Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Blessings and Challenges in the Ohio

October 18, 2017
Dear loved ones:
Our great YSA Branch missionaries.  First, Elder Jackson Wiser

Elder Brenan Westover

Sister Matysen Evensen

Sister Rochelle Carlile

            One of the many joys of being missionaries is that we get to reflect on what the gospel really means to us.  I’ve been considering the blessings we have received from paying tithing.  These blessings are incalculable for us mortals, but we have also been blessed financially for paying our tithing.  Always.  Both of us.  Our entire lives.  Let me explain.
Sonja took a terrible chance on me by marrying me just four weeks after my return from the Japan Nagoya Mission.  I only had two semesters of school completed by that point, and as events worked out we had another twelve years of school and training to go.  It sounds like a lot, but I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that I increased my class load and graduated from BYU in two additional years instead of three.  That left us with only eleven years to go.  No big deal. 
Kidding.  Way big deal.
            During medical school, we lived mostly on loans, but occasionally I was able to supplement with part-time jobs.  I answered phones for the Salt Lake Clinic at night and on weekends and holidays.  I also did some basic lab work for them in the evenings:  phlebotomy, urinalysis, microbiology, and blood testing.  That also gave me a small head start academically for my third year of medical school, which was all clinical.  In addition to the Salt Lake Clinic, I also worked for the Utah State Health Department during the first two summers at the U of U.  That was a pretty fun job.  Utah has a big influx of migrant farm workers each summer, and the school districts would put on summer school for them.  We put together groups of doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists, audiologists, and a few stragglers like me. We would go around and examine each kid and intervene when necessary.  I had a couple of med school classmates that worked only on clinic days, which was usually two days per week, but I was full time.  I also got involved in some research, worked in a health department clinic, wrote reports, and basically made a nuisance of myself trying to learn as much as I could.  It was pretty interesting, but the family finances were still really tight.  Really, really tight.
            Third year in med school was really busy, and working wasn’t really an option.  But, I was also gone most of the time, so I didn’t have a lot of time to consider the dismal state of the family finances.  In the beginning of the fourth year came residency application time.  I spent a month away from my family in Portland, Oregon.  That was expensive, but it gave the group at Oregon Health Sciences University a good look at me, and vice versa. 
Then, Sonja and I took a three-week long interview trip.  In week one we interviewed in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin before heading south to Kansas City.  Week two was supposed to be Boston, but both interviews there wanted to reschedule, so we ultimately ended up cancelling, largely because I was pretty optimistic about my chances in Portland.  The evening of the interview in Kansas City, as we drove up the freeway wondering what we should do for the next week, we saw exits that said “Independence,” and “Liberty.”  We didn’t realize that Kansas City straddled the Kansas-Missouri state line.  We ate dinner at Golden Corral (and even liked it—strange), then went to the Independence visitors’ center.  There was a really nice senior missionary that encouraged us to visit all the church history sites.  Nauvoo, Carthage, Kirtland, Farr West, Adam-ondi-Ahman, etc.  It was an amazing blessing.  We ended up visiting Washington DC as well, which was a first for Sonja. 
            Week three included interviews in Columbia, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and Oklahoma City.  That’s in Oklahoma.  It was a great trip, ultimately successful, and expensive.  WAY too expensive, but we really had no choice.  Me going alone and flying would have been more expensive and would have largely left Sonja out of the decision.
            It really wasn’t until we returned home to SLC that reality set in.  We had burned through too much of our money, and we didn’t have a clue how we were going to survive.  We tightened our belts and were very, very careful with our money.  I remember seeing people around me do things like buy bags of M&Ms from vending machines and thinking how nice it would be to have that much disposable income.  We already ate only inexpensive food, and we took that to new heights.  Or would that be new lows?  Our entertainment was Hogle Zoo.  We scrimped, saved, and bought a $25 family pass that we would often use several times a week.  Previous to our fourth year, we would occasionally treat the kids to a ride on the Hogle Zoo railroad.  Either Sonja or I would take the kids while the other would sit out to save money—50 cents each.  We stopped doing even that. 
            I have to admit, I was pretty stressed and worried.  One month I really didn’t see how we were going to pay the rent.  But, we prayed really hard.  The blessings came in the form of me being able to work.  The psychiatry department at Primary Children’s Medical Center called me out of the blue and asked if I would be willing to do their admission histories and physicals at a satellite unit they had just opened at Cottonwood Hospital.  As events played out, at about the time that we were getting really desperate, Primary Children’s would call.  I always went out and did the work that night, then called to report the first thing the next morning.  We would have a check in the mail the next day.  It was always enough to let us scrape by.
            I am sure that most of the blessings we have received from paying tithing are intangible.  But, I am also sure that we continue to be blessed, financially and in many other ways, by our obedience to this simple law.  In the words of Elder Stanley Ellis in our last general conference, “Do we have the faith to trust His promises regarding tithing that with 90 percent of our increase plus the Lord’s help, we are better off than with 100 percent on our own?”[1]
Speaking of adversity here is Sister Terrie Davis from our home ward, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She and her husband, Bob, are 7 months into a 23 month-long mission there.  They do things like wash clothes in buckets and function frequently without power.  Cincinnati is SO easy.

