Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010

Hello family
I had a great week. I did not get to tell you everything that happened in the week, but I really enjoyed talking to you. I enjoyed the Christmas devotional our president put on. He came up to Perm and gave a spiritual thought. My Christmas did turn out to be one of the best that I've had. I talked to you, then we went and had tacos at the Nehrings. I made some origami snowmen for the missionaries in my zone, and we did have some time to get to know each other better. I feel like I am in good spirits and a good mood, but Elder Sare and I really want to improve our focus and get organized. I am getting along well with Elder Sare, and I am becoming more comfortable with the area and the people. Elder Sare and I are starting to work more together, so I am having a good time with him.
Shane sounds like he is doing well. It is fun how you all got to talk to him and Erik spoke to him in spanish. The mission really is a great time. and Merry Christmas Shane. They actually give gifts on New years and their Christmas is on the 7 of January.
On Sunday, the ward put on their primary Christmas program. A fair amount of kids showed up, and it was a fun program. Katya felt good about it, and she also felt a good support from her counselors. Saturday, the ward had a Christmas activity where they watched the church film joy to the world and then a Christmas film called Santa Clause. Some members brought their friends, and it seemed like a fun activity, but maybe if there were more involved activities, it would have been more enjoyable.
We had the opportunity to meet with a few investigators this week. One man, andrei is searching between a few churches to find the truth. We just started to teach a young lady who was found by the members in the ward. We did not have an opportunity to meet with Alekcei, the man who had went to the shaman to heal his father. Yes, last week we met with him, and he hold told us about witchcraft he had someone do for his father. It was very strange, but we want him to understand truth. Recently, there have been some people that had just walked into the church, and we have been able to share the message of the Restoration with them.
I live by the river, but not too close. I can see it from my home. I am not too far from the tram, but I am not near the center of Perm. The church is only about 10-15 minutes away, and it is by a cultural center. It is hard to give a good idea of where I live without giving specifics. I also live close to a hospital and some private home.
I really like it here, and the people are really kind. I know that Christ showed us the perfect way, and it is great to think about him in this time of the year and always. I have not yet made resolutions, but I think one of mine will resolve around giving up any selfish desires in order to serve someone when they stand in need of anything. New years will be a real good time to think though. It is an in day because there will be drunks out. I love you all. Bye.- Elder Larson

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 2010

Hello Family,
Well, Shane, it is unfortunate that you had to do all that moving and stuff, but hopefully all went well. Now you are in an all different place, and you can really focus on the work and people in that area. I hope you get better mom, I hope Ryan and Jenny's child gets better. It sounds like you had some fun times dad going to watch the new chronicles of Narnia movie. I also enjoyed those little stories about the workers and the punishment. Erik, I am sorry I don't play soccer with the kids. There is snow everywhere, and I just don't have the opportunity, although the past few days have been oddly warm. It was just right at freezing, so it is not too cold out there right yet. It really did snow a lot though, and traffic was so bad. The tramb bus literally looked like a can of sardines there were so many people trying to shove themselves in.

For Christmas, maybe you can buy the phone card again and call me. It would probably be good to call around 7:00 in the morning my time Christmas morning, meaning around 7:00 Christmas eve for you.

This week, we met a Nigerian on the street. He is an 18 year old student. He invited us to his dorm, and we talked to some of the kids there. On the way out, we met 3 other Nigerians. They look so wierd being here, but they are so humble and kind. We gave our contact to the other elders because that is their area, but he has a strong belief in God, so hopefully he will be brought to come closer to Christ through his full gospel. The Nigerians are here becuase government and education in nigeria is terrible. They seemed so friendly and positive, while other people in the dorm seemed a little less positive with a more eat drink and be merry attitude. Vincent, the Nigerian, had talked about hopes, dreams, and making his family pround. It is amazing to see the difference in people's lives when they have more truth, and especially gospel truth. We have been working hard to help families come together in the church, and i have really been having a great time in this area. We are very busy, and the Lord is handing us many miracles. I really get along with my companion, and it has been fun while we have been trying to be open and be more like Christ. I love you all. share the Gospel with your friends. Invite grandma to the Christmas church activities. Bye.- Elder Larson

