Friday, August 30, 2013

Week Eight

WEEK EIGHT August 26, 2013

Jan and I are beginning to wonder if the missionary program is missing out on a terrific opportunity to introduce people to the missionaries. Virtually whenever we have been out and about in missionary attire, eyes are averted and the ability to make contact is seriously curtailed. But when we are out in P-day attire with our tags on, time after time people come up to us and inquire as to who we are, why we are there, or to ask questions about the church. One wonders if the formal attire actually dissuades some from engaging us.

Encountered another connection when at the Aliso Creek chapel for our Missionary Correlation meeting, when who should come walking down the hall but Brother and Sister Bartlett from Provo. Brother Bartlett served as first counselor to Bishop Anderson in the BYU 41st Ward when I was assigned to that ward as the HC representative for the BYU 21st Stake about 2006-2008. They are serving a Family History mission in Provo and he had to come here to renew his visa, he being from Australia and they were staying with their best friend Bill Shuman and his wife. Brother Shuman lives in the Aliso Creek ward and is also the HC representative for the Lake Forest ward so we see him virtually every Sunday.

We visited the Seven Family, a single sister and mother of the primary president who asked us to drop by saying, “She is a very proud lady and you will think she is extremely active. Knowing her inactivity I told her we were new to the ward and wondered if she could bring us up to date on the ward. She hung her head and declared that she has not been active. She was very sweet and very forthcoming. One thing I’ve noticed different than being a young missionary, people are much more forthcoming in expressing themselves. We learned all about the family history, dissolution of marriages, in and out of the Church and one in prison and the reason therefore. When Jan spoke with the primary president the sister was stunned that we had gathered so much information. It was a very pleasant visit with Seven but she doesn’t currently have any inclination to become involved, recently had a small stroke, the crowds frighten her and “its just been too long.” She was not sure if she had been sealed to her parents nor whether she had ever received a Patriarchal blessing so her daughter said she would follow up on those things and was appreciative for the heads up.

At our district meeting I was presented with a Happy Birthday card from all the elders and sisters in the district together with a Snickers bar. Kerri called as did Kelly and Chip, but Kerri said one of her kids asked, “Do Grandpa and Grandma get a day off because it is his birthday?”

We called on the One family to learn the result of the accident an paralysis that left her brother paralyzed in Georgia and learned that he mercifully passed away and the sister had stayed behind to attend the funeral and had just arrived last night rather than last Thursday. We spent some time as she filled us in on the funeral and the mercy of Jimmy D being taken as he would have been on a ventilator the rest of his life and fed through a feeding tube unable to communicate with anyone. We got her set up with an account on Family Search which she wanted. Also had a terrific visit with Brother One who seems to really enjoy our visits and conversation. He said everyone was taking good care of him in his wife’s accident and that one of the sisters had even volunteered Jerry and Jan to lend him a hand. “I told her she was late that you had already made the offer personally.”

Thursday we took Sisters Jackson and Moss, assigned to the Aliso Creek Ward to lunch at Baja Fish Taco and had a good talk on my birthday. With them was one of the two Sister Trainers in this mission and another connection. Sister Drinkwater is the Cherry Hill Stake and lives near the Pitman, New Jersey area which now houses a YSA Ward and a family ward. We have two connections here: 1) While on my mission we were living in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. On a split with the elders in Gloucester we came across this amazing golden family who were almost immediately baptized. At the time the only ward in south New Jersey was the Camden Ward in Audubon. Well it turns out this family and another 8 or 10 families in Pitman that they fellowshipped and before you know it the Church had to organize a dependent branch in Pitman. 2) Sister Drinkwater’s father is a counselor in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission and frequently travels to Doylestown where Scott and Kelly and family live.

We finished the day with a birthday dinner at Outback which turned out not to be worth all the fuss it was finding the place. Our GPS having dropped us off at an outdoor mall with the words, “You have now reached your destination.” Turned out it was two blocks away and on the opposite side of the mall.

We were finally able to meet with the RS President of the Aliso Creek ward, Judie Clark, who was very helpful filling us in on a number of people our visiting could be a blessing. She is going to get with her counselors and get back to us with greater detail on a friendshipping program. She asked for help in getting sisters to remain for the last hour to attend Relief Society. I suggested encouraging those who do attend to personally invite someone right after Sacrament meeting to come with them to SS class and RS. Jan suggested for the bishopric to treat the importance of attending RS at a Sacrament meeting. She said she liked both idea and we noticed at ward council the following Sunday she suggested both to the council and received approval on both.

We had dinner with the Two Family. The son and father had read Helaman 5 together and as we discussed it, were able to draw a great deal of information from the reading. The son announced that he had settled on 7 September for his baptism date. I told him we would be happy to pray about that with him as we had promised. Said he, “I don’t ever want to turn down any prayers but I’ve already made my decision and had it confirmed.” He gave me a high five when I told him that 7 September was our wedding anniversary. His mom chimed in that she had to do some juggling if the baptism was the 7th and asked he son to pick another date but “he told me he already had that date confirmed by the Lord and he couldn’t change it.” Sunday at church I attended the Deacon’s quorum meeting with him.