             We have been busy in the last week, which is no surprise.  We had two zone conferences—in Montgomery, OH—a suburb of Cincinnati, and Liberty, OH—a suburb of Dayton.  We love zone conferences for many reasons, not the least of which is we get to hear our stake presidents address us.  President Wesley Foister, of the Ohio Cincinnati North Stake has already studied all of our last conference’s talks and extracted over 100 promises given to us by our leaders. 
Of course, we also love to see the Welches and hear them speak.  Let me share an exchange between President Welch and one of our sister missionaries: 
President Welch: “Some of what I am going to talk about may be somewhat esoteric…”
Sister Wilder: “What does esoteric mean?”
President Welch: “An esoteric thing is somewhat of a spiritual and emotional conundrum.”
I’m sure that most of you know that this is the kind of “clarity” I completely endorse. 
Each afternoon I took a half hour or so and taught about several issues.  I again encouraged missionaries to get their flu shots.  I also encourage all of you to do the same.  I then gave them a quiz that I illustrated with the following slide.  The PowerPoint slide was animated, which means that each entry appeared sequentially instead of all together.
The second slide continued the “quiz.”  We have LOTS of missionaries that don’t know that if you’re vomiting or have diarrhea, the first thing to do is to STOP EATING.”  We have had many missionaries call to say that they vomited, then ate lunch, and vomited again.  They must not dislike vomiting as much as we do.  I made the same point with diarrhea, but I spared them any graphics about diarrhea.  We meet in the chapel, after all.

Next, I gave some basic instruction about mental health.  Attention deficit disorder was previously classified according to whether or not the patient has a hyperactivity component of the disorder or not.  ADD-H patients display an overabundance of activity, but ADD patients don’t.  Currently, it’s all referred to as ADHD, irregardless of hyperactivity.  These folks have disorders of the reticular activating system (RAS), which is a diffuse network of brain cells that work together to alert the brain and focus attention.  It may seem somewhat paradoxical (insert another vocabulary exchange between President Welch and a missionary), but ADHD is treated with stimulants.  The stimulants kick-start the RAS and allow the brain to focus on the outside world.
I finished with a short discussion of depression and anxiety.  I have come to the conclusion that these two conditions are opposite sides of the same coin.  They almost always occur together.  I’ve already discussed what we can offer missionaries that have challenges here, so I won’t repeat myself.  Promise.  I really try not to repetitively repeat myself.
A couple of weeks ago, the Welches and we were discussing some missionaries that were dealing with adversity such as depression or anxiety, difficult companions, family problems at home, testimony or self-control issues, etc.  The problem wasn’t so much that they were experiencing opposition.  We all deal with that.  The issue was that some of our missionaries were displaying their trials as a badge of honor—an excuse to bow out of the work.  When I mentioned that I have strong feelings about that, they asked Sonja and me to speak to a select group of missionaries in a mini-conference call that we entitled “Joy in the Journey.”
I briefly told everyone about one of my challenges—multiple sclerosis.  The Welches were under the impression that we don’t like to talk about it, but we really don’t mind.  It’s just that our minds are focused on other things.  Missions can be a respite from our trials.  Sister Welch recently said to me that if she didn’t know that I am “ill” she would never be able to tell.  I am SO happy when I hear that.
Next, I related a story that was shared by David Bednar when he was president and I was faculty at BYU-Idaho.  He related that there had been an attempt to bomb the Salt Lake City temple, and it was very upsetting to him.  The next time he was in Utah for meetings, he expected that incident to be a prominent topic of conversation.  But, it never came up.  He caught one of the brethren afterwards and asked what they needed to do.  The answer was, “We do not take counsel of our fears.”  Whenever I am tempted to worry, I recite that maxim to myself.  It always seems to help.
I wrapped up by encouraging them to use their time carefully, express gratitude in all things, and have faith in a loving Father in Heaven.  I promised them that He is preparing all of us for what he wants us to do next.
Some pretty funky lighting at Mt. Echo Park, with Cinncinnati in the background.

Sonja with Alison & Diane Lee
 Sonja shared an experience where she was pretty sad.  When people would ask her how she was doing, she replied with something like, “I’m hangin’ in there.”  But, she learned to say, “I’m great!”  At first a little voice would tell her she was lying, but it quickly became true.  There is great power in words, and they can either wound or heal.
President Welch has an ongoing joke-but-not-a-joke in which he quotes missionary weekly emails: “Tough week, President…”  He has threatened to pass out “No Whining” hats.  So, we went to an embroidery kiosk and created the first two official Ohio Cincinnati Mission (OCM) “No Whining” hats.  They were a big hit.
Poster children for our "No Whining" initiative.

