Monday, April 27, 2015


One of the prettiest sunsets I've seen in Sweden.
Our President recently asked us to focus on strengthening members, and at the same time, focus on improving our Swedish. We don't get as many opportunities to teach in Swedish as we would like, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to open up more doors to get to know the members as well. One of the members that we did this with is named Johan. He has been a member for a little over 2 years now, and he is still going strong. We had a great time teaching him, and got to know him better, as well. It was nice to hear his critique of our teaching at the end, but we also asked him about his story and why he is still active.  I think it's interesting that with every member, active or not, they always refer back to the special feelings they have associated with this church. We do not believe that in order to feel God's presence, we must be within this church. However, I do believe that the patterns in our lives do allow us to have those experiences more often than we would otherwise.
I felt like I was in Star Wars or something. Rather than go over the hill, this is a tunnel that goes through it. It was really random, right in the middle of Stockholm.
One of the big focuses of our week has been finding the lost sheep (Luke 15:4). The ward list is quite outdated, and there has not been a clerk working on it for quite some time now. Between that and some ward boundary changes, we have a lot of people who have been forgotten. I have looked through this list many times now, trying to find these people, get them back to church, and the names seem to stick in my mind. Occasionally, I will hear a name get thrown out in Ward council, and I recognize it, but I still have no face to put with that name. But there have been a few people who we have been able to get contact with, whether through the phone, or at the door. Or maybe they have moved, and we have been able to find them again, but those moments, when that name becomes a person, I understand the joy that Jesus talks about in Luke 15:5. Every soul is precious in the sight of God. No matter their circumstance in life, we are all His children.

 Luke 15 
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
The entrance to the tunnel.
I don't know that I have mentioned Rickard yet, but he has become one of my best friends here in Stockholm. We have been meeting with him for about 2 months now, and after every lesson, I feel a desire to do more and be better. He is a Swede who became Christian just a few years ago, and he is the only one in his family. We hadn't had contact for a week or two because he was out of the country, but Wednesday night, we were on our way back to the apartment for some dinner, when we received a call from him. He made some fish soup for us, and wanted to see if we could come over. Naturally, we said yes, and when we hung up, Elder Downing and I both got super pumped. It was just a great way to finish off the day. 
That's my companion. I thought I'd try and explain Elder Downing, but I think this does it best.
A typical Swedish church. 
One of the creepiest hot air balloons I've seen.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Luxurious benches dot the city of Stockholm.
One of the highlights of my week was visiting two of our friends, Anna and Moses, this last Saturday. Moses is a member of the church, but Anna is atheist. They are both very friendly people, and it is always great to be able to visit them in their home. They both are very busy with their schedules, and Saturdays are the only days that work, so it's cool that they make time for us. This last lesson, we focused a lot on faith, and what it means to have a faith. Moses' faith is huge. He has a strong belief in God, and one that he has tested many times in his life. It was awesome to have him share his experiences in life, and explain why he believes in God. When we reached the end, we asked Anna to say the prayer, and she was hesitant to do it. She asked Moses if he could do it, but he simply encouraged her to go for it; which she did. We committed them to reading from the scriptures together and praying every night, which they accepted. And as I left, I couldn't help but smile, because I know that Anna will have a great support in her search.

The wise tree builds its foundation upon the rock.
We had two cool experiences this week, both quite closely related. On Friday night, we had a lesson cancel on us near the end of the day, so we decided to grab dinner earlier. Nothing at home sounded good, so we decided to grab a sandwich or something from a grocery store along the way. When we walked in, we ran into a girl we had met with a few weeks ago, named Sofia. She had said she was not really interested in meeting again, so we were bummed about that. But we talked with her in the store for around 30 minutes. She didn't call later or say that we could meet again, but it was nice to have the chance to be able to have that contact again. The second experience was on Saturday, we had been walking around and got thirsty, so we stopped at by a grocery store. As we stood there, we ran into a lady named Rose that we had contacted two weeks before. We hadn't been able to get a phone number the first time, because she didn't have it with her. But she had it on her, and we will be swinging by sometime this week. Both experiences just reminded me of The Best Two Years, so I got a kick out of that.

This was the room I came to on my first day in Sweden to get my visa taken care of. Now, almost a year later, I am back, so my companion can renew his.