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010

Hello Family!
Sorry, I have a little less time to write this week. It sounds like you are all doing well, and it is nice to hear about the kids coming for Christmas. Sounds like Thanksgiving was fun. As a zone leader, we really are like the eyes and hands of the mission president for that area. We try to help and instruct the missionaries so that they are doing well, getting along well, and move the work forward in their areas. We monthly get trained so that we can help to teach the missionaries and pass on tasks or teaching from the president. We collect statistics, and we also do companion exchanges and conduct interviews for the baptismal canditates. I am really enjoying Perm and my companion. Members are working hard here to find people, and it is a strong ward.
I know that Christ is my Savior, and he is the Savior of all mankind. Although I am amongst people that are in a completely different situation than I may have been used to, we really are brothers and sisters, and Christ is our Loving Big Brother. He is the perfect example for all of us, no matter where we live or what our heritage is. We all have the heritage of God in us, and we can only recieve that potential and become like him through his son Jesus Christ. This year, I will have a white Christmas for the first time in my life, and I am so grateful that through Christ's pure life and perfect sacrifice, we can become clean like the driven snow. I know he is my Savior, and his love is all around us. Let us always remember his love. I love you. Bye. -Elder Larson

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 22, 2010

Hello Family!
That is really cool how you are doing so many names Dad. I really hope that you can break those records. That is a great work, and it is cool how you are so consistent in doing it. It sounds like Mountain Pointe just squeezed by, but it is great how Jack is doing well. It is interesting to hear about all the ward news. It is strange how there are so many deaths over there were you are. The Gospel really enriches life, and it is great how we have the knowledge of where we will go after this life. Snow has fallen here, and I believe it will now stay. It is pretty cold here, and it is exciting, but the main problem is that there are consecutively less people on the street. Good job for talking to Hung, mom. I hope he finds some strength.
We had zone conference this week. It was really great. Main points were that we need to talk to people to get to know them and help meet their needs. Even on bus or the transport, our president told us that we really need to get to know people. He said that people are on a range from 1 to 7. Sometimes we just need to bumb those ones (those who almost hate us and reject us and say names) to a 2 (just a little better). Or maybe they are ready for a bigger boost. Or maybe they are 6 or 7's ready to be baptized. Regardless of who we talk to, we need to always represent Christ, love the people, and have them think more of us when we leave than when we first met them. Just as Shane said, there is a large focus on teaching by the Spirit and teaching for the people's needs. We should also have specific prayers when we seek for guidance, really aligning ourself with God's will. We need both great attitude and effort to become great missionaries, and we must never feel like failures. Satan wants us to feel like failures, but God wants us to find and correct our weaknesses through Christ.
Shane- Remember to be very strong and faithful through the tough times. It may be difficult because you have already been through the area book, there are no contacts, or maybe it is hard to get men on the meeting, but remember to maintain a positive attitude. People always have the choice to accept you, but just keep a positive attitude and don't get discouraged. You are probably doing fine, so keep up.
It is good that you found the town on the map. There is not thanksgiving here, but the members sometimes celebrate it, as they see the American missionaries talk about it. Will will just go to district meeting to eat probably at the senior couple's home. I do not know how far from the railroad I live, but I live about 8 minutes from that hand statue. You noticed there is an intersection maybe at the statue, well I live on one of those streets. If you follow the straight street towards Ufa, it will be cut off by another street. Well if you just keep going imaginary like the street still goes, I should be 2 or three houses in, but I am leaving, so I guess it doesn't matter. I am going to Perm to be a zone leader. There are no district leaders in my mission. I am excited, but nervous. I will be serving with Elder Sare. I hear that he is a very great missionary, and he was a former assistant to the president, so maybe he can really help me and teach me. I have met him a few times, and he also seems like a humourous, great missionary. I hear that they have a great ward in Perm, that it is a beautiful city, and that it will be a little colder than here. There is also a senior couple there. I leave on a train tomorrow night to Ekaterinburg, and then there to Perm. I love you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 15, 2010

