, I missed you, but I was having a blast while you were all together.  I'm sorry there isn't any info from the rest of the week.  It was kinda just same old, same old, but still awesome.  Oh, I got my travel plans!  I leave Dec 4.  At one point, I think I said I leave Dec 8.  That is not correct :)  Love you all so much!

Elder Tanner Christensen

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 16, 2012

I want to preface this letter by saying this has probably been the best week since I have been here.  It was definitely amazing.  Thank you to Jessica S, Taylor L, my roommates, Tara F, Karly S, and Emmy for your letters.  I don't know if I'll have as much time today to write letters, but I'll get responses as soon as I can.  And sorry if you wrote me and I didn't remember you in this post.  I don't have my list of people I need to write this week in front of me.  And always, thank you to Sister Jakins for the "treat" this week.  Carrots were a nice change-up.

Alright, so now the exciting things of the week.  First, I have been made a Zone Leader.  Many of the responsibilities are the same as when I was a District Leader, but there are also a few more.  Also, I switched companions.  To be 100% honest, my previous companion and I didn't have many problems between us, but we both had very different styles of teaching and I think our lessons may have suffered a little from that.  So now, my new companion:  he is the other Zone leader, his name is Elder Brueggeman, like my old companion he is also a convert of a little over a year, he is 22 years old, he knows why he's here, he's always focused, he's a super hard worker and we've had a great week.  This change came on Friday night, so we've been companions for a week now.  During that time, I have had my favorite TRC experiences, my favorite investigator experiences, I've been progressing in Spanish a lot faster, and we have had absolutely 0 problems with each other.  He speaks almost as much Spanish as I do, so we try to speak in Spanish together ALL the time.

For the TRC this week, we talked to a brother about the Restoration.  This week was the first opportunity we have had to teach a 40 min lesson.  Our goal going into the lesson was to help him feel excited to share the Gospel and the message of the Restoration.  After talking to him and hearing his testimony, I feel like I may have been more excited to share the message of the Restoration than anybody else.  The Restoration is the only thing that is 100% unique to our church, which means it's also the most important to share.  Now, I'm really excited to get to work.

For investigators this week, Elder Brueggeman and I were in different places with their progress, so we ended up going off of the progress of Elder Brueggeman.  Up to that point, he had not been able to get a baptismal commitment from either of the investigators.  We taught them both this week, and on the first visits that we had with each of them, we got commitments.  The Spirit was stronger than ever in those lessons. 

After I wrote my letter last week, I realized that I didn't talk at all about what I've been studying.  I have still been focusing on studying the Atonement when I don't have to plan for an investigator.  Thank you for everybody that shared their insights with me.  I'd like to share what I learned this week about the Atonement.  As I was reading in 2 Ne 9, I got the prompting to read the story of Christ walking on water with Peter (I think it's in Matt 14).  If you have a chance, read that story again thinking about the Atonement the whole time you read it.  Here is what I got from it:  living a perfect, sinless life is kind of like walking on water.  Think of the water as sin, and walking on water symbolizing overcoming sin.  You can do it for a little while as long as you have perfect faith and are focused on Christ.  However, the second your faith wavers and your sight goes off Christ, you will begin to sink.  But then you will read in the scriptures, Peter cried out for help and Jesus immediately stretched forth His hand to help Peter.  I know that Christ is there to help us and all we need to do is ask.

This week I'll be studying about faith and hope.  PLEASE send me some of your thoughts because you all are much smarter than me!  As always, if you hear about any mission calls that are coming in.  I love you all and thank you for your prayers.  I really need them.  God be with you till we meet again.

Elder T. Christensen

Friday, November 9, 2012

Week 5 Update

Wow this week flew by!  Time is really weird here in the MTC.  Some days pass by super fast and others seem to never end.  But the week absolutely flew by!  Thank you to Mom, Dad, Emmy, Tara, and Johnny for the letters this week.  Thanks to Morgan and G&G Christensen for the emails, and thanks to Sister Jakins for the brownies.  I haven't weighed myself this week, but this life style is starting to take its toll a little bit. 