President Welch couldn't quite make himself wear the hat reversed.  I, on the other hand, look pretty good that way.  Better, even?
 We are really enjoying our new Institute digs at University of Cincinnati.  We had a pizza party last week to celebrate.  One of the great things about “our” new classroom is the multimedia system.  Behind the teachers we have three beautiful flat screen televisions.  It is amazing.
Josh Anderson, Taylor Renniger (now engaged to Josh), Mary Jo Talley, Renisha Cohen, Logan Gaverick, Samantha Hoffart, Chike, Amanda Mandigo, Brittney Durham, Angel Pratt, Daniel Krellaford, Matt Folsom, Tyler Lynn, Bryce Hansen, Sam Perryman, Elder Westover, Cam'ron Smith, Elder Bischoff (on exchanges), Sister Carlile, Sister Evensen, Emma Errgang.

We enjoyed a visit from Alison Lee, one of our favorite sister missionaries that recently left us in August and returned with her mother to visit the mission.  It was tons of fun to see her again, and of course her mother is every bit as wonderful.  It’s always hard to see our missionaries leave, but it’s also very exciting to see what they do with their lives.
Alison & Diane Lee out to dinner with us at Pappadeaux

The lobster tank at Pappadeaux.  Note the "King of the Tank" weighing in at 8 lbs.  On sale now for only $159.60.  I like lobster, but not that much.
 When we first joined the Cincinnati YSA Branch, we learned that our inspired branch presidency had set a goal for the branch to become a ward.  In order for that to occur, we needed to have an average sacrament meeting attendance of 125 for two quarters in a row.  We learned in July from our stake president, President Foister, that second quarter numbers were on target.  We are really excited by the fact that our average sacrament meeting attendance in the third quarter of 2017 was 125!  We did razz Brother Perryman, the branch presidency first counselor, that it sounded a little suspicious.  But, he assured us that 125 is numerically correct.  It is such a privilege to be part of this great miracle. 
Cincinnati YSA Branch Family Home Evening on 16 Oct 2017

Sister Lee flanked by Sisters Carlile and Evensen

I’ll close with my testimony of this great work.  I know that God lives, that this is the church of Jesus Christ himself, that the power of the atonement is real, and that the longing I feel to return home from whence I came will one day be fulfilled. 
Lots and lots of love, your Ohio Missionaries

Now for the random medical photo of the week:  a salivary stone extruding from the submandibular (Wharton's) duct.  I seem to get a bigger charge out of this than most other human beings.

[1] From “Do We Trust Him?  Hard Is Good,” by Elder Stanley G. Ellis, Emeritus Member of the Seventy.  October 2017 General Conference, Sunday afternoon session, available online at:

Monday, October 9, 2017

10/9/17 Wormholes in the Ohio

Wormholes in the Ohio
October 9, 2017
Dear loves ones:

            The obvious place to begin today’s meandering is Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen’s theory of general relativity.  You may be relieved to know that we don’t have time to discuss it in detail, but I’m sure we all know that according to the widely accepted theory space and time are basically the same thing—the space-time continuum.  If we wanted to travel to an interesting, yet distant place like Kolob by traditional transport methods it would take us mortals like forever, and if our transit speed approached the speed of light, we would actually arrive before we arrived.  This is strange stuff.  But, a wormhole is a yet-theoretical instantaneous travel connection that could free us from all constraints of space (distance) and time (duh).  It could be a whole new Polar Express—“Sit down kids, drink some hot chocolate, and we’ll hie to Kolob…well, right now.  Before the conversation began.  Or, sadly, the hot chocolate as well. 

            I don’t have time in the mission field to clear up any misunderstandings about relativity theories, but I am pleased to announce that wormholes are real.  Yup.  Your Ohio Missionaries (was that capital “M” OK?) have experienced wormhole travel.  Twice, in fact.

