Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!

Hey Family!

How is everybody? Looks like from the picture your enjoying some Christmas traditions and family time! Perfect Christmas Eve! I super jealous of the Christmas dinner tonight with the Lamberts and Greens, that’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas. You will all have to write a little letter telling me how it went and how Christmas goes tomorrow morning!

So it was really good to talk to you all last night, but I don’t have a whole lot to say today. I want to thank mom for sharing her experiences with me; that was really cool. Here in our ward we have been working on the young men and women a lot. I have thought a lot about them and about my own experiences in Young Men’s. One thing that really had stuck with me is something my bishop said in our singles ward when I was at school. We were talking how it’s kind of hard for kids that grow up in the church to get and maintain a really strong testimony because the church is all they know and they don’t have a lot to compare with. But in one of our bishopric meeting he said something like “we already know that, but all we can do is invite and create opportunities for these kids to feel the spirit”. I think that is super important, maybe it’s not going to mean anything in the moment or the kids that you work with won’t be changed right away. But as a leader of young people I think that the key is just to provide them with experiences to feel the spirit, and when it really counts they will remember all the have learned, what they know, and most importantly what they felt. I know that how it was for me and a lot of other kids my age. But when it came time to make decisions I always had that foundation from all of the experiences I had in the past.

So that’s my little two bits on the young men and women, which you all probably already know haha, but there it is. Merry Christmas to you all, remember it’s all about Christ. This week I had the opportunity to finish Jesus the Christ (I am pretty excited I finally finished!).  His life, His example, His qualities, and His love are truly amazing, something you cannot describe with words.

Don’t forget to read the nativity tonight! And you should read 3 Nephi 27:27 as well. It’s one that has been on my mind since I started my mission.

Love you all
Elder Utley

Another Transfer

Hey family!

Sounds like it’s been a crazy week with all your Christmas parties! And will continue to be until Christmas, but so much fun! We also had a couple of Christmas parties here, each of the different wards have a dinner and a program type thing, and we participated in the programs (we sang, and did a nativity scene) and also got to eat dinner. That was the best part, they don’t have a lot of Christmas traditions here and they aren’t really big on the presents either but they eat really, really well at Christmas time. One night they did like a traditional soup and a drink called ponche, it’s really good it’s like apple cider but with all the different fruits here. The other night they did tamales, enchiladas and hot chocolate (it’s not as sweet as at home and super thick, but still good)

So I hope this week leading up to Christmas will be good for you guys, I am super jealous of all the Christmas things you guys are doing. And I am stoked to talk to you guys over Skype, I think we have everything worked out.

I heard from Dani this week, she wrote me a letter almost completely in Spanish, it was super easy to read and understand but it was really hard to respond in Spanish. Fun to hear from her though!

So the big news this week is that we had our second transfers. And at least for me nothing changed. I still here in Irapuato and so is my companion. We both thought he would go for sure, it’s not common for companions to be together more than 2 transfers and even less when it’s your trainer. Plus this will be his 4th transfer here which also is almost unheard of except for zone leaders. Truth is he is kind of bummed, but kind of excited at the same time. He will get to see some of our investigators get baptized we thought that he wouldn’t. I too have mixed feelings, he is almost done with his mission and ready to go home, so sometimes that is annoying, and I feel like I could learn a lot with a new one. But I am excited to, he is a great missionary and I learn a lot from him, and the members of our ward really love us right now and we have gained their trust, so that is good we won’t lose anything there. All I know is the Lord has a plan and there is a reason we both still here, I’m excited to find out why!

So we really don’t have a whole lot of new investigators but we have a few really good ones. We are not allowed to knock doors or contact so it makes finding rough, we only can teach through referrals. But honestly we have a lot more than any other companionship here. The whole mission is kind of struggling with baptisms right now...

The apartment still sucks, we now have a hot water heater but it isn’t set up and we don’t have a tank of gas to make it work. The brother in our ward that we are renting from we have really grown to not like, he talks a lot and is kind of two faced.  But what do you do. Also to answer questions I haven’t been in a Wal-Mart or anything like that, but I will go next Monday, I also want to see what it’s like. And hopefully buy some Christmas candy. Also I don’t know what panettone is but I will keep my eye for it! Oh and I don’t really have any other photos to send but I will try and take some more this week, with Christmas stuff!

The family we are teaching is doing well, the dad finally got out of the hospital, he had 7 screws put in his femur. But is doing better. His wife and son will baptize the 29th and hopefully him too! And we have one other that will baptize soon! I am excited. I see the Lord’s hand in my life and in theirs!

Remember the Christmas spirit, spirit of Christ! Look for the Lords hand!
I love you all!!! Can’t wait till Sunday!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Busque el bueno en tiempos dificiles

Hey family!

It was so great to hear from you guys this week! Sounds like you had a good one. Tell coop congrats on his ordination to the priesthood and that I am so proud of him! Tell Mary that I am still waiting a letter from her; it’s been a while since I got one from her. And tell Brooke congrats on her singing. It’s crazy how fast Christmas is coming! I hope you are all enjoying it and living with the true Christmas spirit.

So I have learned a little bit more about Christmas here. Here in the city of Irapuato they have a special Christmas celebration that is evidently exclusively here. It’s called Barrios; it literally means neighborhood or ward. But they basically have a huge party in every neighborhood of the city. They start the first of December and take turns in every neighborhood every day of December. I have yet to see it but I hear it’s pretty cool! They also do piñatas for Christmas, kind of weird but I think it’s kind of like their Christmas stockings. Oh and the tamales are awesome!

Thanks for the updates on the missionaries, that’s so cool to hear about all the people getting ready to go. I actually had written down to ask about Jon G. I guess he leaves this week? And Nefi? I didn't even know he had a call where is he going?

What else, oh I know exactly who Elder Atkins is, we arrived together from the MTC, I don’t know him that well cause he wasn't in my district in the MTC but he seems like a cool kid. It’s crazy how small the world is sometimes I know a kid here that is going to Logan after Christmas and his girlfriend goes to Utah State. And tons of people that know Utah.

The language is better... it’s coming but slowly. I feel a lot better about it now and can at least see my progress. At the same time it is slow and really frustrating at times. But it doesn't seem like as much of a barrier anymore. I know the Lord is constantly helping me with it.