On Saturday we attended the temple sealing of the Thirteen Family. She baptized almost one year ago to the day and he activated. Huge family turnout at the Newport Beach Temple and a sweet spirit. She was just charming she was so excited.

This week on P-day while at Deseret Book picking up some copies of True to the Faith, a fellow came up to us noticing our tags, the 14 Family and asked if we could point him to the SS manual for this year. Unfortunately they didn’t have a copy there, but in our visiting we learned he had fallen away from the Church years ago, still believes, but can’t handle the members of the Church, says he. We were able to have an impromptu discussion on the danger of allowing others to determine his eternal reward. He said he had not thought of it that was before. We then showed him a copy of the book True to the Faith and he decided to purchase one for him and the non-member sister who was there with him. He promised to come back with an attitude of what can he do to bless the lives of others rather than waiting for someone to bless his life.

At lunch we found ourselves being eyeballed by a lady and three kids at In-N-Out. Turns out she is Sister Rasmussen, wife of the stake president Irvine California stake. We were able to tell her that the missionaries rave about her husband and his dedication to missionary work. She seemed pleased indeed.

We had dinner with the Two’s, went through the Plan of Salvation as it applied to some questions they had about the laws of Justice and Mercy. The father told us that our coming into their lives was the best thing that has happened to them. I cautioned him that we were glad to be of help and share some of our experience, but the best thing was their baptism. “Yes I agree, but there is a light in your eye that is different and our testimony improves with every visit, every time you come into our house.” Jan and I have reflected on our privilege to be there at this time in their lives and for the Lord to bless us so. Clearly the glory is the Lords. Although Jan said, “If this is the only thing we do on our mission, it will have been successful.” He is thrilled with the prospect of baptizing his son which will be his first priesthood act.

At the Lake Forest Ward today we attended the class of Brett London who quoted Brigham Young that screaming babies are like good intentions and should be carried out. He also expressed the fact that he was double minded. If the animal is fat and furry we need to protect them. If the animal is thin and slimy eradicate them. Also learned from a brother that had been down in Encinitas that when his mother left his father, he was devastated and lonely and went with some LDS people for friendship and later investigated and joined the church, then remarried in the temple and now has a rich posterity of faithful members. Said he, “You just never know when a seeming tragedy will prove to be a major blessing.”

We had our third temple discussion with the Six family during the course of which we were speaking about the blessing we receive as we forgive. Immediately they brought up marriage again with the woman stating that divorce makes it difficult to forgive but unless we do it our lives are forever ruined. He joined in as well. That’s twice now the Lord has engineered a marriage theme to a temple discussion among a couple who has never before considered marriage as something they needed. She had been feeling punk all day and called our home and cell phone trying to cancel the meeting, but since I keep the cell phone off at church and during visits, it had been off all Sunday and fortunately we were able to have the meeting.

Our final stop for a grueling 14 hour Sunday was dinner with the 4 family. We enjoyed a spirited discussion with this evangelical, former minister of the AME Zion congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. At the beginning he asked for my thoughts and I told him I had two. I reminded him of his comment the previous visit that the Book of Mormon stories sounded like the Bible stories only the names had been changed. I told him I was even more confident in what I had told him then, that since we are dealing with the same God teaching his children in both cases, things should sound the same. He agreed that made sense. Secondly, I told him I have a number of experiences where I thought the decision was between A or B and drew out a diagram for him. That after study and prayer in determining one of them, and getting a confirmation I had started out. I pointed out that even God could not steer a parked car, I had to get up and get moving. Yet frequently on the way to, let’s say A, the Lord has required a course correction for me which led me to something totally different, C for example. Something I had never considered previously. I again reminded him of his comment that the Lord had led him from his way of life to Jesus, so he knew he was going in the right direction. I then suggested that it could well be that from where you were, God had to lead you to Christ first and then you could move on to the ‘more’ offered by God’s restored church upon the earth.

I shared with him the discussion I had prepared showing the parallel teachings of Jeremiah and Joseph. He seemed genuinely touched that I would take the time to put that together for him and mentioned that gratitude a number of times. But he turned the papers back to me and asked if I could jot down some references from the Doctrine & Covenants to support Jeremiah and Joseph Smith which I did my best to do as he never ceased from asking me questions the entire time I was trying to do so. Hope the Lord guided me there as I was having a difficult time being involved in two conversations.