Monday, April 13, 2015



30 Minutes-a-day has been treating me well. #getgains

So I mentioned that we had two gymnasiet (high school) students, Liv and Johanna, interview us two weeks ago for a school project.  On Thursday, we were able to meet again, to speak more about our beliefs. We focused on what we think our purpose with life is, and talked about the plan of happiness. When we finished, they both said it makes sense, but it is hard to believe. With all their circles of peers, they do not interact with anyone who believes in God, so everything is new for them. The cool thing is that they realize that one of our biggest mistakes in life is getting closed minded. And I think that falls on us as Mormons as well. We need to always be willing to take truth and add it to what we already have. Our challenge to them was to read and pray, and gain their own faith, and they accepted! As we wrapped up, we talked more about their project, and some documentaries they had seen on Mormons.
New mission vehicles, riding in style.  (LOL)
Their perception of Mormons was that we were unsocial dweebs, based on their previous knowledge. So that got us curious and worried about where we stood on that scale.  We wondered if we had changed their perception of Mormons in any way. To our relief, they said that one of the reasons they decided to meet with us again was because we were just regular people with a belief in God.  Another reason was that we were able to sit down and talk openly about our beliefs and relate it to the different aspects of our lives. It was a cool moment to see that we have our different backgrounds and ideas, but we can all come together with an open mind and work to understand where we all come from.
We went to this restaurant after Zone training, so we were all in suits...

This has been a recurring event now, but I thought I'd just make a mention of it anyways. We have been playing soccer on Saturday mornings with the American families in the ward. What that comes down to, is that it is a very modified version of the game. Cherry pickers is the name of the game. And fouls, what's that? Haha, but it's a great time, and I even got to throw a baseball this last time. But it still cracks me up, that we are all Americans, living in this cold, but beautiful, land of Sweden. 

Part of the American crew, getting pizza afterwards.

This was inside the Pizzeria. I'm not sure if that was what Leonardo DaVinci had in mind when he gave her that intriguing smile.

On Saturday evening we finally got to meet up with a man named Gabriel, who we contacted on our way home one night. He is an Italian man, who has found himself in Sweden, as many do, because of a girl. He is Catholic in background, but has focused more on a personal relationship with God since he got to the university level. The lesson was good, and we had a great discussion, but one part really stuck out in my mind. He talked about how he cannot fathom a person who does not believe in God. It seems to be in our very core to have that belief. And we talked about how we encounter many people on a daily basis who are atheist, and he said, "But, can you really not believe in God?" And I've thought about the question more and more. It is refreshing to meet someone who has a belief in God that is so firmly rooted in his heart. And I find myself wondering, do all these people who shrug us off when we mention God, really believe He is not there? Or, do we just choose to focus ourselves in areas that are more concrete?  And, as we get older and older, do our priorities simply get replaced by those we once had, given to us from God, as children?
A motorcycle, with a shell...

Monday, April 6, 2015


This week seemed to go on shutdown with Easter.

 An old Church building we randomly found in Stockholm.

We received a new group of missionaries this week, and because we are in the Stockholm area, we got the opportunity to go contacting with them for their first time in Sweden. At this point they have flown the entire night through, and show up at 8:00 a.m. (Sweden's time) which is midnight at home, but the goal is to keep them awake for the rest of the day. So one of their activities is contacting, and between the jet-lag, the foreign country, and the language we all think we know, it can be a rough start to the mission. But the young elder I was with went out with an energy that I am sure was only driven by his desire to do this work, and we had a good time. I think back to this time, and it really was a rough day. The adjustment to everything was huge. But my experiences only improved from there. It was fun to be a part of that and see the short journey that I have made from that time to now. 

The Vasa. A super old warship recovered from the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
One of the new missionaries and his trainer opened up a new apartment and have now joined us in our ward and area. So we have been making some adjustments with the area and creating an effective working group of missionaries. I'm not sure if it is unique to Sweden, but there are a few wards that have 6 and sometimes even 8 missionaries in them. One of our big focuses in having so many missionaries is to bring back those who have been lost, and it's interesting to hear the different reasons people leave, or why they don't want to come back. I think that the General Conference talks from Gérald Caussé and Rosemary M. Wixom were key in helping us understand how we can continue to grow. Because one of the simple truths we all can remember is that we are all at different stages in our lives. We need to take the time to recognize the growth that we have made and make on a daily basis. There are so many simple beauties of the Gospel, and at the root of it all, we have our faith in Jesus Christ. He is our gardener in life, and He understands how to help us in each of our different stages. I only hope that as a member of His church, I can work to gain that same understanding. One important purpose of church is to allow us to nurture our brothers and sisters, but to gain that nurture as well. 

 I gave myself a nice haircut, but don't worry, it was gone later that day. Haha
Happy Easter! We spent our Easter Morning with the Wimmer family and watched a session of General conference. They are an American family, and we got some American pancakes, which was awesome. Then we headed over to the new YSA Senior Missionaries (The Woods) and had dinner with them. We had a wonderful dinner and watched another session of General Conference together. And that was the highlight of the day. The testimonies of Jesus Christ that I heard from Conference were inspiring. The Easter video was awesome as well. And this Easter was very inspiring. For those who have not had the chance to see the Easter video, or just want to check it out in Swedish, here it is