I don’t have a lot much more to say but I want to share an experience that I had this week. We have been teaching a family here, the mom and the oldest kid have been super stoked and ready to join the church, but the dad wasn't so ready. We had baptismal dates with them and everything, but the dad got in an accident about 2 and a half weeks ago and has been in the hospital. I felt really bad, and was also a little bummed because they haven’t been able to be baptized. But we have been helping where we could, we found blood donors for him (he broke his femur and needed surgery, and blood donors, I couldn't because I am taking vitamins, they have a lot of weird rules here, I really think it’s because I am white and the nurse was nervous that I had some disease or something). And we have been visiting, teaching lessons, and we gave him a blessing. Last week he started talking about taking his family to church when he got out, which shocked us because he was totally against it before. We went to visit yesterday and he started asking all these questions about the Book of Mormon we left him, but super specific. We answered them and found out he has read all the way to the middle of Mosiah! And he is praying to learn the truth! The change we have seen in him is amazing. I hope it continues when he leaves the hospital. But it all came out of a trial in his life and testifies to me that God always has a plan. We need to trust Him and look for the good in the hard times!

I know the Book of Mormon is true and the keystone to our religion. It changes lives and if we just read it, it can change our lives for the better too. The church is true!

I love you all!
Elder Utley

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ya esta deciembre. Que loco!

Hey family!

It was so good to hear from you all this week! Really, really good letters, and I even got one from Coop! Speaking of Coop tell him HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I hope everything goes well this week and you can all celebrate a little bit. I am a little jealous that I can’t be there for his ordination, but hey, I should be there for the next one! I hope his feet start feeling better, that’s pretty rough not being able to play. Sounds like Mary has been super busy, and did really well in her swim meet! Tell her that I remember when she could only do a 50 in 1 minute 24 seconds but now she can do 100! That’s awesome. Tell Brooke great job in the concert!!

Mom I think you’re crazy how did you work 20 hours straight? I think I would die! Dad, I do remember the time we went fishing at the Barker’s just you and me, that is one of my favorite memories, and I think the best fishing trip I have ever been on. Less than 2 short years and we can go again!

It’s been fun hearing about all the mission calls the last couple weeks. I didn’t know Morgan Lewis too well but she was in my lifeguarding class and a friend to Bri, so I know who she is. Florida would be a sweet mission. Keep me updated on everyone’s calls, have Kendell or Becca gotten theirs yet?

So my car was broken into? Ha ha well they got away with like 5 dollars in change max. No there wasn’t anything of value in there I took it all out the day before I left. I just hope the sunglasses of mom’s weren’t too nice. All my climbing stuff is in a grey box that I used up at school. It’s in the house somewhere because it will get ruined in the garage. It might be in my room, upstairs washing room, or one of the empty rooms upstairs.

So our house... still no, we really don’t have a lot of stuff like appliances. But we made a deal with our renter today and we are going to use the rent money to get a hot water heater this month. And we are going to get it today!! I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. We are still waiting on the washing machine and stove... although I think we have a stove type thing that will work if we buy the gas. I have figured out how to keep the shirts white more or less, an Hermana in our ward that we wash with a lot showed me how to do it’s, it takes a lot of scrubbing but they look as good or better than anyone else’s here. Still not great, but mom don’t worry about it. Also mom I have been asking around and I have only heard of one elder with a problem of a package getting here, and it had an iPod in it. So obviously not for Christmas or anything, we already have the worked out but in the future don’t be too scared to send a package.

So how did everyone like the Christmas devotional? I absolutely loved it in spite of only understanding about 80 or 85%. The words of the prophets are always so inspiring. And I particularly like Elder Uchtdorf’s talk. I want to go watch them in English now.

The area is really good, I have heard it’s not one of the nicer areas in the mission but the people here are really amazing. There are a lot of people in the ward that I feel really comfortable in their home, and I know if we need something we can go to them. So if you get the chance, make the missionaries feel comfortable in your home, because it really helps a lot. The leaders are ok... Our ward mission leader was just about as good as you could get for a while but he is getting married in 2 weeks so he is kind of slacking off right now. Our other leaders had some bad experiences with missionaries in the past and are slow to trust, but we are slowly gaining it. Right now we are doing really good with the bishop and that is the first step.

So I hear mom has to give a talk on hope in Christ, and partly how it helped me in my decision to serve a mission. Well I want to say that hope in Christ was almost everything in my decision to serve a mission. The word hope has been something I have been studying a little bit here in the mission; hope is an attribute of Christ. For me it is a combination of two things: faith and trust. Faith was really, really important in my decision to serve a mission. I had to have the faith to know that this church was true first, a faith strong enough to lead to action, and eventually here. The second part, trust, I think is even more important. Once I had the faith, I had to trust in the Lord. I was giving up two years of my life; I didn’t know where I would go, or what language I would speak. I had to trust the Lord to send me where I needed to go, and help me in what I needed to do. I had to trust that this was the right thing to do in my life, and that I would be blessed for doing it. More than anything I had to trust and hope that the mission would change my life for the better. And the Lord would take care of me and give me the answers I needed. When I sent off my papers I was really having a hard time. My plans in life seemed like they were falling apart. I felt completely lost. Luckily I had the faith to turn to the Lord and I trusted in his answers. I know without a doubt I am supposed to be here. And while I still don’t have all the answers I have the faith and hope that I will get them. And I will be blessed during my time as a missionary and after. I know that the Lord will take care of me, if only I do the things that he asks. That, to me, is my hope in Christ; and I would not be here without it. Hope in Christ was everything when I made my decision and is everything now. Because of my hope in Christ I am happy and doing what I know is right.

I love you all and miss you all, I can’t believe it is December already and Christmas time. I can’t wait to talk to you guys this month

Elder Utley

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dia De Gracias

Hey Family!

How is everybody? First of all that was so cool to get the voice recording in the email!!! I was super stoked to hear everybody’s voices. Sounds like you had an awesome time this weekend for Thanksgiving! I am glad you all got to go to Salt Lake, it’s always better with the whole family. I think I will tell you about my Thanksgiving a little bit later. So Coop’s team took 2nd in their tournament? Was it in Salt Lake or St. George? That’s so exciting tell him good job for me and that he should write me and tell me about it. I haven’t heard from him or Mary in a while.