Hello family!
Thank you all for the letters and the thoughts. It was great to hear
from you all. It was great to hear from grandma and granddad, and it
was good to hear that his health is doing well. This week, the senior
couple came with us on some meetings. President and Sister John. He is
your age dad. Although they don't have a whole lot of Russian language
experience, they really bring the spirit. During district meetings,
they share great experiences and express a lot of hope and desire in
us. On one of those meetings, we met with a less active member, and
she came to church. She had not been to church for a long time, at
least since I had been here, which was August 10 so it was really cool
to see her there. We had exchanges this week, so I was just up in Ufa.
On the map, Ufa, looks elongated north to south, I believe. That is
the main city I am talking about. There is a river going around it
called the white river (белая река). I live south of Ufa (slightly to
the west), probably 5 to 10 miles away, but it is actually fairly
small. Dyoma. so look down, then a little bit left of Ufa on a map.
Sorry, it is kind of difficult to describe, but there is a train that
goes through Dyoma, so maybe you want to follow the tracks south out
of Ufa and see if they will go to Dyoma if the train tracks are
visible. We have zone conference tomorrow, so I am very excited, and
this will be the last week of the transfer. Missionaries have been
staying in places longer. President wants us to get closer to the
members and build relationships with the leadership, so much might
stay the same. I think there might be some switch up though. you will
know next week. We may be moving homes this week though, staying
within our area.
It has been raining a lot here, but it sounds like it will be getting
colder here. It is cool how Erik is getting into soccer. Thanks for sending the package,
but I will tell you when I receive it. I was reading in the Book of
Mormon today, and I noticed in Alma, I think chapter 8. I don't
remember, but all of the people were rejecting him in a city, and he
was discouraged. He went out of the city, but an angel told him not to
be discouraged. The angel told him to lift his head, and be glad that
he was keeping the commandments of God. remember to keep your head up
and remember those great experiences in life and look at the blessings
you do have. I love you all. -Elder Larson

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 8, 2010

Hello family!
This was an interesting week. Snow came yesterday morning, but then melted and turned into rain as the day went on. It is looking a lot more gray here as the plants are losing their leaves, and it stays dark for a majority of the day. It is still not extremely cold outside. Dad's news about the forecast feels as if it has been accurate. Here in Ufa, snow has not stayed, but sometimes the puddles turn into ice through the night. Our address is Levitana (левитана) 7, 2. It is in Dyoma (дема), which is about 20 minutes away from Ufa. I also know the church address. Bulevard Tyulkina (булварь тюлькина) 4/1 in the city Ufa. Maybe you can find that on the map. Mom, you said many of the houses look old. Many of them are old, and many look old. You do not often actually find a good looking home from the outside (those apartment buildings), but the inside in the rooms are completely different. Many people remodel, and it can look very nice. Our place is quite nice on the inside, and it looks very old on the outside. I guess you can't always judge a book by it's cover, but sometimes you can. The cover of the Book of Mormon for instance has a very powerful cover, and it is a very powerful book. Houses are often different here though.
I had a strange week. My companion had some problems on his visa trip, so I was in a different area for three days. I was with Elder Ray and Elder Kupaev. I really enjoyed the time there, and we had some good experiences. Elder Kupaev is Russian, and it was very cool to be around him and learn a lot from him. They are very good missionaries and motivated to do the work, so it was great to see little differences they do that I can work on. One thing that I really enjoyed is how much he loved and really shared a concern for the people. Of course he can communicate with the people easier, but he also seemed to love them and really care for them more. It was an example to me, and it is something that I would like to work on. If we become more Christlike, people will be able to feel our love for them. Our area book is something that you use to keep record of investigators, members, less actives, and potential investigators. Some of the papers are very old (10 years even since the last entry). The address on one was nowhere in the city, so I thought it was wrong. I realized that the address was misspelled, and that is why we couldn't find it. A few letter were switched, and we found the actual place. Although the lady was not interested, we found the place after no missionaries had been there in 10 years. Record keeping is very important, and it is great how you are doing that kind of work dad so that people can be found, whether or not they are ready for the gospel at this point in time.
Shane, I really enjoyed the pictures. Thank you. Great job, and congratulations on the baptism. That is weird that Forrest is back home. It feels like he just left, but I guess we can say the same things about ourselves.
Now for an interesting story that happened about 3 weeks ago. No one worry or be afraid, but it was just interesting. It had nothing to relate to my personal well being. Remember that one time a lady was in the bulk trash, I came into the house to tell everyone, and we went out to see that there was a woman. Well, my companion and I were walking, and in the alley, he thought he saw a body. We had to walk by the alley a few times, and we still were not sure because there were other people just standing, and girls had just walked by it. We walked by, and there was a dead body there. The people across the body were the police. We did not know what happened, and it was shocking, but it does make you think about life. Life is really a precious thing, and living the gospel really does enrich our lives and keep us from situations that might get us killed. We are taught to stand in holy places, and if we do so, we are promised blessings. Even the blessing of eternal life if we live the gospel and endure to the end. 
Sorry to end on that note, but I just want you all to make the most out of life. Love big, and enjoy the time of life in righteousness. Despite what happens, having a good attitude in any situation only makes the situation better. I love you all. Thank you for your letters and support. Again, I love you. Bye. -Elder Larson.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 1, 2010