            Our first wormhole transit occurred in Kennebunkport, Maine years ago.  There is a fantastic lobster roll kiosk by the marina that is positively divine.  (I’m not sure that the lobster rolls are important, but careful scientists record all observations.  You just never know.)  So, we purchased lobster rolls and … drum roll … ate them.  They were good.  Then we drove along the coast to stop briefly at the viewpoint for Walker Point, where the George H W Bush family has their residence.  We enjoyed catching sight of George H W (not kidding here, we really did) and then continued on our way up the coast towards Portland, Maine.  We enjoyed a really brief drive north until we unexpectedly returned to downtown Kennebunkport.  Totally without meaning to.  This messed with our heads big time.  We bypassed the lobster rolls, stopped again at Walker Point, headed north again and ended up again in downtown.  Repeat once more.  It was getting really weird.  Finally, we used more reliable navigation methods than dead reckoning and managed to leave Kennebunkport.  Barely.  My personal theory is that navigation had nothing to do with it, but rather that the wormhole closed.  Maybe.
Downtown Gary, IN.  Anybody want to buy the building on the right?
            Our second wormhole lies between Cincinnati and Chicago.  The first time we made this drive, we unwisely and inadvertently drove through downtown Gary, Indiana—a town Carter charitably describes as “post-apocalyptic.”  We managed to escape the motorcycle gangs and bombed-out-looking-warehouse-like-buildings with our lives intact.  I seem to recall Carter calling us and saying something like, “What the HECK are you doing in Gary?  GET OUT OF THERE!”  Before we drove to Chicago again for conference weekend, he reminded us to avoid Gary.  We tried.  Promise.  The only reasonable explanation for why we did the Gary tour again was a wormhole.  Again.  (I'm now sorry I only took one photo, but I felt like I needed to keep one hand free just in case I needed to fire my nonexistent shotgun in self-defense.)

            Now, returning to our own space-time continuum, we’ve had lots of fun lately.  After our last post, we had a couple of days to catch up on some YSA work and prepare Institute lessons.  We LOVE Institute, and probably had our best class ever.  I started by having the group sing “Come Follow Me,” then taught about that.  It was a wonderful reminder that it really is the basics of the gospel that are most important.  I used Elder Wirthlin’s talk entitled “Follow Me” from the May 2002 Ensign.  He made the interesting point that Peter was wealthy.  Leaving his ship was a huge sacrifice, but he and his brother “straitway left their nets” and followed the Savior.  When Christ called James and John, they were mending nets with their father, Zebedee.  They also dropped everything to follow the man they recognized as the Messiah.  Zebedee must be quite the guy to raise two apostles and members of the First Presidency.  I’m looking forward to meeting him, but I’m also in no hurry.
Logan Gaverick is in the red shirt in the back row, Taylor Weber is in the headband in the second row.  The total is we had 5 students who are the only members in their families and two investigators--Logan and Taylor--who really want to be baptized.  Daniel Rellaford, on the left, is always good for a funny face in photos.  Love that young man.

            Sonja taught about Elder Oaks’ October 2000 talk “The Challenge to Become.”  The upshot is that the Lord needs our heart, not just our actions.  She split the group up into groups and asked them to report back with an inspired, thought-provoking question for the group to discuss.  She figured that her lesson wouldn’t take her entire 45 minutes, but the discussion was GREAT!  We also went considerably later than planned, but everyone was so totally into it we couldn’t cut it off.  There were SO many faithful young people that were dealing with opposition from their families.  Garrett cheerfully reported that his mother had said some really unfortunate things when she heard he was going to be baptized, but reported that, “She’ll get over it.”  Taylor Weber, who isn’t baptized yet, said she’s sad that her family isn’t yet converted like she is.  Logan Gaverick, who is on date for December, quoted from D&C 121 by memory.  We were both amazed again by the courage and dedication of these great young people. 
We were planning to leave for Chicago right after class, but fortunately Sister Welch commented about new missionary training on Friday.  The calendar got changed.  But, the Lord fills in the gaps.  We got up early to see our missionary who was hospitalized with his second spontaneous pneumothorax.  Bummer.  Then we headed to the mission home.  Sonja always teaches about using proper prayer language, and is a pro.  I did my usual medical instruction, and then we returned home to (gasp!) put on civilian clothing and head to Chicago.  We obviously survived Gary again, arrived otherwise uneventfully at Carter and Whitney’s.

Two cute girls.  Hannah Lee Davis is the smallest one

Noah's happy "I just ate lasagna" smile

The next morning, we went to a farmer’s market in Chicago.  It was tons of fun.  Carter and Noah rode a Ferris wheel.  It was adjacent to the zoo, so we visited a few critters as well.  They bought Noah a great big sunflower that he completely abused.  That was one amazingly tough sunflower!  Noah turns 3 on October 18, but we jumped the gun a bit and had him open our presents.  The biggest hit was two radio-controlled race cars.  He was so excited he was jumping up and down.  He loved them.  I ran one car while he chased it with the other.  Happily, Carter figured out how to disconnect the speakers.  Constant sirens got a little tiresome.  For those of you that are up for watching a video of the race car opening ceremony, follow this link:!AgMBQ9KhOGXknHr3FvtZumkyHNw1 

Not quite our message, but this booth did have delicious cheese sandwiches.