As we discussed a number of scriptures, Jan noting afterwards that it was a very tense conversation, with the fellow trying to carry the conversation to extremes and to other points, we seemed to always bring things back and unpeel the onion so to speak to determine what really mattered. We had talked about the desire required for someone to truly investigate, which he admitted was so, and grudgingly agreed to put to the test. It was then the impression came that authority and ordinances was the hurdle. When I asked him if he would study the materials I had prepared and prayerfully ask God if authority and ordinances were necessary he agreed to do so. I suggest his prayer could be something like this, “I don’t know if anything Elder Haddock has told me is true but if priesthood and ordinances are necessary I want to be right with you on this.” He agreed to ask with real intent, determining to do what every the Lord should tell him. I then asked, “You’ve been married a year now, how is it living with this wonderful woman?” He said that it was wonderful. So I asked, “What if you could be with her for eternity?” He liked that idea and laughed when I told him we could tell him how to make that happen. Then I said, “How about appending this to your prayer as well. Again noting that you don’t know if Elder Haddock is telling the truth or not, but that you would like it to be true that you and she could be together forever.” He got a catch in his throat and said he would do that as well. He walked us out to the car and expressed his appreciation for our visit. “Every time I meet with you Mormon’s I feel better.” I reminded him of the point I had made early in our conversation tonight, that we would either be coming back to add to the “more” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or friends discussion the Bible together for the next 18 months.

We notified all our children of our meeting with the 4 family and requested their earnest prayers in behalf of him clearly hearing the voice of the Lord. I have had on occasion the blessing of the Lord sharing with me what he has told those praying to him and how they felt at the time, which when visiting with the later has proven to be a sweet witness of their experience, so I have asked for that as well, but realize such matters are wholly in the hands of the Lord.

Monday was my first Institute Class of the five I had prepared and guess what. No one showed up. I always started mine a week after school began so they could get into a rhythm and sort out their classes and such. Might had made a difference here. In the afternoon, being our P-Day we went with Elder and Sister Moyes, senior couple in the Anaheim mission who are from Sandy.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Week Seven

WEEK SEVEN   August 19, 2013

First some random things:

1.    Came across a quote this week from Shawn Achor, which resonated with me: “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.”
2.    Saw an application for “real intent” in King Lamoni precursor statement to Ammon (Alma 18:21-22) that he would give whatever Ammon required in advance of learning what would be required, that is, the king made a commitment prior to making his request.
3.    Lots of discussion this week and meetings re repentance causing me to reflect upon D&C 19:15-19. The question is not whether to repent or not to repent as many seem to see it, but rather more accurately, whether to repent or to suffer.

To help explain in a district meeting that a change of heart was much more than merely stopping or refraining from doing something an idea of how to show it graphically came to me while Jan and I were discussion our assignment this week. I drew a circle with the word God in it then a horizontal line extending a couple of inches away with an arrow at the tip. Then a circular line from the arrow to the start of a line parallel with the first but this time the arrow back at God. I told them this was a picture of what repentance looked like. Then a similar diagram with the circle with God inside, the line heading away a couple of inches with an arrow at the end pointing away. Then three dots and a vertical line. I told them this was a picture of what stopping or refraining from doing something looked like and asked them what the difference was. They got the turning back, or turning around to God as being the difference. I then asked how that happens? With the answer that repentance requires a complete recognition of one’s absolute dependence upon Christ, which in turn produces a broken heart and a contrite spirit. As Jan and I prayerfully considered what we have observed over the years as the qualities of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, we came up with the following:

In summary a broken heart and a contrite spirit is the willingness to do anything and everything that God asks of us, (see Abraham 3:25; Mosiah 3:19), in following the example of the Savior who “came from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). It is this submissiveness that allows the atonement to take effect and repentance to occur.

Those who possess a broken heart and a contrite spirit—

                Are completely open to the Holy Spirit
                Recognize their absolute dependence upon Christ
                Willingly sacrifice all pride and personal desires
                Allow themselves to be changed in Christ, to be molded and shaped by the Master
                Have a heart continually filled with gratitude for Christ’s suffering in their behalf, causing their heart to break
                Exhibit “godly sorrow” which is a desire to be cleansed from sin that is so consuming their heart aches with sorrow for the suffering they have personally caused the Savior, coupled with an intense yearning to be at peace with their Father in Heaven.

This week our Zone, the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake, had what is called a “Zone Conference with the Mission President.” It went from 10 a.m. until a little after 4:30, including lunch. The presentations were made by the three assistants and President Orgill (a very enthusiastic presented making it difficult for the assistants to keep up) coupled with several breakout sessions to practice. The theme was 20/20, giving twenty 20 minute discussion per week requiring multiple visits each week rather than marathon 45 and longer discussions once a week as they have been doing here historically. I’ve seen the results of such discussion when Elder Robert Taylor was my companion. We seemed so in sync in every aspect that our discussion time was reduced by at least one-half and the commitments of investigators were more firm. We also noticed there were far less objections during a discussion, everything just seemed to flow.

I noticed in the “preferred” language for street contacting the question is “Can we share a special message ….” The though immediately came to me that such a question is easy to say no to but if we were to say, “Would you allow us to share a special message ….” It would be much more difficult for someone to say in effect, “No, I won’t allow it.”

Also during the conference the mission president’s wife and Jan were in hushed conversation. Turns out she is seeking some help to relive burdens she believes her husband is carrying and was interested in learning of my experiences as bishop and in working with the YSA group. Not sure anything will come of it but apparently there are a number of missionaries with needs that she feels need to be addressed.