Hello family!
It is nice to hear from you. I enjoyed the pictures from Shane. They look fun. It is sad that Brother Curry's brother died so young and unexpectedly. That is the one that I had probably seen occasionally? I don't remember if he has other siblings or where they live. Mom, that CD is particularly a Christmas theme, but it can be listened to all year round to center the thoughts on Christ. Thank you for getting that. It was fairly cold yesterday. It was around zero celsius last night on the street. It was more difficult to contact because there were just not a whole lot of people on the street. It snowed a little bit the night before last, but the snow melted through the day. Last night, we did visit though with an older woman. She was very kind and enjoyed us to be there, but she is leaving to England to live with her daughter for 3 months.This week we had the opportunity to go to a Bashirian dance concert for a cultural activity. It was very enjoyable, and it was Folk Dance, very similar to what I had seen at the BYU folk dance concert. There is a dance they performed where there involved sword fighting with sparks, so that was kind of cool. They also performed a famous Ukrainian dance. I cannot remember the name, but the men wear baggy red pants. It might be the Hopak or Hochak. On Saturday, there was a baptism from the sisters. Artur was baptised, and we had the opportunity to take an investigator there to see the baptism, so hopefully that will help her. Artur is a cool kid that is about our age, he knows a fair bit of english, and he used to be completely atheist. He decided to be baptized, and he is a very nice boy. After that, we had a small halloween party for the ward and friends. Our mission president was there and then at church. Wednesday, my companion will go on his visa trip, so I will spend a day in a different part of town, about an hour and a half away by bus. I don't know how far it is, but buses usually are fairly slow. In our town, we just walk because it is so small, but to go to the city and around the city, we take buses. To get to the church, it is about an hour trip altogether.
I liked what Shane had to say about trials and testing your faith. In this area, things have been a little slower in finding people and being able to meet, but It is essential to keep moving forward, and ask in prayer for what to do. Sometimes it is hard, but we can always receive guidance on what to do. I know that prayer works, and when I ask specifically, faithfully, and intently to act upon what I receive the Lord gives me exactly what I need. I like what dad said though, that it does not come all at once. We also need to be patient, and continually receive more and more. We will be 20 years old up here soon. Time really is going quickly. I hope everything is going well down there. Too bad halloween wasn't so big. Here in Russia, it is not really celebrated at all amongst the public. I love you all. Help others, be an example, and always remember to express kindness. Bye.-Elder Larson