A lovely day in Chicago

Some temporary zoo inhabitants

Gotta love Lake Michigan in panorama

Carter and Noah getting their feet wet in Lake Michigan

Returning home from our walk along the Lake

Three primates at the zoo

Grandpa Kent with two beautiful girls

Noah reminds us SO much of Carter when he was small.  Like his Dad, Noah is just nuts about his younger sibling.  Like Casey, Hannah doesn’t object when Noah lovingly attacks her.  I’m sure that, like his Dad still does for Casey, Noah will always look out for his sister.  Carter and Whitney are great parents.  They are very patient and consistent.  When Noah cries for something, he can’t have it until he smiles and asks nicely.  It’s so amazingly cute. 

Noah's on-demand smile

It is amazing how serious Noah is about vacuuming.  And, he gets the job done!

Now some impressions of general conference.  Perhaps my strongest impression was how President Monson still leads this church, even though he couldn’t attend.  It doesn’t really matter who holds the priesthood keys.  What matters is that all mankind has access to them.  It is also interesting how many of the prophets in my life have struggled with dementia and other health problems.  It is a reminder to us all that we are led by Jesus Christ himself.  President Eyring’s general priesthood session talk entitled “The Lord Leads His Church” is very true.  This great work will continue to move forward despite all opposition.
 I was impressed by how many speakers spoke of forgiveness-- “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5: 44-45)
Elder Holland is always full of hope.  The title of his talk pretty well said it: “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually.”
Elder Rasband’s affirmation that there are no coincidences rings true.  We see that every day.  He used a great analogy of our life being a chessboard, and we have the agency to move.
Elder Oaks distinguished between salvation, which is universal, and exaltation.
Tad Callister might be one of the smartest people of which I am aware.  We all know that the way to know if the Book of Mormon is true is to read it and pray about it.  But, his logical defense of its divinity was just wonderful.  In our Skype session last night, Chris and Casey discussed Richard Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith entitled Rough Stone Rolling.  I’m reading it, but haven’t finished.  Chris, of course, has read it.  Twice.  Casey is working on it right now.  If you haven’t read it, you really should.  It is an unvarnished, objective biopic of the prophet.  Nothing came easy for him or for the church.  That book and Brother Callister’s talk are great reminders of what an amazing miracle this great work is.
I could and probably should keep going about conference, but perhaps this will suffice.
But, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my very favorite conference quote.  This one is from Noah: “That’s not Thomas Monson!  Who is that guy?”
We got to stay in Chicago until Tuesday morning, and every minute was a joy.  I got up early that morning and got to hold Hannah for about 3 hours.  If she squirmed a bit I rocked her and gave her a pacifier.  Those quiet hours were inexpressibly wonderful.  I read from the Book of Mormon, all the while pondering what that little girl could teach me about our Father in Heaven if she could but talk.  Our children are God’s greatest gifts, and what I most want for our children is to always be with them in God’s presence.
We managed to drag ourselves away from Chicago in time to drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana for round 2 of new missionary training Tuesday evening.  We went for a walk in a pretty cool mall we found, and then tried to check into our room at the Hampton Inn.  The problem was that we were their last guests to check in, and a pipe had broken in what would have been our room.  They refunded our money and paid for our room at the Hawthorne Inn & Suites nearby.  It worked out fine.
Elder Davis branching out into podiatry
We loved every moment of zone conference.  The Welches are incredible.  Sister Welch has great poise and radiates true charity.  President Welch never uses notes when he speaks.  His presentations are always coherent, inspired, and motivating.  He has challenged all of our missionaries to memorize two scriptures every week.  My sweetheart and I memorize scriptures and recite them together when we walk.  He is a great example of gospel scholarship.
My girl at Fort Wayne's new location of  Shigs In Pit.  This place is delicious.

Thursday was totally epic.  We finally got approval for a LDS Student Association on the University of Cincinnati!  This means we can stop paying rent for classroom space to hold Institute.  It also means we will have a pizza party this week to celebrate.  We will try hard to set things up so the LDSSA doesn’t dwindle into oblivion this time.  The challenge is that new officers need to be elected every year, and updates filed with the University each fall.  Students, missionaries, and church leaders come and go.  But, we’ll do our best.
Our new classroom in the "DAAP" building at the University of Cincinnati