Shortly after our arrival I had the feeling the six pamphlets were not being used very much nor effectively. I thought for example they could form the basis of the entire new member discussions and marked up and added scriptures to my set accordingly. At the zone training meeting the missionaries were asked to make better use of them.

President Orgill wants the following planning outline to be used in all investigator planning;:

1.    What does the investigator need to do
2.    What will their concerns be
3.    What is their desire
4.    What do I need to study for them
5.    What can we teach him

We got into the meeting just a tad late as brother Russ Greiner, the institute director here, had called me asking if I could teach a weekly, 10:30 Wednesday, hour and one-half class at the institute building on the Doctrine & Covenants. I was over joyed with the news and over that day put together quite a list of questions I wanted to ask Russ as we met the next morning. But by then the Area Director had warned him that if the class was successful it could cost the job of one of his two full-time personnel as it would be difficult to justify if the classes were already being taken care of. So he withdraw the offer and I didn’t ask the questions. He did ask me to teach his classes the last week of August as he would be out of town. So Monday through Thursday I have 2 Old Testament classes, 1 Book of Mormon and 1 Pearl of Great Price and 1 Preparing for Eternal Marriage class.

Another Connection, President Dave Ellis, from Escondido, the newly called first counselor in the mission presidency, and his wife are very close friends with Debra Romney. Debra’s daughter Ann lives in their ward with her family of four children. Said he, “When I told Ann about you serving in the California Irvine Mission she seemed overjoyed telling me that you were her bishop in her singles ward.”

In our visit with the Two family this week we focused on the father’s previous questions regarding repentance, he being concerned that it had been a few weeks since his baptism and he was not yet perfect to which I responded, “Join the club.” If we are becoming more aware of our weaknesses (see Ether 12:27), that doesn't mean we are drifting away from the Lord. More likely we are drawing closer. When we begin to understand the Atonement we see correction isn’t discouraging but motivating. Because of the Atonement we learn from our mistakes without being condemned by them. Elder Maxwell said, “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.” (A time to Choose, 46) I tried to explain that real growth without repentance can’t endure to the end without the necessary changes effected in us through the grace of Christ as we become “born again.” Unless people truly repent, they will not experience a might change of heart and they will not develop sufficient faith to endure.

After we had taught a lesson we began a very frank discussion about their son’s anticipated baptism date. The elders had noted some reticence from the family and I had told the bishop we would visit to see if we could get to the bottom of it. The young man shared in a very precise manner the sweet manifestation of the Lord as he had prayed about the truthfulness of the gospel and later about being baptized. Both experiences were similar. The elders had given him a baptism date of 24 August but when he prayed about that he did not receive a similar manifestation. He asked if he should expect the Lord to be in the details of the date as he had been in the details of the truthfulness of the gospel and getting baptized. I assured him that would have been my expectation as well. So after discussing the matter for some time with he and his parents I proposed that he set aside the date the elders had set for him and proceed to set his own date. The setting of his own date would be the demonstration of faith the Lord requires in order for manifestation to come. The second part of this strategy would be that after setting the date he would call us and the elders so we could pray that he receive that manifestation. I gave him a couple of scriptures from the Book of Mormon to read but later in the week had a strong impression that he and his dad should read Helaman 5 together before setting the date. So I communicated that to the dad and shared what I had proposed with both the elders and the Bishop. Everyone seemed to agree this was a good resolution.

We made two more visits to the Apple store to meet up with the Eleven family, the YSA working there to share with her the Tabernacle version of primary songs, the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and an offer to help he see why her grandmother found such joy in the Church. Unfortunately on neither occasion were we able to find her working at that time.

Friday evening we took the Six family to dinner. They seemed quite excited as he came home from work early to shower and get ready. We went to the California Fish Grill and to my surprise they had Barramundi on their menu. My first time to eat this delicious fish since our visit to Australia over 34 years ago. We had a good talk. I had wanted to introduce to them the feeling I had to set up a series of discussions about the temple but when I initially brought it up as we drove to the restaurant they immediately changed the discussion which gave me some hesitancy about bringing it up again. After dinner we went to a park near their home and walked and talked before settling on a picnic table. We talked about a number of things and I could tell Jan was getting a little anxious as she keep hitting my knee under the table because the sister seemed fidgety, but it didn’t feel right then. But shortly thereafter the conversation opened allowing me to describe the feeling I had felt the previous week while sitting beside the husband at church. As I was explaining my feeling to spend some time in discussing the temple the sister spoke up, “I have never thought about the temple before but this week three questions came to my mind. Would you be willing to answer them?” Which I did and then proceeded to give them the first discussion I had prepared. I told them this will be forever known as the Two Family temple preparation discussion as I didn’t think such discussions were the normal fare with non-members. Following the discussion I asked if we could set a date for the next one. The brother said with his work schedule in such a bind right now he suggested we meet at 4 p.m. on Sundays starting with the day after tomorrow.