Monday, October 25, 2010

October 25, 2010

Hello Family! 
Thank you for the letters. Thank you Kirsten, it was nice to hear from you. I hope all goes well with the kids, grandma in Arkansas. Hi Molly and Trey! What is your address? Things are going well here. Thanks for the weather report, dad. It has not felt too cold yet. It has only snowed once, shortly melting after it fell, but sometimes, if I am lucky, there are puddles of water that have turned into ice through the night. I do not know what to do in the winter in terms of contacting. Ideally, we would be working with the members more and take less time on the streets. There were times in the summer where it rained cats and dogs, and no one was on the street, and we got soaked. Men have work or school often, and we cannot meet with women alone, so it is sometimes hard to meet with members and talk to them abot  In this area, we do contact a lot. It is still fine on the street to talk to people, and there are still many on the street, when it gets very cold, we will have to work differently I think. 
I would say I am still very far from speaking fluently, although it is not really difficult to get my points across. I just have a clear accent when I speak. Sometimes I translate for the Russian and Ukrainian during district conference. Understandinding is coming a lot easier, but it is still sometimes hard to pick out everything people say. Much of the food here is produced in Russia, but a lot of the fruits come from different places (surrounding countries, and also China often). There are many small fruit stands everywhere, and there are also small stores everywhere. We go to a fairly large store, and it ends up being around the size of Walgreens. In some of the mall type of complexes, which are in the city, there are larger grocery stores. in those places, there is pretty much everything you could buy in the states. There is a special place called metro, which is like a costco here. Other than that store, there are usually no Wal-Mart type stores, but there are many stores that seem to specialize in certain items. Electric store, sanitation store, phone store, flower store, food store, hair cut salon, etc.We went with the senior couple, because you need a card, but that place was just like costco. There was everything, and in bulk. There are sometimes fruits here in Russia that you do not commonly see in the states. We recently got something called Persimmon in english. I am not sure because it has a different name in Russian. In terms of American produced goods, there are not many. Outside of food, I do not know, but a lot of specialty sauces come from America (i.e. tabasco sauce and peanut butter). The young people do need to qualify for the university. If they do well in school, they might not have to go to college (which could be compared to community college), and they can go straight to the university (college or university).Most can have the opportunity to go to the University. There are a lot of students that go to technical schools as well. I do not think that there is a tuition for school, but if you want to go to a better school, or some special programs, then I think it costs money. The thing with Russia that is similar to Europe, is the children start to specialize often at a young age. Going through the normal programs do not cost money, but if you are older and have already passed the natural course of school action, it costs to go back to school. (I am not necessarily sure about all of this, but it is what I have seemed to gather)
My companion comes from a military family, and his dad and brothers are pilots in the air force. He has travelled many places and live in places like Guam, Kuwait, Louisiana, Nebraska. He worked before his mission and actually worked at superstition mall in Gilbert. He is fairly large and strong. He wrestled when he was younger, and worked out before. He is goofy at times, but he seems to get really serious when the situation calls for it. He can sometimes get easily frustrated at things, but he is working hard to love and be patient with everyone. He is a deep thinking, and he really wants to do what is right according to the scriptures and the words of the prophets. He is 6 months longer than me on the mission, he is talkative, and he is good with dealing with the people. Once I go home, I can tell you all about all my different companions. I write their names in my Preach My gospel, so I will remember them.