So dad asked a little about Christmas. Truth is I haven’t heard a whole lot of it. One sister in our ward told me that in Mexico everybody is poor, but in December nobody is. Basically they eat really well in December. I have heard that it’s basically a party for the whole month of December, but I am not sure. The other thing they do here is they eat a lot of tamales, so I have been able to try a couple of them already. They are so good!!! The other thing about Christmas, yes we can use Skype, we have to find someone in the ward with a webcam but that should be okay. We only get 40 minutes but that is better than nothing. So I will set up an account soon. I still don’t know exactly when.

None of our baptisms went through this week. The one girl that is 29 started work and we couldn’t visit with here. The other kid who is 13 years old, his dad was in a car accident Friday night and we went to the hospital and gave a blessing and all but I am not sure when he will be baptized either, things are pretty crazy in his family. We don’t have any planned for this week either... But we found another family and they are actually interested.  Mostly the dad, which is perfect, because usually they are the ones that don’t want to hear us.

So my Thanksgiving Day was a little bit different. Okay a lot different. They don’t celebrate it here so nothing was really different. But we had Zone conference that day. The mission president told us Happy Thanksgiving and that was about it. But I was thinking about it a lot. I thought about you guys a lot, and really had my own little Thanksgiving that night. I thought about all of the things I am thankful for. And how little I appreciated everything before. I thought about how many times I just put aside the family time during Christmas or Thanksgiving, to go do something with my friends or whatever it was, I was tired, I don’t know. I realized how ungrateful I was. And what I would want to do this time was spend time with everyone, put up the lights the ornaments, whatever. So I was thinking about that, and how much I have changed on my mission. And how much more I will change. Then I thought about one thing that our mission president said in zone conference: When we leave this area, will we have changed anything? Anyone? How will the ward, the stake and the church have been strengthened? I thought about what I had done here. We have not had as much success with baptisms as I would like but we have had a lot of families that we have helped. I thought of at least 5 in particular, and 5 other individuals. I have been able to strengthen the church, stake and area here. Even if it hasn’t been through baptisms yet, but I am confident I will have a few more before I leave Irapuato.

The other thing that happened that day was we had a lesson with a family we have been re-activating. Elder Valdes said something that really caught my attention. We have been fasting every week for the last month to find a family of 4 we can teach the gospel too. This could be the family. The dad talked about how much his life had changed. The point is God answers our prayers; there are always ways to strengthen others if we look for them.

I don’t have a lot of time but I am thankful you all, and your time. I miss you all and look forward to spending time with you all when I get back! I really didn’t appreciate it before.

Love you,
Elder Utley

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

Hey Family!

Wow! I cannot believe its Thanksgiving this week! I thought it was next week for some reason. I am super jealous; Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. We ate KFC with the bishop yesterday I think that’s about as close as I will get to Thanksgiving food here!!! Nobody knows how to use the oven here and they don’t even really use microwaves, it’s kind of weird. Just the stove top. Dad asked for my favorite snack here, that’s a tuff one, there are lots of good things. I think my favorite are the little packets of galletas (cookies) that they sell in all the stores, one of them is called Triki Trakes, the other is called Emperodor (they are lots of types all of them are good but I like the all chocolate or half white half brown with white filling). My favorite drink here is definitely Orchada, but I don’t like it in the states, it’s completely different. There are also little stands that sell Agua de Coco (it’s coconut water but they make it really, really good).  They make all sorts of different flavored waters from real fruit, they call them waters but it’s more like juice. What I think you could find in the Mexican store is either pineapple or strawberry flavored Fanta or another soda called Sidral de Mazana (if they have a green and a red one get the red, I don’t know why but it's better).

Sounds like mom has been busy with work.  I can’t believe Coop is almost 12 and is going to receive the Priesthood. Tell him congrats for me! That’s funny that all the neighborhood kids are always at the house, but I’m glad he has lots of friends, he was kind of bored over the summer. I am also glad that Mary hasn’t killed anyone driving yet! Is she driving my stick shift or driving the automatics? Do you still have the Elantra? I loved Brooke’s picture that mom sent me, tell her thank you for me.

To answer your questions no we can’t really see too many stars here at night, some but probably less than back home. My shoes are holding up pretty well, I have only been using the Clarks, mostly because I started with them and my other ones are really clean and nice. The shoes just get destroyed almost every day; it’s super, super dirty here and there’s just crap all over the streets. So I clean and shine them almost every morning. I just noticed this week they are starting to wear a little bit but they are super comfy and I haven’t had any problems with my feet. I think I will wear them until they are just completely worn out and then switch to the other ones. We walk a lot! We walk everywhere we go and our area is pretty huge. I don’t know how far but I would guess like 4 to 8 miles a day, just a guess.

I am glad you guys saw Eric! I haven’t heard anything from him since I left. And I’m not really sure how to write him, I can’t send a real letter and I don’t have his email address. Did you ever give him the letter I sent from the MTC. Tell him I say hi next time you see him and I hope he is doing well.

This week was kind of rough here. We didn’t have the baptism that we thought we would. Although I still think that it will happen. We have also been teaching a family, Angel, Francisca, and their son Alejandro. I think that Francisca and Alejandro will be baptized by the end of this transfer, hopefully sooner. They have been to church like 5 times, and the sister of Francisca is in our ward. Angel seems to learn a lot in lessons but he refuses to go to church and he has a lot of his own ideas. We found another family to teach with three boys: ages 16, 12, and 9 they seem great, although we have not been able to teach their parents yet. We at least know the mom is okay with it and 2 of them have been to church already. Other than that we didn’t get a lot done, I have been a little sick, I think we ate something bad early in the week and I just am not used to the food here. But yesterday I felt a lot better and today I feel almost 100 percent again. So hopefully we can pick it up this week and work hard.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of being humble. I think one of the reasons I was sent to a mission in Mexico is so I could be humbled. And I think I am more humbled every day. I was also reading in the book of Alma this week, the first few chapters. I think it’s in chapter 4 it talks about a people that are very prideful, there are wars and the people for the most part are wicked. Then there is a verse that says some of the people were living righteously, feeding the sick, clothing the naked, and keeping the commandments. I was thinking that that applies a lot to the people in the world today, for the most part the people are wicked, prideful and self-centered. And I was thinking how we can live like the righteous part, and I think the answer is being humble. The people in general were prideful, but those that humbled themselves before God and followed his commandments were happy. They gave service and helped the needy, even when it wasn’t acceptable in their society. As members of the church we live in a wicked self-centered world, but if we humble ourselves and follow the commandments and give of our time for service we will find happiness in an unhappy world.

