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)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

1st Letter from the MTC

Hello Family!

We were asked to write this as a first, "I'm okay" letter. So, the first day went really well for me. All the missionaries were saying, "just make it till Sunday." So, I don't know if something crazy is about to hit that I'm not aware of, or if it's just going well for me.

The first day of class, my teacher spoke in all Spanish and....I....understood basically everything. I feel comfortable in that class, which probably means I will be forcibly made uncomfortable in the near future.

In the introduction meeting with President Brown, he was looking around the room and said, "This young man with the light blue tie, will you come up?" So I go up there and he asks the following questions:
  • Where are you from? (Answer received laughs)
  • How far do you live from here? (more laughs)
  • Are your grandfathers both emeritus general authorities?
  • Do you know who I am, because I know who you are...
  • Tell us about your mission call opening.
So, I was up there for about 2 minutes. I know they make a big deal of not comparing each other in here, but I hope that little experience hasn't intimidated any of my district.

So, my companion...he has clearly had a really tough life. I'm not exactly sure how I can help him yet. Right now, I just try to get him to talk about stuff.  He's been a member for 13 months. He wanted to go on a mission before he was even baptized. He's super excited to be here, and I think that part of that may be due to the chance to leave his previous situations. He's a bit of a different guy, but he is excited to be here and excited to work. He had a Cuban step-mom (I think) so he knows a bit of Spanish already. He said he also was able to keep up with what the teacher was saying in Spanish.

Thank you so much for everything. I'm so happy. I still feel good about everything, and I don't see how that could change. The second they threw that name tag on, I felt official. We'll be meeting the Branch Presidency tonight, and apparently they are amazing. I think I might be able to write again on Saturday. We shall see.

Love you soooooo much!

Elder (underlined 5 times!) Tanner Christensen

Psych. I'm going to write more. I've been made the district leader of our district. Our district is pretty cool. We have 12 people. We've got people going to Arcadia; Fort Worth; San Jose, California; and El Salvador. I don't fully understand what I'm meant to do for my district, but I'm humbled by the call.

We had our first discussion today. I understood everything the investigator said. I struggled responding, though. But for the first lesson, I think it went pretty well.

I've had a bit of a headache from not sleeping very well, but I'm getting through. The days have felt pretty long, but it's still cool. I slept a lot better last night.

I've seen Aaron a few times, Seth a few times, Victor a few times, and more than anyone, Morgan. We talked today about taking a picture by Grandpa and Grandma's portrait.

Homesickness hasn't been a problem. Hopefully that's not offensive. I'm glad that's not a problem for me. As far as I can tell, nobody in my district is struggling. Keep praying for us.

Adios, y ¡buenas suerte!

Elder Tanner Christensen

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tanner's Farewell Talk - Given 9/30/12

Thank you all for being here.  It's good to be back


Last general conference in the priesthood session, Pres. Uctdorf gave a talk entitled "The Why of Priesthood service."

This talk focuses a lot on "what" vs "why" and the power that can be had in realizing the "why" of the things that we are asked to do. 

President Uctdorf says, "We know that despite our best intentions, things do not always go according to plan. We make mistakes in life and in our priesthood service. Occasionally we stumble and fall short.
"When the Lord advises us to “continue in patience until [we] are perfected,”6 He is acknowledging that it takes time and perseverance. Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard. Staying focused on the basic principles of gospel living will bless us with clarity, wisdom, and direction."
Let me repeat part of this, "Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard."

So first, what is the gospel?  The 4th article of faith says, "the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."  And in addition to these things we must also endure to the end.  Whenever discussing enduring to the end, I always think of the vision of the Tree of Life.

In his vision, after Lehi and his family has partaken of the fruit of the tree of life, he sees numberless concourses of people pressing forward that they might partake of the fruit as well.  I have always interpreted this as people being baptized since baptism is the beginning of the path to eternal life.  Then as these groups of people continue down the path a mist of darkness comes upon them.  There are some that become lost, and others that grab onto the iron rod and continue on.  We read in the Book of Mormon that this mist of darkness represents temptation.  Bruce C. Hafen also interpreted it as uncertainty in this life. 
  • I think the vision of the tree of life is much more meaningful when we picture ourselves walking that straight and narrow path.  Picture yourself consumed in darkness.  The only things you know is that there is an iron rod for you to hold onto, the iron rod leads to the tree of life, and there is ground beneath your feet.  You can't see anything else.  You hear the people in the great and spacious building mocking you.  In that moment, I picture it being difficult to even move.  I can imagine feeling content to stay right where I am standing.  I know I'm safe in that one place and I'm unsure what the remainder of the journey holds.
  • In part of President Uctdorf's talk, he discusses being uncertain if he would be able to handle his new calling as stake president.   He said, "There are times when we have to step into the darkness in faith, confident that God will place solid ground beneath our feet once we do. And so I accepted gladly, knowing that God would provide. "
  • Even though we do not know what is in front of us, I know that is important for us to continuously move forward while holding onto the iron rod.  I have recently gained a testimony that God will set solid ground beneath our feet when we take that step into the unknown.