Proof that the LDSSA is now approved at UC

On Friday, we attended Mission Leadership Council in the Dayton area.  We were there by invitation of the Welches to make sure that the YSA infrastructure work moves forward.  I used the analogy of how the heart functions.  When its chambers’ muscle fibers work together blood moves and life continues, but when they lose synchronicity effective function is lost.  I got to dust off my BYU-I heart function demonstration in which I use my arms and legs to depict how the atria and ventricles work together.  It seemed to entertain everyone, and hopefully will be memorable enough to stick with them.
On Saturday, Kyley Reams was baptized.  She has a boyfriend who is in the MTC now preparing to serve in the Japan Sendai Mission.  They had many discussions about the church, but it seems she had never attended.  When she moved here for school, she got up her nerve and went to church here in Cincinnati.  She told how she was so nervous that she sat in her car for 20 minutes before she finally managed to enter.  She is so wonderful and spiritual.  Her boyfriend’s family drove down from Columbus for the baptism.  They used to live in Japan, and even know Mark and Kim Froelich from their time there.  We took a photo to send to them. Her parents and grandparents also drove down to support her. The Elders told us that her grandfather was not too jazzed about her getting baptized until he saw how much she has matured and changed. She told us Sunday at church that they all went out to dinner after the baptism to celebrate! Awesome! 
Elder Wiser, Kyley Reams, and Elder Westover (who confirmed her the next day)
While Kyley and Elder Wiser changed out of their wet clothing, Elder Westover and I taught a musical version of the Restoration discussion.  We started with explanations of points from Preach My Gospel “God is our loving Heavenly Father” and “the Gospel blesses families” followed by one verse of “I Am a Child of God.”  Next comes “Heavenly Father reveals His gospel in every dispensation” followed by one verse of “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.”  “The Savior’s earthy ministry and atonement” was followed by a verse of “I Stand All Amazed.”  “The great apostasy” and the beginning of “the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith” was followed by a verse of “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer.”  We finished by reciting the first vision portion of JSH 1: 16-17 and bearing our testimonies.  It took about 10 minutes, and went well.  It was particularly great for nonmember visitors like her entire family.
Just in case somebody else out there might find our musical baptism presentation useful
The last bit of big news comes from Carter.  One of the U Chicago economics professors, Richard Thaler, was awarded the Nobel prize.  That makes a grand total of 29 Nobels from that one school.  Wow. 
Richard Thaler's news conference at U of Chicago
Thank you all for your prayers in our behalf.  We are strengthened by them immensely.  We love you all and love this great work.

Lots of love, your Ohio Missionaries 

PS:  Here's an email I got from a former student:

"Brother Davis:
I don't know if you remember me but I was in your anatomy class I believe in 2009.  My name is Katie Coats.  I am now married and my last name is Liljenquist.  You took a picture of my eye because I have Duane syndrome (malfunction of abducens nerve) in my left eye.  I became a nurse and am a mother of two boys.  I just wanted you to know that I just had a baby and named him Davis after you!  You may never know the difference you made on my life in your teaching.  I just wanted to thank you for being such a strong example.  Are you still teaching?  I attached a picture of baby Davis and my family.  Thank you for being a wonderful teacher and example.
Katie Coats Liljenquist"  

Davis Liljenquist.  No relation to any Liljenquists in Idaho Falls

Davis's family.  Katie, his Mom, was one of my favorites.




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

9/26/17 Transfer Time in the Ohio

September 26, 2017

Dear all:

            I believe that our first bit of news will surprise nobody.  At least, nobody that knows Casey.  He took the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) this week, which is an admission requirement for most grad programs in the US.  The GRE aims to measure verbal and quantitative reasoning skills, analytical writing, and critical thinking abilities that have been acquired over a long period of learning. The test score ranges between 130 (“don’t forget how to operate that shovel”) and 170 (“when can you start?”).  We cheered to hear that he “passed” both the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections:  170/170 in quantitative and 168/170 in verbal.  I think any last remaining worries we had that there is something seriously wrong with Casey’s brain have been laid to rest.

              While I'm on the subject of family, I think I'll throw in a few photos to remind everyone that others' lives outside the mission field do continue. 
Anna, Max, Charley and Georgia's sidewalk chalk masterpiece

Georgia liked the squeeze candy we sent her

A truly memorable FaceTime screenshot Sonja took of Hannah's smile.  Note Grandma's partial head shot, Carter's hairy legs and Noah's underwear on the floor.  Epic

The Church feels strongly about education.  We all know about the three Brigham Young Universities, LDS Business School, and Seminaries and Institutes.  I hope we all contribute something to the Perpetual Education Fund, which blesses lives around the globe.  BYU-Idaho’s Pathway program, later PathwayConnect, began with three pilot locations, but it quickly grew to a worldwide miracle. Elder Kim Clark appears to have been instrumental in the CES Global Education Initiative, announced in November of 2015, and earlier this year PathwayConnect grew into BYU-Pathway Worldwide.  In a reverse of the usual pattern, the Church has been teaching a series of self-reliance courses overseas that is just making its way into the US and Canada.  Each course runs for 12 weeks, and subjects include personal finances, education, finding a better job, and starting and growing a business.  Every course is taught from the scriptures—proof that to the Lord, all things are spiritual.  Some members in our branch are enrolled, and are really excited about it.