I have no idea how this happened, but almost everybody in our district hit a point this week that we just needed to sit back a second and cool down a little bit.  The schedule here is so demanding and you are going all the time.  Everyday is 16 hours long and you do something productive literally every minute.  Before the MTC, I wondered how it's possible to grow so fast in the MTC.  Now I understand.  It's because you are working hard all the time and the Spirit is always present.  It sounds kinda rough, but with the right attitude this place is amazing!  

Congrats to Verina, Lydia, and Aya with your mission calls!  This week, Elder Zwick from the Seventy came and spoke to us and he said that within the 1 month that Sisters have been able to apply, there have been as many applications as there are Sister missionaries in the field right now.  So to clarify, once all the Sisters that currently have their mission calls are out in the field, the number of Sisters will have doubled (ignoring the Sisters that return home during that time).  I think that is a huge testament to the faith of all you Sisters!  Congrats to all of you!  Keep letting me know as mission calls come in!  I love hearing about it.

This week, as I've already alluded to, has been kind of a roller coaster.  There have been some moments that I am ready to go convert the world, and other times that I'm not sure if I can handle the weight of it all.  Something one of my teachers said this week made me realize what was happening.  There is opposition in all things.  After Moses saw Christ face to face, Satan came and tempted Moses.  A lot of things in this world are clearly worse than ever before.  Sometimes it's easy to lose hope for the future.  But it is important to remember that we currently have more temples on the Earth than any time in the history of the World and we (soon) will have the most missionaries for the Church any time in the history of the World.  God's army is growing and Satan's army is growing power.  But we know how the battle ends so there's no reason to get down.

Now, the craziest thing that happened this week.  To start, President Brown is an amazing MTC president.  He is so personal with the missionaries.  I hope some of you will be able to be around him.  So every Fast Sunday, we have a Mission Conference.  One little tradition that I wasn't aware of, is that President Brown likes to invite missionaries up to bare their testimonies.  President Brown knows all my grandparents and my dad, so naturally, I got called up.  I was called up to bare my testimony in front of 1700ish missionaries.  Holy...cow...  It was like there were so many people that it didn't even register that they were all real people.  My voice was super shaky, and I'd like to think that was because of the Spirit being so strong and not because I was a nervous wreck.  It was a really cool experience though.  I don't remember everything I said, but it was cool nonetheless.  Another funny part, President Brown also called up a sister from my district to bare her testimony (he had no idea we were in the same district).  He called her before he called me, so I had a few seconds to laugh...and then the laughing stopped abruptly.  Hahaha, it really was a cool experience.

Thank you all for the support.  I ask for your continued prayers.  Love you all!

Elder Tanner Christensen

Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 4 Update

Wow.  Today is November 2.  Tomorrow is my 1 month mark.  I am about half-way through the MTC.  I feel like I just started and I have a hard time believing that I could be anywhere close to ready.  Before I get more into that, thank you to Jessica S, Matt W, Dad, and the Martins for the letters.  Also, thank you to Durstelers, Jakins, and Martins for the treats.  All the food and treats plus sitting all day is starting to have it's effect.  I weighed myself 2 weeks ago for the first time at the MTC and I'm up 5 pounds today.  So that's not counting whatever I gained the first 2 weeks.  So Emmy, maybe I will return huge per your request.

So again, I'm almost half way through the MTC.  Super hard to believe.  I am slowly beginning to forget the world, but I still remember it exists every now and then.  This past week I kind of had a hard time focusing.  I'll need to rededicate myself this week.  Spanish is still going well.  I'm to the point that I can say almost anything that I want to say in a lesson, but outside of lessons, I'm pretty lost.  I still get to see Elder Matiz from our ward pretty frequently.  He is learning English and is fluent in Spanish.  I know what he's saying maybe half the time.  We had a really cool moment this week.  I ran into him outside reading the BoM in English with his Spanish BoM open at the same time.  He threw some Spanish at me that I didn't understand and handed me his Spanish BoM.  For the next 15 min, we just went back and forth helping each other with pronunciation and stuff.  His accent is pretty heavy, but I could understand everything he was saying.  Hopefully it was the same for me :)

I'm still having a good time here.  I feel like I've grown more in the last 4.5 weeks than I have in the last year.  It's a crazy feeling.  