Sunday at 4 we presented the second temple preparation discussion to the Six family that I had prepared and left the discussion with them to review in preparation for the homework assignment I left with them. The discussion went well as they agreed to my proposal to sit around the table (to free us from the distraction of the many dogs they have) and each brought scriptures with them. But the surprise that has had Jan and I talking about this for days was what came up in the first discussion. This is an unmarried couple so we have been very careful as we have been told that marriage is a taboo subject in their home and is not to be brought up. Well as Jan and I were driving home we realized that marriage was had been the topic for most of the discussion. A full two-way discussion with all involved. As Jan and I tried to dissect the evening neither of us could remember how the topic became marriage (who brought it up, how was it brought up, etc.) so we concluded that was the direction the Spirit wanted and the conversation was directed accordingly. A very sweet experience and a reminder that if we but open our mouth the Lord will take it from there.

Our week was capped by a welcome visit with Baldur and Nancy Schindler along with Cheryl and Lynn Teuscher, lunch at Olive Garden, sharing of memories, good stories and rejoicing in the goodness of the halcyon days of Encinitas Ward and the environment and solid role models our children were all privileged to grow and mature in.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week Six

WEEK SIX August 12

We have been having problems with our cell phones, mine particularly, just chewing through the battery going from fully charged to zero in the red in about an hour with no use all the while burning up with heat. This has occasioned two previous visit to the Apple Store, wiping out all my memory and starting over twice now. Going there for the third time this week, this time we selected the Apple store in the Irvine Spectrum rather than Mission Viejo. While another interminable wait, even an appointment, a lady about our age came up, looked at my badge and announced I was a Mormon missionary.  She proceeded to share her story: She told me first that whenever she is around the Mormon’s she always has such a wonderful feeling. No one has ever been pushy in any way. She is from Norway, has three sons, the oldest is LDS, even has a grandson on a mission in Argentina. In fact she pointed out her youngest son, about early 40s who was in the store meeting with the staff. She was in the store that day because she had fallen on the escalator at the airport and broken her left wrist. She asked if she could be candid to which I readily consented. Said she, “I just have some problems with the Book of Mormon. Some things just don’t sit right with me.” I asked if I could make a suggestion to which she agreed. Said I, “The problem really isn’t with those issues and how they sit with you, it’s whether or not the book is true. Let me ask you, If you knew the Book of Mormon was true would you be worried about those issues.” “Well, no,” she said, “I would not.” So I asked if I could make another suggestion to which she again agreed. “You remember those feelings you shared with me when you first came up to me?” She nodded. I said, “Read 3 Nephi, chapter 17 on your flight back to Norway and when you get a quiet time, ask the Lord in prayer if the Book of Mormon is true, and when you receive those same feelings, you set about taking care of what you need to do to get baptized.” She promised we she would give that a try and by then her youngest son was standing there to hear this commitment.

Well turns out the son asks me, “Where is your companion?” Turns out when I motioned to Jan that this was the door to the Apple store and went inside, she continued down the walkway and still hadn’t found us as I had turned off my phone while talking with this lady. Quite a companion am I. Well we finally got back together with the story being compelling enough that I got off the hook. Oh by the way after three visits they determined it must be a hardware problem and gave me a new telephone.

Tuesday we were supposed to be to a Zone meeting but our first visit with a primary care physician to so Jan can get to her eye doctor turned into a full blown session with blood work and all and we missed the meeting. But that also gave us the change to encounter the Norwegian lady at the Apple Store. She took my card as I had asked for her to share the rest of the story and we thought, “Wouldn’t’ that be something to have been involved in a Norway baptism.”

This week had our first Mission Conference with Sister Joyce Tan presenting her Windows of Heaven finding program. In a nutshell, set a time to open the windows of heaven some day and confirm with the Lord the place and time to be there. Watch everyone and talk to everyone. The elect you are seeking will be willing to receive a discussion right there on the spot.

That night we attended our first Bible Study group near Rimgate Park. The WML in the Aliso Creek ward conducts this normally on the third Thursday of each month to demonstrate we are Christians and to provide an easy introduction to the Church. Last month they discussed. We had a good turnout of 14, 8 of which were non-members or very recent converts. There was a good discussion. I shared that in forgiving others I improve my odds in standing before the Lord and further my personal happiness but not being burdened with all that bitterness. One fellow told of being abused by his father which ended up with him being hospitalized as his father broke a board over his head. He described how he had carried that bitterness and hate for over fifty years until finding the gospel and being able to leave it with the Lord. It was a powerful story filled with emotion and tenderness.

We participated in a gleaner project, like unto Ruth of old, with the Aliso Creek primary on Friday, picking tomatoes at the Incredible Edible farms which provides about 2 million pounds of produce to the poor in Orange County. We had a large turnout and almost immediately my back and several joints and muscles alerted me to the fact that I am no longer in my 50s. (It’s been 8 days now and I still have not fully recovered.) We picked 6,000 lbs. of tomatoes and received some tomatoes, eggplant and peppers to take home with us.

On Sunday we put in our normal 12 hour day, met with the Three family who agreed to be baptized but learned some things that will prohibit that from taking place. So it is! Also met with an older sister who shared some wonderful stories about her conversion and life. Finished the day with a fireside at the Irvine Stake Center with Elder Clayton Christensen who shared a number of stories from his Everyday Member Missionary book.