We are blessed here in the Ohio Cincinnati Mission by many universities.  Here in Cincinnati the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State, and Xavier University are only a few blocks apart, but we also have Mount St. Joseph University, Cincinnati Christian University and at least ten others.  Wow.  Ball State is located in Muncie, Indiana; Wright State is farther north; Northern Kentucky University and Thomas Moore are just south of us in northern Kentucky.  I’m a fan of all this higher education.

             Why am I thinking of education?  Perhaps because we got a visit this week from Stuart Tucker, one of my favorite students at BYU-Idaho.  Stuart’s family moved to an isolated mountainside in northern Idaho when he was only 11 years old after the death of his brother.  The original idea was for Stuart’s parents to home school the kids, but the reality turned out to be that all the kids were needed to supplement family income.  Stuart chopped firewood, raised animals, tended a flock of chickens whose eggs he sold in a roadside stand, dug night crawlers, worked in a sawmill, and much more.  “You name it, I probably did it.”  “When necessities like food, rent and utilities, are what you fight to cover day by day, education becomes a luxury, and one there just wasn’t time for.”

 By the time Stuart reached high school age, he began to wonder if perhaps there was more to life.  With his elementary education, he could read, do some math, and knew a little bit about science.  So, he decided to educate himself.  He went to the public library in Bonners Ferry and checked out books on English, math, reading, writing, and much more.  He acquired an entirely self-directed education, and even passed a high school equivalency exam just in time for his mission in Tijuana, Mexico where he served under our friends, Brian and Leslie Carmack. 

When the Brian heard his story, he worked hard to talk him into attending college.  Stuart was “horrified,” but Brian wasn’t taking no for an answer.  Finally, Brian told Stuart that he had paid his ACT entry fee in San Diego, and drove him across the border for the exam.  Stuart asked if he could study, but Brian said, “No, just trust in the Lord to work it out.”[1] 

Stuart’s response was, “I respectfully told him he was crazy, but I went along with the plan.”  The plan worked, and Stuart attended BYU-Idaho where I got to know him because he was the president of the Premed Society.  I was amazed at how much good a talented leader could do.  He got admitted to medical school, but changed his mind to dentistry, hoping it will be more family friendly. He is looking for a pediatric dentistry residency, and Children’s Hospital at the University of Cincinnati is the top program in the nation.  He did an externship here this week and I suspect he’ll get in.  Stuart and Nicole had a daughter die in a tragic accident in Yellowstone National Park just before they left Rexburg.  His summary was: “I’m so thankful for the challenges in my life.  Adversity is incredible—how it can strengthen your soul.  Do I let these challenges in my life canker me?  Or do I use them to let me know someone else that I’ve been there, that you can succeed too?”

Dinner with Stuart Tucker
Suffice it to say, this is one outstanding young man.  We both love him and his family, and are constantly amazed by his talent and goodness.  When I dropped him off at the airport early Thursday morning, I told him that if the only thing I accomplished during my eleven years at BYU-Idaho was to meet him, it was totally worth it.  Sometimes the biggest blessings in education have nothing to do with school. 

Last Tuesday was one of the best days of our mission.  We got up early and drove the mission 15-passenger van to the mission home to pick up our new missionaries that arrived the day before.  We drove them to Dayton, where we and several of our senior missionaries gave them some basic training.  We started doing the training in the chapel last transfer, and it is definitely better.  We started singing “This is the Christ,” with our newbies, and then their trainers entered and joined in.  It was a powerful moment.

Next, we loaded up our returning missionaries and drove to Indianapolis to attend the temple.  They usually go to Columbus, but it was closed.  It was particularly great this transfer because we had three of our YSA Branch missionaries going home.  We had Sister Sullivan for one transfer, Elder Swainston for three, and Elder Taylor for our entire time.  The Welches have each returning missionary make a scrapbook page for them, and leave them either a tie from the elders or a scarf from the sisters.  She has aspirations of a serious quilt when they go home.  I’m sure my mother would approve.  We all ate dinner together in the chapel across from the temple, then had a wonderful temple session together.  There were lots of tears shed in the Celestial Room after the session.  Sonja and I ration ourselves to one hug from our returning missionaries of opposite gender, and the temple was a great place to collect.  We lingered inside and outside the temple for as long as possible, but eventually reality reasserted itself and we drove back to Cincinnati.  We got to go to bed, but the Welches were up until 2:45 AM and then a couple of hours later to drive to the airport.  They’re usually tired after transfers.  Unsurprisingly.

Happy missionaries on the way to the temple.  Elder Howland, in front, is great at selfies.

Sister Evensen saying goodbye to Sister Sullivan

There is another reason Tuesday was such a great day.  As we were leaving Dayton, President Welch asked us to follow him.  The guy is a maniac driver, but we didn’t get arrested so it worked out great.  Wow.

