Monday, March 31, 2014

"What They Had Always Dreamed Of" --AND-- "Thoughts on Grace"

"What They Had Always Dreamed Of"

Hey family and friends.
This week was one of the most memorable weeks of my mission.  It was so insane.  To sum it up, THE LOPEZ FAMILY GOT BAPTIZED!!
So I have decided that I hope my wife doesn't want to do anything huge for the wedding, because weddings are a pain.  So, we tell everyone to be there ready to set up at 6:00.  At 6:00 we had 4 missionaries and 2 members.  At 6:30 we get a call from the bishop's wife saying that she won't be able to make it because of some stuff that she had to attend to at home last second (not her fault).  The day before she had said, "Don't worry about decorations.  We'll take care of it."  My heart dropped.  At this point in time, we had the tables and chairs set up with nothing else.  We had enough food for about 15 people.  Then at about 6:40, everyone starts coming.  We ended up with all the food we needed.  We were able to throw together some decorations from past activities, and it actually ended up looking pretty cool.  We had a less-active make the cake, and she did a super good job.  
Everything ended up perfect...UNTIL...EARTHQUAKE!  It was the first one that I have ever felt.  I don't know if it was big enough to be on the news in Utah, but ya, it happened.  The Arizona Kerrs sent me an email saying they were at Disneyland when it happened.  We were cutting the cake when it happened.  I felt the ground vibrating quickly underneath me.  I thought my body was doing something weird.  Then, we all felt the floor shift about 6 inches instantly and we realized what was going on.  Then it calmed down after about 10 seconds.  A few people freaked out a little, but we were able to keep going with the wedding.  We left to go home a few minutes after.  We have felt a few aftershocks since then.
Alright, so to sum it up again, there were lots of little miracles that happened along the way to get them baptized. It happened, though, and it was such a cool baptismal service! We played the bible video of Jesus getting baptized right before the ordinance and it brought the mom to tears.  The ward support for the wedding and the baptism was inspirational. The wedding was "what they had always dreamed of."

Hermana Olvera (bishop's wife) gave the talk at the baptism. In her talk, she mentioned how she and Bishop dropped by one night to talk to them. Bishop came home that night with the distinct impression that this family would be baptized and that they would be great instruments in the Lord's hands. She said that since then, they had been praying for this family to be able to be baptized. Omar (the dad) said that her talk "greatly moved me." All four of them stood together in front to share their thoughts at the end and the Spirit was very simple, but very powerful.
Such a week of miracles.  Love to see everything that made all that possible. (pictures attached)

Thank you all for all your prayers!
Elder Christensen

"Thoughts on Grace"

Here is a compilation of what I have learned regarding grace over the course of my mission and specifically what I have learned in the last few months.....

In 3 Ne 12:48, the resurrected Jesus commands, "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect."  Then a few days later, he asks, "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?" Then, answering his own question, he says, "Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27).

Perfection always seems out of reach.  It feels as though with every step we take, we come to realize the journey is one step farther than we originally thought. We look at where we are now and where we need to go, and we are often overwhelmed by the distance that exists.

This is what we usually focus on, forgetting that the Lord has promised the way is prepared to accomplish what he commands (1 Ne 3:7). "Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and fallen state, and ever would be SAVE they should rely on [the] Redeemer" (1 Nephi 10:6) We ARE in a lost and fallen state.  We can't pull or lift ourselves out of it.  The Redeemer is the ONLY way (Acts 4:12).

A convert from Australia said, "My past life [was] a wilderness of weeds, with hardly a flower strewed among them. [But] now the weeds have vanished, and flowers spring up in their place."  Bruce C Hafen taught that Christ's grace is needed to pull out the weeds and to cultivate the flowers (Atonement: All for All, April 2004).

It seems that it is commonly accepted that Christ's atoning sacrifice was necessary to help us pull up all our weeds.  In my life, and I think in much of the Mormon community, it is presumed that we are left to our own abilities to cultivate our flowers.  We read scriptures that say, "work out your salvation with fear before God" (Alma 34:37) and we mistakenly think it is all up to us.

We think we can just "white knuckle this thing" and do it by "sheer grit, willpower, and discipline." There came a time during the Great War between the Nephites and the Lamanites that the Nephites began to trust in their own strength.  They thought that they could do it on their own.  They had seen so many miracles come that it was starting to go to their head.  They had forgotten the reason for and the source of their exceedingly great strength. "And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper..." (Helaman 4:13)

In contrast, Nephi, after recognizing his weakness, prayed, "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh" (2 Nephi 4:34).

We might think that because Jesus had to drink His bitter cup on his own, we have to do the same.  This is not the case.  Elder Holland testifies, "Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so" (None Were with Him, April 2009).

Simply enough, when you trust in the strength of man, you are left with the strength of a man.  When you trust in the strength of the Lord, the strength of the Lord is added to you.