This relaxed method of Senior Missionaries has been tough for me to adapt to compared to the no holds barred, running at all costs I experienced as a young missionary. But two things are helping me to settle in on this method. First, on my earlier mission I had a number of companions call the MP and request a transfer because of their being run down and worries about health issues. It occurred to me I can’t afford to have my current companion seek a “transfer.” Second, the aches and pains of this past week, since the tomato picking, there just may be something to this reasonable approach as a Senior Missionary.

During the week I came across a quote by Shawn Achor that I liked: “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.”

Week Five

WEEK FIVE August 5, 2013

Early in the week we were treated to Kerri, Mark and family stopping by for lunch on their way to spend some time at the beach in Encinitas. It was so good to see them. Kerri mentioned they had completely changed the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center and wondered if we could go there with the family on our next P-day. We checked with the mission office and found that we could.

I had noticed at the first district meeting we attended a lack of energy, passion and engaged hearts. So this week following the presentation on “hope” I asked the district leader if I could share a few ideas which he welcomed and afterwards asked if he could call on me in subsequent meetings to make presentations to which I readily agreed.

We spent the morning Thursday meeting with the Four family, he evangelical and she LDS. We had a lot to talk about with him pointing out that the stories in the Book of Mormon were the “same as” those in the bible just the names had been changed. I pointed out that since we are dealing with the same God we would expect similarities and chose not to challenge his assertion, to which he said, “Yes, that makes sense.” He raised a couple of issues that bothered him which we attempted to put to rest. I think we could have weekly discussions with this brother for our entire 18 months. So I was surprised he didn’t make it to Church on Sunday. He expressed a great love for Jeremiah, one of my favorite OT prophets as well, so after we left I decided I would put together a discussion comparing restored gospel principles with the teachings of Jeremiah.

Friday evening we were invited to dinner by the Five family at the California Fish Grill. Yummy!! I had shared with him by email the things I had found in on his grandparents, including the surprise revelation that his grandfather had been previously married. He had marked up the pages I had sent and had a number of family history questions and seemed quite excited about finishing up this project. I shared with him the purpose the Church is so into family history involving the sealing of families together. He said he liked that. He then began about thirty minutes of questions, all in the anti-Mormon vein, which he said I had satisfactorily answered. With our rotating ward assignments we were not able to make contact with him on Sunday so we are not sure whether he followed up or not. I also encourage him to get back with the missionaries for the additional discussions they had prepared for him.

Saturday I set about writing up a discussion comparing parallel teachings of Jeremiah (brother Four’s favorite) and those of Joseph Smith. When I actually got into it I was surprised at how much of the gospel was taught by Jeremiah and look forward to meeting with Brother Four again. I spoke with his wife on Sunday and told her what I had prepared for her husband.

We also met the Six family this week. He a non-member who wanted to host us at Church. We attended the Lake Forest ward block on Sunday with Brother Six introducing us around and sitting by us at Sacrament, Sunday school and in the high priest group. During the course of the Fast and Testimony meeting the impression swept over me that we should propose to teach them the temple preparation lessons. I shared that with the elders who had told us about fifteen sets of missionaries had given discussions but no one had considered temple preparation. Hopefully they will be receptive to the proposition. We met with a number of families and secured some more names for us to visit and they are going to put together 10 names for us to visit to introduce them to a Family Missionary Plan.

We were invited to a break the fast for empty nesters on Sunday evening and met the Foster family whose son David had been a defensive force for the University of Utah basketball team before having foot problems. They used to live here but are now in Tehachapi. David is trying to catch on with a European team.

On P-day we traveled to San Diego and spent the day in Old Town. The entire building we knew at the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center has been razed and a building more contemporary with 1847 has been built. The tour is more geared to the Battalion rather than the Church message and is done very well. We really enjoyed it. Cooper volunteered to be the recruit that was fitted with all the gear and Mark took a picture of him. 

The brother of my second great grandfather, William Strong became a member of the battalion when my third great grandfather was too ill to accept his appointment. Interestingly the brother of Jan’s second great grandfather, Orin Mortimer Beckstead was also in the Battalion, both separated out to Los Angeles, both on to Sutter’s Mill and both in the same company returning to Salt Lake City.

Week Four

WEEK FOUR July 29, 2013

Missed another connection that I forgot to include. The EQ President of the Lake Forest Ward is Andrew Kay, son of Allen Kay, whose family started Non-Linear Systems that became KayPro Computers. Andrew called his dad in Utah when he saw my name and remembers both my dad and mom who worked at KayPro.  I thought I was talking to Allen and couldn’t make the adjustment to his age. Fortunately Andrew cleared it up for me and introduced me to his son later in the day at church. He promised to get me a list of the Prospective Elders in the Ward of which there was a considerable number. Turned out to be about 40 but in the other ward we are assigned to well over 100.

Later in the week we had a meeting with the Ward Mission Leader in the Lake Forest Ward and the missionaries assigned to that ward. We reviewed a number of families who the missionaries felt we might be able to reignite with a visit from we “seasoned missionaries.”