I know this church is true. I know we have living prophets on the earth that lead and guide us. I know the power of prayer and the power of fasting, if we need something our Heavenly Father is always there. I know we also find strength and answers in the scriptures. I know living the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to find true happiness in this life.

I love and miss you all! Happy Thanksgiving!

Elder Utley

First Baptism!!

Hey Family!

It was so good to hear from you guys this week! Sounds like everything is going well there. I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. Makes me a little homesick. And I am super jealous of the weather, but the weather is really good here. A little hot during mid-day and nice and cool at night. Dad asked about terrain, there is one mountain here and some kind of hill type things. This letter might be a little short, I don’t have a ton of time and I had like 9 different people write me!

So this week was really good. I felt really up and down with the language but I can definitely see progress which is good. I have felt a little homesick, but at the same time I have been really happy. It’s kind of hard to explain, I think it’s just rough because I cannot really communicate with people. Although it’s fun to see the English speaking Elders sometimes and have a conversation, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.

So big news of the week we had a baptism! We baptized Hernan. There is a photo attached with his whole family. It was a really special experience; there was a good spirit there. He really wanted me to baptize him, which I was kind of surprised. But when we did divisions with people in the ward I always taught him so we knew each other better than Elder Valdes. But we had a brother in our ward who we are reactivating baptize him. I was a little disappointed but I knew it was better that way. One question you might have is why Hernan’s dad didn’t baptize him, he has some drinking problems but we are working on it. I really love the kid; he is so funny and always has funny stories and comments. As well as being smart and receptive to the gospel. He reminds me a lot of coop.

Speaking of coop tell him congrats on his soccer and keep working hard. That’s really cool dad got out the telescope for him and his friends. I do remember doing that and I absolutely loved it! It’s been a long time since dad has gotten it out though.

So I tried a new food this week. It’s called Menudo. It’s basically pig fat and skin cut right of the pig, cooked a little, thrown into a bowl and covered in kind of a soupy salsa. To my surprise, it wasn’t actually that bad. The taste was pretty good but it was the consistency that got me. I have to admit I gagged the first bite, but after that it was okay. I ate a lot of tortillas with it. I think that’s one of the reasons they eat tortillas with everything, a tortilla will pretty much mask the flavor of anything. But menudo is a typical dish of Mexico, and the famous one that missionaries from the US usually cannot get down. So I am glad to know I can eat it no problem.

We encountered two families this week that we taught. One of them is really great and they have already been to church like 3 times, well the mom and son, the dad needs some work but that’s why we are here. The other I’m not so sure about but with the help of the Lord anything is possible. We also have like 4 more really good investigators who should baptize within a month or so. The other girl who had a baptismal date this weekend we moved to next weekend. She didn’t quite feel ready but I am almost sure she will be ready this weekend. Elder Valdes and our ward mission leaders want me to baptize her, so that will be great if it happens.

I have learned even more this week the importance the Holy Spirit. It is always with us, it guides our paths, and all we have to do is listen. And I like a quote from Elder Bednar to the missionaries, (I can’t find quote buttons on this stupid Mexican keyboard so I will use /s) / Quit your whining, quit your fussing, quit worrying about it, be a good boy, be a good girl, keep the commandments and be where you need to be, even if you don’t realize it the spirit will guide your path/. That’s not exactly what he said but it’s really close. And it’s so true, if we are doing the things the Lord asks He will guide out paths. A prompting isn’t always distinct and clear, we don’t even always know at the time, but the Lord will guide our paths. This week we had that happen about 5 different times, it wasn’t a prompting that we recognized to be somewhere but we were there and we found a family, or taught a really good lesson, or helped a member of the ward in need. I have also had a few really cool experiences in lessons where I had a prompting to say something and followed it, even if I didn’t have the Spanish for it, and I was able to say it and it really helped in a few different lessons. I challenge you all to look for the Lords hand in your life, listen for the promptings of the spirit, and like Elder Bednar said be a good boy or a good girl, keep your commandments and you will have the spirit.

Love you all
Elder Utley

PS: if you could send some photos of what you guys are doing and have each of the kids write for Christmas that would be the best Christmas present. I will make sure to get some more time to write that week. And a photo of the house; I know that’s weird but a lot of people want to know what my house looks like ha ha.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Transfer Done

Hey Family!

How is everybody today? Sounds like you all had an exciting week. Mary didn’t write me but I would like to hear how she did in the swim meet, I can’t believe they had the Greg Fernley already. Can you believe it’s been two years since I swam in that? I am glad that Brooke had such a good time trick or treating and mom was able to go with her.

So Halloween here is a bit different, it’s combined with Dia de los Muertos. The little kids go around asking for candy for the whole week. Not many people actually give them candy though... it’s kind of funny. And they don’t knock doors unless they know the people. They also had a lot of little candy stands for the shrines they set up, I didn’t get the chance to buy any but it looked kind of cool. I only actually saw a couple of shrines set up. Overall, it wasn’t too much different.

We completed my first transfer yesterday, kind of exciting but it doesn’t mean much. Except one of my good friends in our district got transferred, Elder Allen. And also one of our zone leaders. I hope the new one is good.

I did hear from Shayne, that is so exciting, I am so stoked for her!