Paul testified, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). This does not just include divine strength to break bands and withstand fire, but also the extra help needed to turn weaknesses into strengths. We must be merciful with ourselves and others for as long as that process takes -- and it is a process. "Slow, steady progress is possible through the strength of the Lord. His grace IS sufficient.

Elder Christensen

La Habra earthquake

Here is the extent of the effects of the earthquake... :) Gratefully, Tanner lives about 16 miles NE of La Habra (where the earthquake was on Friday), so their apartment did not receive any damage. But, as he said in his letter, they did feel it while they were at the Lopez wedding. He said that Friday night was pretty rough with all of the aftershocks, but things have calmed down! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Wedding and Baptism!!

Hey family and friends.  Another week here in Pomona.  Still having a rough time adjusting, but we feel like we have a little bit more direction now.  Historically, this has been a ward that does really well with member referrals.  I think that there is a lot that could happen doing that.  Anything before 5 o'clock is pretty hard. Everyone has a normal, consistent work schedule here.  That alone is a big change.  Those who have jobs and families are generally much more established here than they are in LA.  I think that means a greater potential for real growth.

So, we have been able to use Facebook for awhile now.  To this point, what we have seen is there are two groups of missionaries: the group that gets on Facebook and wastes an hour of their day not doing much good, and the group that isn't sure how to use Facebook effectively so they have kinda stopped using it.  I definitely have fallen into the 2nd group. This week, we got an updated packet of instructions for Facebook.  As I was reading it, I could feel the huge potential that could come from Facebook.  So we are going to be going through the suggestions more thoroughly and see what we can get to happen.  As far as I know, nobody has had a baptism from Facebook proselyting yet, but I think that there is definitely potential there.

The Lopez family is doing super well.  They decided that they want to get married!  We brought President on a lesson with them on TuesdayHe helped them see that they didn't need to have this massive wedding.  He explained that this wedding is to be able to follow God's commandments.  The wedding in a year is the REAL one to celebrate. So ya, they're ready to go.  He hooked us up with a guy that is willing to help recent converts get clothes for church.  They were super excited to be able to blend in when they go to church.  The 11-year-old had apparently been talking to his mom a lot about looking like a missionary. So we are going to be having a wedding on Friday and then their baptism on Sunday. They are super cool and super prepared.  The ward has been awesome in helping get everything ready. There are just a few small strings to tie up before Friday.

So for the last few months, I have had an ongoing study on grace. This week, I'm going to type it up and that will be a major part of my letter next week.  It has been a super cool process to go through and learn about this topic.

Thanks for everything!  Keep praying for the Lopez family.  I'll try to get caught up with pictures next week too.

Love and kindness,
Elder Christensen


  • Tanner mentioned that he'll be going to the temple with the Mission Leadership Council and President Becerra next week. He is so excited to be able to attend with his President.
  • The 11-year-old Lopez boy is already talking about how badly he wants to go on a mission! Tanner's going to give him a "Future Missionary" badge.
  • Tanner mentioned in his letter last week that he wanted to try going gluten free. Well, he tried it and found that it's not so easy in an "uncontrolled" environment. It was also creating more problems with his hypoglycemia. He's decided it'll be better to wait until he is home, where he can learn more about it and control what his meals comprise. (smart boy!)  :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week (what is it?) :-)

Hello family and friends.  Thanks again for all the birthday greetings.  My birthday was full of meetings.  We had district meeting (and we went to a different one in our zone), then we had a meeting with the district leaders in our zone, then we prepared some reports that took way longer than we thought it would, then we ate dinner with a member in our area, then we went to Stake Correlation and nobody from the Stake Presidency was there. So that was a little frustrating.  The package I got from my family was AWESOME.  Mom's cookies, some stuff to help with headaches, and a painting from Dad.  The painting is SO cool.  I will send a picture of it home with the next round of pictures.  My birthday cake was 3 of Mom's cookies stacked on top of each other with a candle I got from another missionary stabbed down the middle (picture pending). Thanks for all your love!

This is my first time being FULL TIME biking. Ya, I biked a few weeks here and there in my other areas, but this is definitely new. We're on bike all the time except for when we have a zone leader assignment. Riding the bus and walking are not really options in this area, so "finding" is a whole new experience here.

So, I'm going to try going gluten-free this week and see if that makes any difference for me.  There is an Elder in our district that gets super messed up when he eats gluten, so he's going to be my guide. I went to the chiropractor again last week, and I'm still doing well headache wise!

The Lopez family is still on track.  We are a little worried that they might not make their date on the 30th.  There is a lot that needs to happen between now and then.  They all came to church and enjoyed it a lot.  Please pray for them.  Side note, Sulema (mom) is a fantastic cook.  She made camarrones a la diabla (a super spicy shrimp dish) this week.