If I write to much, just tell me, but I wanted to answer your questions. This week I was in Finland, and I had the opportunity to go to the temple. Finland is beautiful right now, and I really had a good time in the temple. It is very peaceful, and I know it truly is a house of God. There are often people from different countries there, so it is also cool to see that we are all children of God, and we can meet in the temples everywhere to do the work for our spiritual brothers and sisters. This week we have an opportunity to watch Bashkirian dancing for a cultural night, and there is a ward halloween activity we will be having Saturday. I love you all. Thank you for the support and your letters. Bye.- Elder Larson
Happy Birthday Erik. How old are you? 23. oooh. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 11, 2010

Hello Family!
Well it sounds like there has been some interesting news about football (Max Hall and Marcus Wheaton). I hope the MRI scan goes well, mom. It sounds like dad had a fun job with service. We g to help on older woman put up some styrofoam ceiling. It was the same lady that we did the wallpaper for. Thanks for the weather report too, Dad. It sounds like it will be cold. It has been foggy, but it has not already snowed. I am kind of excited. Shane, I do not think that I am a capo. It just seems to me that I do all the talk and you do all the action. Just kidding. I know that you and I are both doing a good work. It sounds like your missionaries are doing a lot of switching around. Something interesting here is that for this next transfer, there (from what I heard) will only be 1 change between 2 people in the mission. Everyone else is staying where they in with the same person. There is even an elder in my area who left on the mission 2 transfers before I did and he has been in the same place since. I believe this is his 7th transfer in the same place, and a transfer is 6 weeks. Thank you all for the letters. I did receive them from mom, grandma, and I did get Alisha's letter. We found a place closer to do internet, so I may be able to write home some letters (it is okay to write handwritten letters to friends). Thank you for that next year calender. It will be very convenient, and thank you for the pictures from home.
We got to see General Conference in English, so that was very cool. There were some pretty amazing talks spoken. President Uchtdorf really had some good talks about pride and keeping life simple to focus on the important things. I did enjoy that talk also about the 14 points of what a prophet is and does. There was also many talks about raising kids and protecting them against the evils of the increasingly evil world. There were a lot of good points, and as Gabe said, it really did feel like 10 minutes instead of 10 hours of conference for me too. This month as a cultural activity, we will be going to a bashkurian dance, and next week we will go on the visa trip. I will try to take some pictures.
There were a few key activities that happened this week that helped me realize how much I love the listeners out there. i.e. family. My companion and I decided to drop by a man with a son on a mission. He was not a member, but he showed us pictures of his son. His son was serving in Moscow West. (interestingly enough, I saw some of the people who serve with him are some of the people that were in my MTC group, and we are all of the sudden linked together, even though coming and living in obscure or different places.) The missionary's father had a few beers to drink, and lives with a different family. The son prays for his father every day, I saw in a letter, and I can't imagine how badly he wants his father to change for the better. The father was hardly familiar with why his son was on a mission, and he did not want to here anything about the Gospel. He is working hard on a mission, although he comes from a hard situation. I also learned in conference that the youth really needs a strong support group in order to help them. Thank you mom and dad for being that strong, loving, support that helped me grow into who I am today. I still have a ways to go, and I see how I may have been a hassle in some ways, but I know there is great room for improvement. I love you all. Thanks grandma for the letters and support as well. She is included of course.
Oh. Mom, I don't know if you have already sent the package, but if it is possible, maybe you could buy a CD and send it in the package. It is Handel's Messiah performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. That is the only CD I would want as it is focused on Christ and Christmas, and maybe dad can help you know what it is if you don't know.
Until next week...пока. старейшина ларсон.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010

Hello Family!
It sounds like everything is going well all over. Shane is exactly right when he says that you cannot teach without the Spirit. We had special training with the Mission President, and he went over planning and goal setting with us, but it had some interesting and helpful information. He said that you will not always accomplish your goal, even if the Holy Ghost confirmed that the goal was a good goal, and that you did all you could to achieve the goal. You should set reachable goals that you want to achieve, but sometimes we just do not reach them. Oftentimes the Holy Ghost has you reach for the goal so that you can learn something else which he knew was necessary for you to accomplish, or so that you can have various learning experiences. After the period of your goal is over, you reevaluate and establish goals once again according to the Spirit. Other people should not impose goals upon you, and sometimes you have to work up to greater goals. If you want to receive recognition in goals, you are not properly setting goals. Goals should be the means and not the ends. The devil wants to discourage people by telling them that since they are not achieving goals, or getting good numbers that they are failures as either missionaries or people. We must find the good in everything we do, and we know that we are doing good in everything if we are living obediently and trying our best. Do not let the devil discredit your divine nature, or the true place on which you stand. If you let him do that, the Spirit will also leave.