Wednesday we met with the WML in the Alisos Creek ward at El Cholo and he shared his feeling that he would like to see us concentrate on family history with members and investigators. So the next day we traveled to the Orange Family History Center to take a tour and get acclimatized with their operation.

Our meeting with the Two family was postponed as the husband had to work but he called and said the talk by Elder Theodore M. Burton that I had given to him was just want he needed and answered all his questions. He said he was looking forward to getting together with us again.

Friday we picked up the missionaries and met with the Five family again at the Church with a Sister Cheri Haggard the stake and ward FH leaders in Alisos Creek. There were so many family history questions never really got into the discussion the elders wanted to give. Jan wondered if they really had any interest in the Church other than family history. We shall see.

The stake president has a zone wide breakfast each Saturday following transfers, so we again picked up the AC elders for that this morning. The Stake President asked a number of questions, recorded notes as to the work of his seventies and bishops and I noticed immediately got on the telephone to follow up on the items that were raised.

We attended the Stake 24th celebration for a bit and visited with a number of member and received some more names of people to visit. So far our visits have yielded not much more than tracting did in my earlier missions. No one is ever home no matter what time of day we come by. We need a new approach. I’m thinking of calling for appointments even though we were told that doesn’t work.

We have encountered some difficulty in making the medical insurance transfer from Utah to her and getting Jan lined up with the proper doctors for her regular eye exams. Seems we are spending hours on the telephone trying to get things sorted out. We were able to arrange one appointment this week for at least an eye exam for correcting her glasses.

It being the 4th Sunday we were back in Alisos Creek and visited with some families following the block.

On P-day we enjoyed a lunch, at El Cholo, (Jan is coming to the conclusion that we have had enough of El Cholo) with Greg Dyer who is practicing law in the area, another connection for me as I served as his bishop both in Encinitas and BYU 3rd Wards. It was good to catch up with him.

Week Three


Connections: A new missionary came into our district, Elder McGary, from Alpine, Utah a friend of our nephew Austin McChesney while there were in Middle School together. Elder Litchfield was the executive secretary to Bishop Keith Hilbig in Palos Verdes. Keith was a classmate of mine at Duke University. At an In-n-Out ran into Bennett, a student of Steve Castle, chemistry professor at BYU, who is our neighbor right across the street from us. Learned the President Sterling Brennan was nephew Brent McChesney’s bishop at BYU. Shopping at Target for a few items me were mission a lady rounded the corner of an aisle and said, “Elder Haddock from Walnut.” Turns out she is Karen Kimball, married to David Kimball, son of Ralph and Nedra Kimball, our bishop in Walnut, California and the family we chose to model ours after. She said that Nedra had asked her to be on the lookout for us.

We also met the Three family this week, she a drop out from previous missionaries and he never interested or willing to listen. He works construction during the day and coaches baseball in the evening so we had a lot to talk about. She later told the sister missionaries, “he really hit it off with Elder Haddock and even asked for them to come back.” She has some migraine and brain tumor issues and I had asked him to be present when we reviewed the discussion so he could read for her which he agreed to do.

The Four family are a couple from back in my mission area in Baltimore giving me the opportunity to use some of my Baltimorese language so we again had much to talk about. She is a member and he an evangelical who sees no reason to affiliate with any “church.” We have scheduled a discussion with them this coming Sunday.

The Five family is a single gentlemen in his 50s who had met the young missionaries as he was out walking. They had one discussion but he deferred anything further. We did get him to a SS class last Sunday and got him started on Family History. During the week I did some research and found a couple more generations for him and some interesting facts. So I called and made arrangements to email that to him and he wants to take us to dinner to pay back for the assistance.  We’re hopeful we can direct him back to the missionaries for further discussions.

Week Two

WEEK TWO July 15

We drove to Las Vegas the first day and on to Irvine on Tuesday. As prearranged we called the Litchfield’s as we were coming into town after a bite at El Cholo, a sister restaurant  to the one I used to eat at when I worked downtown in Los Angeles, on 7th and Western. They met us at our apartment, 407 Saint Vincent, Irvine, CA 92618 and gave us the keys to the place. We began unpacking both our possessions and the boxes of dishware etc. that had been purchased for us to use as the first Senior Missionaries in this mission.

I think we were surprised at how often we had to make quick trips to the store as something was needed just to settle into our new home. We visited the Mission Office and met the Ormes, a service couple from Irvine handling automobiles and  referrals, Sister Kenworthy, a service sister working there as secretary, and the Litchfield’s. They said the Mission President is never in the office.

We did meet the Mission President and his wife at a dinner at Mimi’s the second night attended by all the senior missionaries (11 of us in all, but we the only ones in the field) so we at least know what they look like. However we have had two informative meetings with the stake president of the California Rancho Santa Margarita Stake, Sterling Brennan, who is a patent litigator.