This week was pretty good with my companion.  He injured his shoulder this week diving after a soccer ball and it's still bugging him.  His Spanish is coming along.  I'm trying to get him to just speak without thinking so much.  When he relaxes, he can speak Spanish pretty well.

On Tuesday, Elder Don Clarke from the Seventy spoke to us.  His talk was 40 min of pure applicable missionary advice.  It was really enjoyable.  He focused his whole talk on the word "help" in our purpose.  One of the 8 major points of his talk was "help your family experience your mission."  I would like to follow one of his pieces of advice starting now.  He said something along the lines of, "get your loved ones at home involved in your studies.  Let them know what you are studying for the week and invite them to study the same.  Then ask them to share the things the learned throughout the week."  You all know way more than I do, so I hope that I could tap into all of your huge knowledge bases.  This week, I am trying to understand the Atonement better.  We've had a few really good talks in class and I've been trying to gain a greater appreciation for the Atonement.  Since all of our teachings lead to Christ, and Christ's greatest work was the Atonement, I feel like I probably should understand that better than any other Gospel concept.  So, if any of you would like to join in on this study with me, I would absolutely love to hear your insights!  

So now an "investigator" update.  We have 2 investigators: Rancho, and Angel.  Rancho currently doesn't believe that he needs to be baptized because he was baptized as a baby.  He also isn't sure if Joseph Smith was a prophet.  This upcoming week, we are going to focus a lot on the Book of Mormon and hope that a testimony of the Book of Mormon will lead to a testimony of Joseph Smith.  Angel is "un pecador."  He said that he had many many sins and that he is trying to be a better person.  We talked a lot about repentance and the Atonement this week.  He said that he repented, but didn't feel much different.  Based on what he said, he did everything correctly, so we think the problem is that he doesn't know what the Holy Ghost feels like.  So that will be our focus this week- helping him feel like he has been forgiven.  He has already committed to prepare to be baptized and I think we are on a good track.

Thank you for all the love and support.  Again, if there are any mission calls in the works, I want to hear about it!  I love you all.  God be with you till we meet again!

Elder Tanner Christensen

Scripture Share: 1 Cor 2:9

Friday, October 26, 2012

Week 3 Update

Hello once again.  This week seemed to go by quicker than the others.  I think that I may be getting into the groove. Thank you to Emmy, Kris and Mark, Vanessa W, Tara F, Eve S, Jessica S, and Johnny L for your letters!  They really brighten up my day.  Especially when I am the elder sifting through all the mail for my district, it's really exciting to see one for me!  I have written you all responses and will be mailing them this afternoon.  And thank you to Sister Jakins for the candy.  As always, they were taken care of quickly :)
So yesterday I twisted my ankle pretty bad in basketball.  I am able to walk on it fine, but this morning it's a bit swollen.  Hopefully it's just a sprain and nothing too serious.  If it's still bugging me in a few more days I'll have it checked.  So now I'm going to need to figure out what to do during PE.  Ya, kinda bummed about it.
Congrats to Eve Smith on your mission call!  And congrats to Tara Franklin and Jessica Stone having your papers in.  If there is anybody else that is working on papers or receives a call PLEASE LET ME KNOW!  The age change is still a hot topic around here.  You probably heard this already (I may have told you all), but when the announcement on the age change was made there was a huge roar in the room where all the missionaries were watching conference.  It's super exciting to be in the middle of all these glorious events.  In the district, whenever we have a friend (particularly Sisters) that are working on papers, we share it with the district and the Hermanas (Sisters) are always very excited about it.  So again, please let me know if there are any new developments.
Oh, and for people that are mailing me through DearElder, it is a little difficult to figure out the return address with how they format stuff, so if you could write out your address in the letter, that would make my life easier.
So they have this thing once a week when we teach members of the Church in Spanish.  We have done that twice now and every time it has gone very well.  For whatever reason, we are always much more calm and confident going into those meetings with members.  We'll need to find some way to bring that same confidence into our regular investigator discussions.
So we have two "investigators" right now.  We have talked to both about baptism, and Angel has said "Tengo muchos pecados" (I have many sins) and Rancho has said "he ya bautisado" grammar may be off...(I have already been baptized)  So we are trying to figure out what we need to do to get around those issues.  It has been really good practice.  I am so bad at asking questions.  In examples the teachers give, they make it look so easy, and I definitely struggle with it.  Work in progress.
Everything is going well in here.  Everybody should go on a mission.  You will grow a lot and you will change peoples lives and their eternal destiny.  This work is very important.  We are helping God fulfill His work and glory.  I'm so happy to be here and I'm grateful I'm just getting started.
God be with you till we meet again,
Elder Tanner Christensen
Scripture Share (these will be redundant for those receiving letters):
- Alma 26:12
- Mosiah 4:6-9