What is interesting, is after we had received that counsel, on our way home, a man asked us what church we were from and then he made a bad comment. Right after the meeting, and always, the devil tempts us by using others and trying to take away the Spirit. We must constantly fight to maintain the Spirit in all that we do. Once that happens, we are unstoppable. We must remember our divine nature, and just keep going. Christ suffered for us because we are imperfect. If we do all we can and follow the commandments, and repent, he will cover us. How joyful. How positive.

Well, mom, I forgot to tell you that we do use some good filters here because unfiltered water is not completely clean. If you send me a package, maybe you could include family pictures in a photo album so that I can show everyone how cool my family is. Well actually, people ask to see pictures a lot, it would be cool to see you too and show them to people. I already tell people how cool my family is. Sorry that is slightly hypocritical because I have not sent any pictures home or taken many. I will try to do better. Thanks for those emailed pictures from everyone. If it comes down to it, I can probably just print those pictures from the computer. I showed my companion, and he really liked them. In terms of candy? Maybe trail mix or nutty chocolates. twixes or reeses fast break. I like most nuts, except cashews. I don't really need anything. If you all would like something, I can buy it some P-day.

The weather here is starting to be fairly cold. It was freezing yesterday (-1 and 0 degrees celcius), and this morning it was 2 degrees celsius. I have all my snow clothing, but it is fairly cold, and a lot sooner than I thought. Most of the leaves have fallen of the trees, and it is getting darker earlier. Our heating is on in the apartment. There is no air conditioning here, and we get heat from hot water that runs through open pipes and radiator next to the walls. We have not already watched conference, but we will watch it next weekend. This weekend, there was a big change here though. There were 2 branches in Ufa, but it has now changed into 1 big branch. The branch's callings disintegrated and a new presidency was established. The new president is my old branch president, and he is a really cool guy and strong church member. He is really funny, has no young kids, and excited and ready to do things. The change will really help people get into the attitude of helping each other, and it will strengthen a lot of the members. President Alcott was here for that, and he gave us that special training as well.

During the fall, there are many fairs where they sell harvest items- meats, crops, honey, knittings, pastries, fruit, and many other things. We bought some honey, and there was meat everywhere. It was like a large market just on the street. Dad, you should take up bee keeping again as a hobby. There are some Russian words that seem to coincide with star wars characters. My companion and I have been thinking about it and trying to figure it out. I love you all. Thanks for the support. Have good times. Bye.-Elder Larson.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 27, 2010

Hello Family,
Erik sent me a letter (thanks Erik), and I had a real enjoyable time looking through those pictures. You and your wife (strange to say wife) look really good, and it seems like you have really fun times together, though I did have to laugh at a lot of those poses. You know. Believe it or not, that was also the first time my companion had seen the family since I did not take any pictures from home. I wouldn't have guessed that you wanted to be a spanish teacher, and go to the University of Utah. Well, it will be great to have family close by. It is great that you have the new position at work and that everything is working out financially and you got the new callings. Here there are a lot of youth, and looking at them makes me realize how important that time of life is in shaping their future. You will influence those kids well.

Shane, what a cool opportunity to open up a new area from scratch. It sounds like you are already having an excellent time there in moving the work forward. Keep up the good job.

Fun fact- my companion knows Michael Middents. Since Michael is in the air force, my companion's dad is stationed in the same place in Louisiana. Just to make sure, maybe you want to ask the Middents about it. My companion's name is Brent Cordon. He had a language guide, and I saw the name of the person who created it. The name was Michael Middents. I had asked him more about who it was, and it comes to be that it is the Michael Middents that we know. Isn't that strange.