I think that this vision also demonstrates the "why" of the gospel.  We have been given the Gospel so that we may know what we must do to return to our Heavenly Father's presence.  Again imagine you are walking the strait and narrow path.  Picture the moment that you emerge from the darkness and you are standing at the foot of the Tree of Life.  You know that you have reached your destination at last.  All previous cares and worries melt away.  All of those moments that you felt like stopping or you felt like letting go of the rod diminish in importance.  As great as this sounds, I imagine entering our loving Heavenly Father's presence to be infinitely more satisfying.  This is why we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and why it has been restored in the latter days.  It's most central purpose is letting us know what is necessary to do to be able to return to our home in heaven.

President Uctdorf said, "We need to be constantly reminded of the eternal reasons behind the things we are commanded to do. The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life’s fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again. That doesn’t mean that this process should be rote or boring. Rather, when we teach the foundational principles in our homes or in church, let the flame of enthusiasm for the gospel and the fire of testimony bring light, warmth, and joy to the hearts of those we teach."

I read this talk many times in preparation for today, and I never found a part of President Uchtdorf's talk that explicitly said what the "why" of priesthood service is.  I read it over and over again thinking that I had missed something, but I could never find the answer.  So I started to think about it for myself. 

My thoughts kept going back to a hike I went on with a group of friends.   As you all probably remember, this past winter was unusually warm and we didn't get much snow.  We all thought that we would take advantage of this, so we hiked Squaw Peak in the middle of February. 

The depth of snow varied from 6 inches near the bottom to about 3 feet on top.  The path had been walked enough that all the snow was completely packed.  With it being a little warm outside, the top layers of the snow would be melted in the daytime and then would refreeze overnight.  We started this hike early in the morning, so everything was still pretty slick.  All of us would lose our footing occasionally, but my friend Johnny was particularly having a difficult time.  His shoes had almost no traction.  There would be moments that it looked as though he was trying to keep his balance on pure ice.  He probably fell down more than the rest of us combined.  Every time we were at the base of one of the steeper hills, realizing he would need to tackle it, I'm sure he would think, "oh, shoot."   Another friend, Jacob, brought a piece of thick rope that was about 30 feet long.  I am not sure if he was just being a good scout - always trying to be prepared, or if he just thought it would be awesome.

There was one point in time that Johnny said that he was ready to turn back, but we convinced him to continue on.  We all started the hike together and we wanted to finish it together.  We were going to make it even if we had to drag Johnny to the top...which is where the rope comes in.  We all stood in a straight line heading up the trail, each of us holding the rope over our right shoulder, with Johnny at the back.  Every two minutes or so, I would feel the rope tug as Johnny was losing his balance, but he was almost always able to stay up with the support of the rope.  In fact, whenever any of us slipped, the support of the rope was usually enough to keep us standing.

We eventually reached the top, all of us in one piece.  Once on top, we thought it would only be appropriate to wrap all of the rope around Johnny and take a picture with everybody in the group holding Johnny up.

This experience ties nicely into one of President Uctdorf's suggestions for all of us, "Guided by the Holy Spirit, we will learn from our mistakes. If we stumble, we will rise. If we falter, we will go on. We will never waver; we will never give up. "

I think this story illustrates the "why" of priesthood service.  To put it words, I would say the "why" of priesthood service is, "To help lift and carry others throughout their journey in mortality."

I think that every single one of our priesthood duties, from home teaching to administering the sacrament ties back to this idea.  The idea is to help build up the kingdom and all those within the kingdom.

In Preach My Gospel it says, "God's whole purpose -- His work and His glory -- is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings."  The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation teaches us what is necessary to do to enjoy all of God's blessings.  For the next two years, it will be my work and my glory to share this message - a message that brings people to the path that leads to eternal life.

As I go out on my mission, I am sure I will have my moments where I feel like I'm stuck in a mist of darkness of uncertainty.  For those moments, and for any of you that may feel this way right now, President Uctdorf says, "If our hearts are pure—if we seek not our own glory but the glory of Almighty God, if we seek to do His will, if we desire to bless the lives of our family and fellowman—we will not be left to walk alone. As President Monson has often reminded us, “When we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help.”  While I'm out there in the world having this new experience, I'm sure I could use all the help from the Lord I can get.

My friend Johnny and I are the only members of that hiking group that are not yet on missions.  I am excited that I now have the chance to join them out in the mission field.  Throughout this last summer I feel like I have been the guy at the back of the rope that everybody is supporting.  I am grateful for the example of missionary service that has been set for me by all my friends and family.
For all my friends in that hiking group and those that were unable to come that day, I have shared a passage by Dr. Bob Moorehead and I would like to share it with you at this time:

I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has
been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow
down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense,
and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight
walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions,
mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or
popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised,
regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by
patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my
way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted,
or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the
presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the
pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, back up, or let up, until I've preached up, prayed
up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a
disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop,
preach until all know, and work until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My
colors will be clear for "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the
power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16)

(thank you to everybody)

I know that over the next two years, I will have hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to share my testimony, so I am grateful for this opportunity this morning.

Tengo agradecido por mi familia y todos que ellos hacen para mi.  Yo se que nuestro Padre Celestial nos ama.  Yo se que estamos aqui para una razon.  Este vida es una bendicion.  Estoy agradecido por la oportunidad servir Dios.  El Evangelio de Jesucristo es cierto.  Nuestros vidas son mejores cuando vivimos el Evangelio.

(English Testimony)