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week 2

Hello family and friends!  It has been a really good week this week.  First, thank you to Mom, Emmy and G&G Christensen.  And thank you to Mom and Sister Jakins for the treats.  The treats are starting to pile up a little.  It's like you all want me to gain weight or something.
This week I have gained a lot more confidence with Spanish.  I feel like I am getting to the point that I can actually just open my mouth and have broken, error-filled Spanish come out.  I personally believe that that is better than just sitting in quiet trying to think of the correct conjugation and what not.  My companion and I had a really good experience in the TRC on Tuesday.  We went in not as prepared as we probably should have been.  They told us to get to know the volunteer we were assigned to talk to and then leave them a short message.  We were able to carry on a conversation and then after getting to know them we talked about the where we come from, the importance of families, and the importance of faith.  It was probably the strongest I felt the Spirit while speaking in Spanish. 
This week I went through the Christlike Attribute Chapter of Preach My Gospel and chose a few attributes to work on.  Earlier this week I had the thought that if I'm going to be a representative of the Savior, I probably should start being more like Him.  I spent 2 or 3 days of personal study time studying about some of these attributes and it was really edifying.  It is really nice not to need to worry about anything getting in the way of personal study.
Since I have been here, I have seen tons of people that I know,  Before getting here, I thought that almost everybody had left.  I have seen Elder Aaron Wheatley, Elder Seth Cannon, Elder Brandon Wardrop, Elder Tab McClain, Elder Jared Peterson.  All 5 of those Elders are now gone now.  It was really nice to have them around to start easing me into the MTC.  I have seen Elder Morgan Evans (cousin) a lot.  We have breakfast together almost everyday.  It will be sad once he's gone.  I also see Elder Victor Matiz (sp?) almost everyday.  He speaks Spanish very fast, but his pronunciation is usually pretty clear, so we can usually carry on a conversation.  His companion is from Spain and I never know what he is saying.  And lastly Elder Dane Taylor and Elder Tyler Hill came in recently and I've gotten to see them both a few times.  It's cool having everybody around.
So on Sunday, Brother Heaton from our ward spoke to all the missionaries.  For all that don't know, he is the Administrative Director of the MTC.  He talked to us about focusing on the importance of the message we teach instead of just reciting a bunch of doctrine.  On Tuesday, we had Elder Shayne Bowen from the Seventy come and speak to us.  His talk was really good.  He gave the talk in conference about losing his son.   He sounded so gentle in that talk, but he threw it down when he came to the MTC.  He talked with so much power.  He talked about being a life long missionary, heeding promptings, and some other good stuff (sorry I don't have my notes in front of me right now).  But the reason I bring these two talks up is something that they both said to us.  Once missionaries get into the field, they are trained some more for 12 weeks. At the end of that 12 weeks, they are considered a normal missionary.  All of the missionaries that will be entering the field due to the age change will start entering the field around February.  They both clearly told us that we may be called upon to train these new missionaries very soon after our 12 weeks of training.  So going directly from trainee to trainer.  Crazy crazy crazy.  So they both basically said that we all need to step it up.  The Lord is hasting his work and we are right in the middle of it.  I feel very blessed.
I got my hair cut today by Sister Nash.  That was really fun to talk to her.  I think it is shorter on the sides than it has ever been.  Quite the contrast to my hair a few months ago... 
Lastly, if you know anybody or any of you are thinking about or working on mission papers, I want to hear about it!  Write me!
This experience is already one of the coolest of my life.  I already feel like I am growing closer to the Savior and gaining a greater appreciation for the Gospel.  For all those that are on the fence about going on a mission, think of all the people you can help with this Gospel.  If nothing else, I am very glad I am here for myself and my own progression as a person.  Missions are a really good thing.  I'm already pretty sure my wife and I will be going (whether she likes it or not!)
Love you all!  Thank you again for the support. 
Elder Tanner Christensen

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week 1: I'm Happy!!