The experience of the week was definitely yesterday.  We got a text from a member that we didn't know asking us to come over.  When we got there, her 95-year-old mom was there.  She had just gotten out of the hospital.  She felt like it was about her time to go, so she wanted a blessing before passing on.  There was such a sweet spirit there. We'll be checking up on them throughout the week to see how she's doing.

Question: Have you done any good in the world today?

Have an awesome week!

Elder Christensen

Note from Mom:

Emily and I got to meet Tanner's good friend from the mission, Elder Blanchard (Tanner was Elder Blanchard's last companion before coming home). We attended his homecoming yesterday. It was so much fun hearing him talk about investigators/converts that we "know" and have pictures of.

We went up to introduce ourselves after the meeting; and when I told him who I was, he got this HUGE smile on his face and said, "Oh, I LOVE your son!"  I thanked him for the impact he has had on Tanner and told him how glad Tanner was to have had the chance to serve with and learn from him. Elder Truman said,  "Well, he's really a great missionary... and, I asked if I could be HIS companion for my last transfer."  I thought that was so sweet!

It was hard not occupying all of his time. I just wanted to keep talking with him...he had just been with our boy!!!!

It was a great day!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week 66

Hello family and friends.  Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes.  Sorry to do a lame, general, thank-you but time is a little short today.

This week was admittedly one of the rougher weeks I have had in a long while.  We only taught 3 investigator lessons, and each of those was with the same family.

On the upside, this family is so awesome.  Omar (dad), Sulema (mom), Fatima (daughter), Hugo (son), then some other little ones.  On Thursday, I had one of the best meals of my mission at their house. Costillas fritas. Translated: fried ribs.  Re-translated: HEAVEN!  We had it with eggs, beans, rice, tortillas. Man... Anyway...

This week I felt totally lost.  This area is SO different from anywhere that I've been.  The ward is pretty cool, and they have a reputation of sharing the gospel.  The missionaries that have been here recently have been struggling, bad.  Historically, this ward is in the top 5 for the most baptisms.  They have had one baptism this year, and that was in January.  This family we are teaching is one of those families that WILL be baptized, it's just a matter of when.  We are shooting for the end of the month.  When they walked into church on Sunday, everyone except the dad came, plus a neighbor kid and a niece and nephew.  Total: 8.  The ward was SO good to help them feel welcome.

Another cool part of the story, Saturday night, we are walking out of the gate with our bikes (oh ya, back on bike...not a fan) and their next door neighbor contacted us!  She said that the missionaries were dropping by their home before, then they moved.  She wants us to come over and talk with her AND her family.  Awesome.  And, the neighbor kid that came to church...Sulema said that we could go over to their house with her and her husband to meet the family so we can start formally teaching them.

So a lot of good stuff is on the horizon.  Right now there are just a lot of bumps to get through.

Random update on myself.  I went to the chiropractor this week.  It's been helping.  I think I'll go one more time then call it good.  I only had a headache that required medicine ONCE this week.  For those that are unaware, that is a HUGE improvement.

Thanks again for the birthday wishes, love, and prayers.

Elder Christensen

P.S. Raul and Rosy met with their bishop two weeks ago and are starting the temple-prep meetings with him. Their year mark is in June. President is allowing me to go to the temple with them for their sealing!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

4 of the 6 Most Dangerous Areas

Hello friends and family.  So we had transfers this week, and I got...transferred.  Kinda bummed about it, but it looks like this will be a transfer full of growth. I have been transferred to the entirely opposite side of the mission in Pomona, or Dirty Pomona (DP) as it is known in our mission. It is said among missionaries, "Pomona is a sunny place for shady people."  I think that goes for most of my areas.  With this area, I have now served in 4 of the 6 most dangerous areas of the mission, so that's cool.  My companion is Elder Trauntvein and I am still serving as a zone leader.  Elder Trauntvein and I were in the same zone in the MTC and he was in my first district for 4 months, so we already know each other pretty well.  I'm excited to see what we are going to be able to do.

My last week in Arroyo was really cool.  We had a baptism!  Her name is Evelin.  Her records were lost somehow, but she had to become active again to be baptized.  Her husband is a convert of 1 year and he received the Aaronic Priesthood to be able to baptize her.  She wanted a private baptism, so we had her mom, dad, husband, the ward mission leader, the bishop and his wife, and us missionaries that worked with her.  It was one of the more powerful baptisms I've been to.

Elder Blanchard is now at home in Orem.  We'll definitely be staying in touch.  I learned a ton from him.

Here in Pomona, the entire district hasn't baptized since the beginning of January.  Pomona is historically the strongest part of the zone, but the other wards that are historically not as strong are doing very well.  I feel like something amazing is about to happen here.  Every companionship in the district had some kind of change, there's a new district leader, we're all stoked.

The area is very, very different from what I'm used to.  This is the first time in my mission I haven't been within about 5 miles of downtown LA.  This place is very residential and there aren't many people on the street.  It's going to be interesting.

Love you all so much, and thanks to the Jakins for the package!

Elder Christensen