So the bug bites pretty much stopped I think we killed almost all of them. I don’t really need anything in specific but thanks for asking. They have lots of stuff here to take care of bugs and stuff because everyone has that problem. Our house is super cool and I have really liked living in our area. It just has a couple of problems that we will hopefully get taken care of over the next few weeks. The Brother we are renting from said he would, but it hasn’t happened. First of all we don’t have a hot water heater. And it gets pretty cold in the mornings so I am a pro at taking showers in literally under a minute! ha ha. The second thing is that we don’t have a stove… which is okay, not that big of deal, but just kind of annoying because its limits my food options (although we have an amazing taco restaurant on the corner of our street). The third thing is that we don’t have a washer, which is also okay because we do laundry with members, but again just kind of annoying.

Dad asked about my companion, for the most part he is really, really good. I couldn’t really ask for a better trainer. The mission president is practically begging him to extend his mission one transfer so he can train one more missionary. The only thing that I don’t like is he only has 2 transfers left and is so ready to go home, his head just isn’t all the way here in the mission sometimes. But we have been having a little bit of success. I think we were kind of bummed after the family we were teaching didn’t get baptized and we had a week where we didn’t have a lot of success. We for sure have one baptism this week and possibly another. The one we have for sure is a boy of 9 years old, he wasn’t baptized because his family wasn’t active but we have been activating them again and he will baptize this Sunday. The other is in a family of members but was living with her boyfriend when her family was baptized. She is now living with them again, she is super ready and his good examples around her but she is just concerned it is too fast. We are planning on this Sunday for her as well, but we will have to see. We also have a family we are going to contact this week, they have been to church 2 or 3 times and the mom’s sister is a member in our ward. So I think we will have a family to teach this week.

Our entire mission this last month only had 45 baptisms, in a good month we have over 200. So as a district we set a bunch of goals. The big one is we are all going to baptize 4 this month. We are all looking for a family or 4 or more to teach and baptize. To accomplish this we are going to fast every Saturday to find a family of 4 we can teach and baptize. And we have a few other things we are going to do to be move obedient and have more success.

The language has been a little bit better; I had a few really cool experiences this week with the language. A couple lessons I taught with almost no trouble. I saw one of the Brothers in our ward and he started talking to me and I just started talking back without thinking about it, we had a full conversation. That said there were also times that I had no idea what was going on, it’s still really tuff. I even had some people just ask me simple questions, that I didn't catch until they repeated a few times. I am still frustrated but I can see and feel the Lord’s help with the language when I need it. I know this church is the only church on the earth that has the fullness of the gospel of Christ. That we have the power and authority of God on the earth called priesthood. We have living prophets that lead and guide our church. I know Christ lives and suffered and atoned for us and later died on the cross and was resurrected the third day. I know he plays a huge role in our lives and we feel that through the Holy Ghost. I know the Book of Mormon is true and have seen is along with the gospel and his teaching change lives. That we can become closer to God by reading that book than any other book, just like Joseph Smith said.

I love and miss you all
Elder Utley

Friday, November 2, 2012

Last week of my first transfer!

Hey Family,

How is everybody? Sounds like you had another busy week, and a bit emotionally draining! Tell Mary I am so sorry about her friend, but I now that God has a plan and there is a reason for everything. We have trials to in order to grow. I have been learning that this week.

I am glad Mary is making friends. That’s too bad about Coop’s feet; I know what that feels like but with shoulders... That Halloween party looked awesome, I am a little jealous. I still don’t know what they do for Halloween here but I heard they just do Dia de los Muertos or day of the dead here in Irapuato. They already have Christmas stuff up too, crazy!

So to answer dad’s questions I really don’t now what the strangest thing here is, everything is really dirty all the time and there is not a whole lot of space, everyone is just crammed in everywhere, but you are right I have not felt too much of a culture shock. The bugs are awful, especially in our new house, I am getting eaten alive. In one night I got over 30 bug bites... but the next day we bought this thing you plug into the wall and it kills the mosquitos, I only had a couple new ones after that.

You asked about P days, we haven’t played soccer yet, only one time for a church activity with the little kids. I actually did better than I thought I would – I scored a couple goals. We usually play American football and basketball on p days. Speaking of sports thanks for keeping my updated on the World Series, I get little bits and pieces of what is happening in the United States but not much so that’s fun to hear. Also on p days we are only supposed to write for around 30 minutes, we usually end up taking about 45 because it takes so time to read them first. I have heard a little from my buddies at school, Tom has written me a few times and that’s about it. Marissa Farris also wrote me during the MTC but I haven’t heard from her in a while. Oh and I have heard from both grandparents as well, I wish I had time to write them more but I usually just send a quick message back. It’s fun to hear from people but I don’t have a lot of time.

So the food. It’s really good most the time. I got sick for the first time last week but just for a day. I ate some bad mole evidently. It’s like a salsa with chocolate, it’s usually really good. I also tried tripe today, wasn’t too bad but wasn’t my favorite either. There hasn’t been anything I really haven’t liked. It’s all pretty good.

So time is flying by, we have transfers coming up, I shouldn’t move and neither should my companion but it’s crazy I have almost completed one. I am a little bummed we haven’t had a baptism yet but we are supposed to be focusing on the less active members and we have reactivated some families. We have a date for a baptism with one of those families whose child wasn’t baptized, he is 9 but it counts for us and we are teaching him. His baptism isn’t this week, but next.

The language has been really rough lately. If someone takes time to sit down and talk to me and explain things and speak a little slower I can understand but it’s hard to understand at normal speed or when lots of people are talking. They also listen to a lot of American music here and it’s hard to hear that and Spanish at the same time. I know that I have something to learn, something to offer the people here. God has a plan and it’s going to be hard, maybe for a long time but I am definitely being humbled, and maybe that’s what I need. There’s nothing more I can do than learn each day and try and help someone with my limited communication skills.

But that’s one thing I have gained a greater testimony of so far. God has a plan, he knows and takes care of his children, and he gives us trials to grow. I have seen it in my own life every single day, and in the lives of the people here. Even if it’s something simple like, oh man I forgot to buy food for dinner tonight and I am going to be hungry. I say a prayer that somehow my hunger will be taken care of. Without a doubt someone offers me food, or we end up going to a store. Or with bigger things when I can’t communicate, but in a lesson I have something I need to say. God lets me suffer the communication part, but if I say a prayer, even though my Spanish isn’t perfect or correct I can usually say what I need to say to help that person.