During the first week we learned we had been assigned to two wards in the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake, the Lake Forest and Aliso Creek wards. We were able to arrange meetings with both bishops, Eric Smith and Shane Hunt, respectively, meet with the Ward Mission Leaders in both wards, Brett Miller and Jeff Robinson, respectively. We also met with two senior couples from the Anaheim Mission who told us what they have been doing and how they have been going about missionary work in their areas. One, Elder and Sister Davis, live here in Tustin and when the missions split 1 July they are finishing their mission in two Irvine wards, but still attached to the Anaheim, Mission. The other, the Moyes, are from Sandy, Utah and serving in the California Anaheim Mission.

So we are the sole member and leader support  Senior missionaries in the California Irvine Mission. In our pitch to the bishops and the stake president we said I we understood it we had a blank canvass and could paint whatever picture we all chose to paint. We also told them that we preferred the title Seasoned Missionaries which has always brought a smile. We have discussed a number of approaches and trying some in one ward and others in the other ward.

Many have stopped us in stores, one mother to have us say hello to her children, “These are real missionaries.” Several had told us they were raised Mormon and we have followed up to learn their names and whereabouts to pass along to our referral couple in the mission home.

Most interesting has been the connections. When I was bishop of the Encinitas Ward, the Byung Hong family moved into the ward into Encinitas Estates where we lived. They were only there one year. Byung worked in Carlsbad but his wife in El Segundo and they decided to more to Mission Viejo to share in the commute. When I was talking to Jim Evans, the HC over missionary work in the stake, I learned that he was married to Jenny Hong and his business partner was Young Sun Hong who we sent on a mission to France even though his older brothers had all gone back to Korea. When we attended the Aliso Creek Ward the first Sunday, there was John Hong, Jenny’s brother, only about 12 when they moved from our ward. Later I met a sister Carlisle who was the daughter of the Karl Mendenhall family who also lived in the Encinitas, Ward.

We had a good visit with the One family, she a member just coming into activity and he a non-member who is suffering from some serious illness. We were not expecting an especially warm welcome from what we had heard, but were very warmly received. I seemed to hit it off well with the husband and we shared stories for some time with one another and were welcomed to come back “any time.” He said, “You are good therapy for me, my anxiety level has dropped the longer we have talked.”

We also visited the Two family with the ward missionary leader and one of the ward missionaries. They were baptized within the past month. A member had invited a family to the ward Halloween trunk or treat and that family and in turn invited the Two family. Both brother and sister Two were from Encinitas, he just off Cerro Street where we lived and she on Requesa. We were able to share a number of things. He was concerned that he was not yet perfect to which I welcomed him as I myself was one of the charter members. The following Sunday I took by an article from Elder Theodore Burton that I thought was particularly applicable to his concerns and later the next week he said it was spot on for him. He made an interesting observation that first evening, “You really find joy in the gospel don’t you. I can see how happy it makes you.” I told Jan as we left that whether we accomplish anything at all, maybe the Lord can use us to spread some good will. Sunday when I gave him the Elder Burton talk he said, “You brought a special spirit into our home just by you being there and it has remained since you left.”

Week One

We have decided to term our missionary experience an adventure as we have no idea what the Lord expects of us or how things are going to unfold. From my perspective that makes it exciting … For Jan not so much, rather anxiety.

FIRST WEEK July 9, 2013

We decided to take advantage of the offer to spend our week at the MTC sleeping in our own beds rather than the MTC. We learned later only the senior sisters stayed at the MTC, the couples were housed in the Marriott Hotel downtown in Provo, taking shuttles back and forth. Thus we arrived at the MTC not encumbered with any luggage and only trying to find a place to park. We walked a bit to get there only to learn we could have driven onto the MTC grounds as they had a place for us “older missionaries” to park.

We first were given a packet with four check point to get to that morning in succession, at which things were reviewed or we were given additional information of packages, finally finishing at the chapel behind the MTC where we learned we would be meeting for the rest of our week, never to darken the doors of the MTC again.

While waiting for other groups to arrive I walked back to get our car and bought it back to the chapel. We had a general orientation meeting and then broke for lunch which we had at home. That first afternoon we were separated into districts, ours from left to right, Elder and Sister Evans, from Spanish Fork, Utah; Elder and Sister Doll, from Concord, California, former MP in West Chicago; Elder and Sister  Smith, from Randolph, Utah; and us.

As for Senior couples being able to opt for particular missions, the Evans asked for any place foreign and were called to North Dakota; the Smiths asked for anything but foreign and are going to Budapest, Hungary.

The week flew by with lessons every morning and afternoon under the direction of young returned missionaries and a large group meeting each day. We had 85 in attendance, 40 couples and 5 senior sisters.

On the first day I let them know that we had heard nothing from our mission and asked if someone could follow up on that. The second day we received a telephone number to call and had a brief conversation with an Elder Gil Litchfield who was from Payson and had been there about two weeks and was handling finance in the office. He apologized for no one contacting us explaining as a new mission they were under the gun and we were just forgotten about.

We spent Friday and Saturday loading our Hyundai to the gills, attended Church with our grandchildren on Sunday and departing on Monday morning for Irvine, California and week two of our adventure.