Two missionaries with outstanding fashion sense--at least in our matching ties (promise--they do)

Back:  Elders Miller, Sutton, Howland, Hall, Blanchard, Cannon, Tapia  Front:  Sister Sullivan, Elders Taylor & Sullivan

The last supper--of sorts

Evidently, floral ties with penguins imprinted on the lining are cool.  I decided to join the club, even buying one to match Elder Swainston's in the middle.  Elder Taylor on the right is also pretty cool.  Don't worry.

Sister Sullivan, two old guys, Elders Swainston and Taylor

President Welch honing his photography skills

The Indianapolis Temple

We continue to LOVE teaching Institute.  We each prepare a lesson and take 45 minutes to present.  Our students are just amazing, and the comments and participation is absolutely wonderful.  We had a great discussion about the Savior being tempted after forty days and forty nights’ fast.  He was first tempted to turn stones into bread, appealing to his physical hunger.  Next, to cast him self from the pinnacle of the temple and be rescued by angels, appealing to his pride.  Finally, he was promised the kingdoms of the world if he would but fall down and worship Satan.  During the discussion, the thought occurred to me that Satan was offering things that the Savior already possessed.  I think the ultimate temptation was impatience—wanting immediate gratification.
Another epic night at Institute.  The gospel makes us all happy.

We always try to arrange the best possible medical care for our missionaries.  Much of that effort hinges on giving clear, accurate advice.  To illustrate, let me share a couple text message threads.  This first one began with this memorable message:
Sisters:  “My companion is dying and I don't know what to do. She’s not like dead though, she’s just in pain.”
            I decided to go ahead and call them.  I thought that I might not be able to get enough information about a missionary death by text message.  It turned out that she had some abdominal cramping, so I suggested Tylenol and ibuprofen.  I heard nothing more until I reached out the next day.
Me:  “Sister H_____:  did you die?  Hopefully not.   How are you?  Do you think your pain last night was ovulation?  You mentioned that possibility and I didn’t ask more.”
Sisters:  “Ha-ha, I did not die. My pain went away as well. I did have a few sharp pains today, but they didn't linger. I would assume it's ovulation.  I don't know what else it would be.”
Me:  “It’s probably cancer, leprosy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Nothing to worry about. Have a great rest of your day!  :)”
Sisters:  “Well, that's comforting. I'm glad it's nothing serious!”
             I like to dust off my bedtime manner from time to time so I don’t forget how to be comforting and reassuring.

            This next thread is from a different companionship of sisters. 
Sisters:  “Hey so uh if we were possibly exposed to poison ivy tonight, what should we do?” 
Me:  Shave your heads, burn all your clothing, bathe in the Ohio River 7 times, and gargle with sewage.  That should take care of it.”
         Now I paused for effect.  Finally,
Me:  “It wouldn’t actually help the poison ivy exposure, but it would definitely take your minds off of it!”
            I don’t think they took me seriously.  For some reason.

Yesterday, we visited a really gorgeous place called Smale Riverside Park with the Welches.  We made some plans for more missionary training, this time in a more select missionary conference call.  They want us to talk about being happy no matter the circumstances.  I’m quite sure that the star will be Sonja because she has to put up with me.  My MS did come up in the conversation, and the Welches were really interested to hear the story—which we realized that we had never shared with them.  They admitted that we were initially assigned to Oxford because they weren’t sure how much I would be able to do.  Fortunately for us, when they saw the whites of our eyes we were quickly reassigned.
The foot piano at Smale Park

A hot woman I noticed at Smale Park

How many people can say they have ridden in a flying pig?

Jacob Darling is a member of our branch that we worked a lot with.  He joined the church when he was 15, and remains the only member in his family.  He lapsed into inactivity for some time, but returned when the mission’s previous president (Porter) tracked him down and invited him back.  Jake is a great young man, but really didn’t have much direction in his life.  He entered the MTC in Provo about three weeks ago, and has been transformed.  He loves missionary life already, and his emails reflect that miracle.  In this week’s email he wrote, “Obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles.”       

Life is wonderful.  We have the best assignment in the mission, maybe the entire church.  We love all of the people we serve with—the Welches, our fellow missionaries, our amazing YSA branch leaders and members, and those we are laboring to invite to come unto Christ.  He lives, loves us, and possesses all power.  The power of His great Atonement is what gives us joy in this life and hope for the next.  We are blessed beyond measure and beyond what we can possibly express.  We love you all, and love this great work. 

Lots of love,

Your Ohio Missionaries 

Sister Sullivan's replacement, Sister Carlile.  Garrett is smiling in the back

The current YSA missionaries:  Elders Westover, Wiser, Old Guys, Sisters Carlile, Evensen

A photo taken for the YSA Missionaries' FaceBook page

Cincinnati from Mount Echo Park

We're missionaries.  We like to eat.  Of course.

[1] Quotes taken from a write-up done on Stuart from Creighton University, where he is in dental school.