I challenge you all to look for Gods plan in your lives, his help, and his love!

I love and pray for you all
Elder Utley

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Month in Mexico!

Hey Family,

Thanks for the letters! I even got one from Coop and Brook this week! So Halloween is coming up, what is everyone dressing up as? Are the kids excited? I hear they celebrate Halloween here but I’m not sure what is going to be like. You can’t really go knocking on doors, mostly because they all have a big locking gate in front of them! How is Mary liking swim? Brook wants to play soccer? I am glad Mom and Dad had a relaxing week of time off, too bad it couldn’t be in Hawaii but I guess it was just as good?

It’s crazy I have been in the field for a month! And, 3 months of my mission are gone! To answer dad’s questions, yes I am still reading Jesus the Christ I am almost 500 pages in and I love it! I don’t wear my suit except on Sundays we are required to. My clothes are great but it is super hard to keep them clean. So I am not quite sure what to do about that...

So our investigating family decided not to get baptized. The Mom is having some real problems in her life. She is separated from her husband, doesn’t really have steady work, she lives with her parents who hate that she is investigating and she wants to move out. So she decided no, and the kids will basically follow what she does. It was pretty disappointing, I wish we could help her and her family more but all we can really do is give the gospel and invite them to be happy, in the end it’s their choice. So I am not sure what will happen with them.

Other big news, we found a house!!!!! And it is really ridiculously nice for missionaries. It has a big patio in front, a kitchen downstairs, and a big living room, upstairs there are 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. It is hands down the nicest house I have seen for missionaries here. The way we found it was kind of amazing. We were walking to an appointment and got flagged down by a man who I thought was a non-member (I might have already told this story I can’t remember) but turned out to be a less active. He said he wanted to come back to the church and when could we visit him? Well it turns out he sells chicken to all the little shops around here, his business does very well too. He found out we were looking for a house and said he had one that he just used to store his products for his business and we could rent it and basically set the price. So we did, the president accepted it and I think we move this weekend. The man and his wife are very kind and giving like a lot of the people here. I was surprised at how kind, giving, and humble they are for being so well off. They also said that they are going to put a washing machine in the house! So I will have a washing machine for a while. If I have any extra time I will send pictures.

The thing I have really been impressed with this week is how loving and giving the people are here. Like the man who offered to let us rent a nice house for a part of what it should be (and also took his whole crew from work and had them clean it with us). Out of the members of our ward this week, I had about 5 come up to me and offer to have us come eat with them an extra time during the week, for dinner or something because the members already feed us lunch. Most of them don’t eat very well themselves, but they always put their best food on the table for us. Then in Elders Quorum the president stood up and told everyone that there was a couple in their late 80’s who were struggling. The man of 87 years was looking for work, they can’t pay their rent, and they have no food. They discussed what they could do for nearly a half hour. One man talked about how everything we have come from the Lord and we have covenanted to give all we have to the church, and this is a way to fulfill that. They decided that they would meet at the chapel Tuesday and bring whatever they could, whether money or food or clothing and take it to this couple. I have no doubt that that couple will be completely taken care of. I think we could all be a little more like the people of our ward here, and we will be happier for it.

I also have read almost the entire Liahona this month; it talks about so many great things! It focuses a lot on parenting and chastity and messages for the youth. It has been really uplifting; I would challenge you all to read it in its entirety.

I love you all,
Elder Utley

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10/15/2012 Letter Home

Hey family how is everyone?

This week has been kind of crazy, super-fast!

Dad had a lot of questions I will go ahead and answer them right now.  I have felt a little sick this week but not too bad.  Saturday I had really bad headaches but I feel a lot better today.  Our apartment does have a kitchen; we have a sink, a refrigerator, and a stove top type thing.  Really it’s like one of the camping stoves but it works to cook on, we use it all the time.  They do eat a lot of rice here, but it’s not the kind we have in the United States, it’s more of an orange color, it has a bit of a different taste, but I really like it.  We have not found a new apartment yet, it’s kind of frustrating.  But I took photos of our current one, I will try and send them but it is not working right now for some reason.  I love personal study time, I learn a lot and I get to study stuff that I want to learn, although admittedly a lot of time is spent trying to figure out the Spanish.  And at times it can be hard to stay awake; it is one of my favorite times of the day.

That is a bummer you guys didn't get to go to Hawaii, I hope dad starts feeling better!  But maybe you will get some good family time in, and hopefully some fishing!  Mom I am glad you are recovering from the marathons, I think you’re crazy!  I am glad that Mary decided to swim! She won’t regret it when she finishes.  Sounds like Coop’s team is kicking butt in soccer!  That’s super exciting; tell him good luck for me and to work hard.  And tell Brooke good luck in her singing - that sounds really fun.

This week has been kind of crazy, we traveled to Abasolo again.  There is a lot of work to do there. There are a lot of members, but not many have been showing up.  We are also teaching the sister of a family of members there, so that’s kind of exciting.  I went on splits this Sunday with a young man in our ward out there as well.  It was kind of weird; they don’t have a chapel, it’s called a prayer house.  And only like 15 people were there.  I gave a talk... they told me 5 minutes before.  I talked about repentance and the atonement.  I don’t know how much people understood but I thought it was okay.  The language has been really frustrating this week, I don’t know what is going on a lot of the time, and it’s hard to help people when I don’t understand what they need.  Especially when I cannot hold a normal conversation, but I am learning, I understand a lot more than when I started.

We had interviews with the president.  He is great.  I really like him.  I found out I will probably be in Irapuato for another 5 months.  That’s a long time but I will really get to know the people and the ward so I am excited.  Elder Valdez will probably be my companion for this transfer and next.  Then he will train one more time in a new area and then he will go home.  Crazy.  So that puts me here for 6 months total.  It’s crazy I have already been out on my mission for almost 3 months!

This week we have the baptism of Patricia and her children!  I am super excited!  It will be my first baptism(s) on the mission.  And our ward mission leader wants me to baptize two of the four of them!  I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t here when they started teaching them and they might want Elder Valdez to do it, and ultimately it’s up to them.  But the kids really like me so maybe I will be able to.  The other two are to be baptized by Hermano Lopez.  He and his family have helped a lot and offered their home for lessons with Patricia and her family.  I really love the Lopez family they are so kind and loving and always want to help.  I will let you all know how it goes!