Hello hello family and friends!

First a thank you to Mom, Dad, Emmy, Johnny, Jessica S, and the Christensen Clan for your letters.  I have loved hearing from you all.  I'll try to get responses out as quick as possible.  I should be able to write them all today.  And thank you to the Jakins and Durstelers for the treats.  Did you two cooperate on the peanut butter theme?  Haha, they were amazing.  I tried to make them last as long as possible, but I wasn't super successful with that. 

First off, how bout that missionary age announcement!  I think that is going to be so amazing.  I really think that the timing of this is inspired.  If I had had the option to go on my mission when I was 18, I totally would have done it.  But I feel like I really really needed this last year and half to grow as a person.  If I didn't know what I know now, I think that it would have been much more difficult to be here on this mission.  I am very grateful for it.  So, Emmy can leave on her mission before I get back! Craaaazy!  But how bout you wait an extra month so we can see each other.  Good?  Cool.

So I have been made the District Leader of my district.  I think it's funny that people in my district ask me a bunch of questions that I don't know.  I feel a little weird needing to be the leader when I'm just as new as everybody else.  I really love my district.  We have a lot of Elders in our zone that are a little too energetic at times, and our district is really good to stay focused.  We have two companionships of sisters, so that's probably what is keeping us under  control.  It is a huge blessing to have them here.  We have two converts in our district.  Both have been members for about 13 months.  One of them is my companion.

My companion's name is Elder Reinhardt.  He's from Florida.  He's had a lot of background in business and he definitely talks like a business man.  We come from totally different worlds, but I think we're doing well to get along.  His conversion story is crazy awesome.  He was baptized 3 weeks after he met with the missionaries, and he has gone out a lot with the missionaries since then.  I think that sometimes he thinks that the way those missionaries did everything is the way we should do everything, and I disagree...with love of course :)

The food hasn't destroyed my insides like it has some of the other missionaries in my zone.  I enjoy it.  I have been getting up at 6:00 the last couple of days to work out a little bit and I already feel a little bit of a difference.

Hey funny story, I found out there are some Elders from my zone are going to McAllen.  I just found this out like 10 minutes ago, so we haven't had a chance to talk much yet.

Spanish is going really well for me.  Dad's letter to me revitalized my work ethic about everything though.  I definitely need to start working harder at all that stuff.  In the lessons I have had so far with investigators, I have understood everything they are saying, but the language is getting in my way of what I want to say.  It will come with time, though.  I think I would totally we lost if I didn't have Spanish before getting here to the MTC.

I love being here and I am happier now than I have been in years.  Again, I can't imagine doing this a year ago.

Alright, now the highlight of the week.  On Tuesday, Elder Bednar came and spoke to all the missionaries at the MTC.  It was amazing amazing amazing.  He started by saying that he thought it was funny hearing all the speculation regarding why the mission age has changed.  He then said something along the lines of, "The Lord can do His work and He hasteneth His work in His time."  The way he responded to all the speculation was really funny.  In his words, "it just cracks me up."  His talk was on how we should study the conference talks.  He provided 3 very simple guidelines: 1) find the doctrine, 2) find the invitations to action, 3) find the promised blessings.  We went through a couple of segments of this past conference and it was amazing how much was packed into the 3 minute segments we watched.  In talking to my district and Branch Presidency, we decided that studying scriptures in this way is very effective and we also decided that teaching with these things in mind is very important.  "What doctrine do we want to communicate?" "What do we want to invite them to do?" "What will we testify the promised blessings are for following these invitations?"  Walking out of the Devotional, I wanted to grab an Ensign right away and start marking it up.  It was a really cool experience.

I am so grateful to be here and I am so grateful that I have the chance to be a representative of the Lord.  I feel like I am growing faster as a person than ever before.  This is the Lord's work and I am grateful that I can be a part of it.  Keep the letters coming.  I would love to hear from you all.

Thank you all so much!

Elder Tanner Christensen
(I love being able to put 'Elder' in front of my name, haha)