We also found a bunch of new investigators this week.  Four that we think will be baptized within a month or so. That’s pretty exciting.  I will get to see it through all the way and see how the gospel blesses their lives start to finish.

We had splits with other missionaries this week because my companion is district leader and had to interview their investigators for baptism.  They put me with Elder Allen who is from the United States as well; he has been here almost 3 months (he is in the photo of my desk).  So we looked really funny walking around, just 2 white boys.  He knows a lot more Spanish than me, but is not fluent... so it was a really long day.  But one good thing did come out of it.  We taught a less active family, and in this lesson we were able to understand almost everything and talk and teach to their needs, it was really cool.  The part that was even cooler is a friend of one of the daughters just happened to be there, and just happened to be very interested in our message.  We taught her the plan of salvation, challenged her to read the Book of Mormon and to pray about it, and also to go to church.  Well I don’t know about the reading, but she actually went to church!  I think she will be baptized fairly quickly; she is really receptive and has all the right kinds of questions.  Her name is Lupita.  The cool part about that story is we had a really rough day but somehow the Lord put us in that house on that day at the right time!  I know that the Lord looks out for us.  When we are striving to do what is right he will guide our paths.  This is also shows how much God loves us.  Had we not been there this girl may have never had the chance to receive the gospel.  Maybe she would have,  but it’s something she really needs in her life right now.  I am not sure yet but I know he loves her, and he loves us, his missionaries, because even the two white boys in the middle of Mexico (and lost because we didn't know the area very well), who don’t speak the language could find someone to teach and have success.  If we do what is right, keep the commandments and strive to have spiritual experiences the Lord will guide our paths!

I love and miss you all,
Elder Utley

P.S. If you do send a package, I don’t know what but I need something to clean my white shirts. They are getting destroyed!  Mexico is a dirty place and I cannot keep my shirts white. So, some sort of stain remover, but it can’t depend of a washing machine because we won’t always have one.  Right now we do which is nice but it doesn't work all that well. Thanks!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2nd week! 10/8/2012

Hey Family!

Sounds like everyone had a good week! Congrats Mom on another marathon, that is pretty amazing! And congratulate coop on doing so well in soccer. So Brook has a singing solo in her choir? That is really cool. What song is it? She is already excited for Halloween? What is she going to dress up as? Tell Mary to stick swim out, it is super rough (like all things worthwhile) at times but it will be well worth it.

So Hawaii this week? For 10 days, that’s so exciting. I am a little bit jealous, but we will have similar weather! I do kind of miss being able to swim though, that’s the part I am really jealous of. Is it all on the big island? Or are you traveling between?

So we right at these little shops that have computers in them, they are all over the place here because nobody has computers. They cost about 6 pesos an hour which is almost nothing. We get as much time to write as we plan for, still not a lot but I think about an hour. Plus today we can in and printed our letters first, then went and played football and read them on the way there then came back to write. So we have plenty of time.

As for handwritten letters and packages, I am not really sure how it works; I have not seen any sort of post office or anything like that here. I know that all of our letters and packages are sent to the mission home in Leon. Our zone leaders travel there once a month for meetings and they pick up everything for the zone there. So writing handwritten letters would be really, really tuff. I am sure I will figure out a way to send a package home at some point.

As for what is happening here. This week was super, super fast. One funny thing that happened was we were eating at a member’s house and the first thing we ate was this really sketchy looking meat in some sort of green sauce. It looked bad but you eat it anyway. I was about halfway through this really kind of slimy squishy meet, which was okay it didn't have a lot of flavor, and my companion asked what kind of meet it was (something I really didn't want to know) She wouldn't tell us. We finished the plate, and she proceeded to tell us it was langua in Spanish, or cow tongue in English. So I can now say i have eaten cow tongue, and who knows what else because I am always too afraid to ask...

We still didn't find a new apartment. So we are looking, but I like living with the other elders, other than the time we lose traveling. The language has also been frustrating this week but I know it takes time. I am also getting really tan! But just on my arms and face. I am going to have some really funny tan lines when I come back. And I am losing weight, my belt is already feeling loose, but I think it’s about time for a new one anyway!

We also traveled to a part of our area, it’s a town outside of Irapuato about 40 minutes, it is called Abasolo. There is a small branch there, about 30 but only 6 or 7 are active. We worked with one of the 2 priesthood holders that is active. He lived the United States for 20 years so he spoke English which was kind of cool! We started 4 new investigators there, 1 of which I think has some real potential. And we are working on reactivating there as well.

I learned I am in an area that has been kind of dead for a few months because there was an elder who didn't want to be here for a long time and kind of hurt our reputation in the ward and area. But we have been working hard to rebuild. So it’s started kind of slow but we got a bunch of referrals this week and i really think we will be able to get a good work going here!

Then to end the week we had conference, which was amazing! I hope you all had the chance to watch all the sessions, if not go online and watch them. We had our family of 6 that is investigating come to the first session of conference. They loved it, the mom was taking notes and all the talks were on baptism and missionary work, perfect! They have a baptismal date for the 20th of October. 4 of them!
I got to watch the sessions in English! 4 of the 10 missionaries in our area are American so that was nice we all watched together. I don’t think I would like it if the voices on the prophets were changed, plus I would have only understood a little bit. I am stoked they changed the age for missionaries. I don’t think it will affect the elders that much but I think there will be so many more sisters that will go on missions. I have been thinking of all the people that could now go, it’s crazy! Mom told me Shayne is thinking about going.

There were so many good things said in conference. The more I listen to the prophets the more i gain a testimony of them. There words and testimonies are so powerful. All of their messages are so inspired. I wish we could have conference once a month! I always feel so uplifted and motivated during and after conference. I challenge you all to go back and read or watch a few of your favorite talks again; every time you do you will learn from it. I particularly liked elder Bednar’s talk in the Sunday afternoon session. I would take one third of a page of notes on each talk usually, the ones that I thought were really good half a page. I took an entire page of notes on his talk and feel like I didn't get it all and couldn't keep up. I am looking forward to reading them again!

I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder Utley

P.S. If you want to send a package at some point it doesn't need to be soon but I would love any sort of American food or candy (chocolate, they don’t eat a lot of chocolate here). Unlike the MTC I am definitely losing weight here and I already miss food from home a little. Although, the food here is super good.

Friday, October 5, 2012

First week in Mexico!

Hey Family!

How is everyone? It was good to hear from you guys! I am glad you all had a good week. I don’t have a lot of time today, unfortunately, but I will try to get everything in!

So the first day we stayed in the mission home.  I had an interview with the mission president, he is super nice! I got assigned to the Irapuato area. It is a city 1 hour north of Leon. I am not sure how big it is but my guess is 100-200 thousand people. The next day we had an orientation, and our trainers came to pick us up. We took a bus to our area; the bus was actually the nicest bus I have ever been on.

We are staying with some other elders right now because the apartment in our area does not have power anymore for some reason. It’s kind of fun but it’s a hassle to travel to our area sometimes, it takes a while. Our apartment is pretty small, we have a study room, a kitchen and a bedroom, and they are all really one room divided into 3. And then there is a bathroom. Compared to everywhere else here it’s pretty nice.

So we take a bus to our area every morning, I am 99% sure there are absolutely no traffic laws here. If anything bad happens on my mission I think it will be some sort of car crash, not being robbed or something like that. The way the busses work is really cool (there are about as many or more busses and taxis as there are personal cars). The busses just drive a route, on no set time really, they weave in and out of neighborhoods and pick up anyone who signals by sticking their arm out. There is a button you press when you want to get off and the bus just stops for you. It costs 6 pesos per time that we ride it, which is pretty cheap. I think that’s around 55c in US dollars. (We get 1700 pesos per month plus whatever our rent is; it’s about 140 US dollars)

The Spanish is really tuff, the first few days I understood seriously almost nothing! I still don’t understand a lot. I was told the people speak fast but it is amazing how fast they can speak. It all sounded like one big word at first. It’s starting to slow down a little bit, but it’s still really tuff. Most people say they understand everything I say, but I have a hard time getting it out. I would say I can pretty much follow the gospel conversations during lessons and meetings, partly because people slow down when they talk about that and I think partly because it is necessary for me to help the people, so I have been blessed that way. Outside of lessons I can now understand maybe 50% so I know what the conversation’s about but I couldn't tell you what’s happening.

The people here are awesome! Everyone is so nice and friendly and helpful. They like to laugh, and they live simply. All of the little kids think it’s really funny when they see me, but they all like me and want me to play games with them and things like that. (Marbles and Tops are huge here). There are stores on almost every street, just little ones. There are basic stores, tortilla stores, bread stores, etc. It’s really kind of cool. They just walk a couple hundred feet when they need something. There are not very many big stores like in the US but there are some.

The food is amazing! The tortillas are so good. They eat them with everything. They have a pasta type thing they eat a lot, chicken or some sort of meat. (Honestly most the time I don’t know what kind of meet it is). They love soda. They have like 4 main sodas, the big one is Coke. You can’t go 50 feet without seeing a store selling Coke, they also have Sprite, Orange Fanta, and a soda called Manzana Lift, it’s kind of like apple beer but so much better! They also sometimes have Fresca. The soda here is better than in America for some reason, maybe because it is the same kind of stuff as home. They eat a lot of salsa, limes, and crunchy tortillas too. I have loved it so far. And the miracle is I have not been sick yet!
No one here drinks the water, not even the ones who were born here, not even the poorest people. They have giant jugs that they fill up with pure drinking water. So that hasn't been a problem because it’s hard to forget when nobody drinks it. It must be pretty bad if you drink it.

We eat lunch with the members; we are responsible for breakfast and dinner, although sometimes they feed us dinner too. I forgot to mention, breakfast is my favorite, they have all sorts of breads, pastries, doughnuts, etc. They are made fresh and so, so good. And cheap too! Breakfast costs at the most like 10 pesos which is less than a dollar.

My companion is Elder Valdez, he has been here for 20 months. He is a native from Monterrey, Mexico. He is a good missionary and very patient which I am grateful for. I am learning a lot from him.

To answer mom’s question, yes I feel safe, the neighborhoods look pretty sketchy, I won’t lie, but I have never felt threatened or anything like that. Honestly the most scared I have been is in a taxi or bus.

We have been teaching a lot of people, that is all we do is teach. We don’t ever tract, sometimes we do street contacts. We do a lot of helping less actives. We have a few investigators with baptismal dates for the week after conference, 5 actually. A family of 4 and a boy named Paul who is 13. The lessons are super fun; everyone loves to listen and is respectful and for the most part very receptive. I input things when I can, but at the very least I can bear testimony about any gospel subject and I do it a lot. The ward is great, I really like our war mission leader, he is 25 and a return missionary. The bishop seems good I only met him once at church. The members are amazing, thoughtful and caring.

So one quick experience, my fist day here we had a dinner appointment with a family. We get there and they was one room, with a curtain in the middle separating children and parents bedrooms, there was a sink on the side and I think there was a bathroom outside but I was not sure. There was either dirt or concrete on for a floor. (Almost everyone just have concrete floors, no carpet at all, wealthy people have tile.) They fed us noodles in a sauce, and then what I think was chicken covered in salsa with tortillas and some sort of pastry at the end. They had 4 people in their family: a mom, a dad, a 2 year old, and 4 year old. They didn't eat... It was the hardest thing to sit there and watch the little kids wanting food and not getting any but we were eating. Yet if I refused or tried to give it to them it would have been offensive. (That was one of the things they told us in our orientation the first day). That was a family with so much faith. They were willing to give all they had to serve the Lord, even if they went without food. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I was taught a great lesson about faith. I had to ask myself, would I be willing to do that for God? Could I give up everything I have? I know that family will be blessed and I am so thankful for their faith. I know this gospel is true; the Lord takes care of His people, and protects His missionaries. I am so excited to be here. I love having the chance to be able to help people and change people’s lives. I have already seen that happen a little and it was so cool to help in it. I would challenge you all to have faith like that family that fed the elders.

I love and miss you all

Elder Utley