Mom, here are some answers- There are much more women in Russia than men. It could be because the men do not live as long (Men drink and smoke more than the women). People that want to travel and have a strong desire to learn a new language do try to do that. There is a head start here in Russia though, because learning some foreign language is typical in school. Everyone here knows the English alphabet, and a lot of products/ movie/ entertainment come from english or American roots. I can read Russian fairly well at this point, I cannot always understand the things I read, but I am fairly good at simply reading Russian.

I live on the first floor of a common apartment building (called dome дом) My apartment is fairly nice. There are three rooms (for study, for sleep, and for storage). the rooms are just normal, similar to rooms you see in the states. The kitchen is smaller, but we still have all the essentials. We have gas stove and oven and water heater. We have a room that just has a toilet in it, and a room that has a shower and sink in it. There are not a whole lot of bugs that bother me. mosquitos were bad, and I have a few bites, but soon it will be too cold for them I think. Cockroaches are not bad, and I haven't seen one since I have been here. There are many cats in this city where I live, all of different colors and appearance. There are also dogs that walk around, but not as many as cats. There are also a various type of dogs.

Dad, it sounds like you had a fun time with our talks. Too bad you cannot go to the temple, but that would be cool to get more names. It sounds like you all together take care of incredible amounts of names, and it is pretty cool how you have been doing that. I saw that picture of you and mom at the wedding. you to look the same to me. maybe I have told you, but there are a lot of people here that are older than they look (if they are really under 25), and there are a lot of people that look older than they really are (anyone really past 40). Oftentimes I take pride in having a healthy dad who looks better, stronger, and younger than most people that are younger than him. :)

This week we had a cool opportunity to help a lady in the ward put up wallpaper. Know I relatively know how to do it well, and it was a pretty fun ward activity. We went to a store called metro with the senior couple who helped us on meetings. The store was like cosco, but since I didn't have a whole lot of money, I didn't buy all of the stuff I wanted, but that was probably a good thing. I do not need any more money, but could you tell me how much money I have on my account? Another cool thing that happened is that an inactive member came to church on Sunday. He helped on the service, and he probably enjoyed the presence of the church members. Being friends to the people that are less active and even just letting them know you care can help them come back to church. I love you all. I am really excited for all of you, and it seems like you are all doing well. -Elder Larson

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 21, 2010

Hello Family!
Well, I am so excited to hear about Jeffrey Rodgers. He finally got his call, and know he just has to saddle up and get ready to go. Dad and Mom, you really helped encourage him to take those important steps. That sounds like it would be a good, exciting mission.That is weird how Blaine is the last one of our age to go on his mission, and he will be a really good missionary. All those bishopric changes aer also fairly interesting.

Mom wanted to know how the people are. The two large religions here are Muslim and Russian Orthodox no matter the age group. Some of the older Russians are more knowledgeable about their beliefs (both Muslim and Russian Orthodox), but few really want to argue by the means of scriptures. Most people do not really want to argue, they just are really attached to those things they believe. Jehovah's witnesses will try to prove their points by showing scriptures and such, but I do not often see them, although they are here. Younger people either just follow tradition in their beliefs, or they really search out. Many young people (our age) seem like they search for themselves what is right, unless they are just living and having a good time. Most people on the streets just avoid talking to us, say they are orthodox, then move on, say they are Muslim, then move on, or are really interested, so they continue talking with us. Very rarely do people argue with us, maybe because for most here, our church is still fairly new. a lot of people in my area have seen missionaries, and we often see the same people multiple times. I hope that gives mom a general idea of street contacting. Of course that is just a sketch based on previous circumstances. Every time you see a person, you cannot try to predict the person or what will happen, but you need to look at them as a child of God looking for an answer. You need to know that you have the answer that will bless them and even save them through Jesus Christ. In the moment it is hard to think that way sometimes, but I do know that they all are to be loved, and everyone deserves the chance to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I like what dad shared about the Elder who talked about a few people he and his companion went back to talk to.

Things are going well. We had splits, and we met with some members and went contacting. we took a less active man this week to visit and active, older lady. We wanted to teach her, but instead, we ate, and she really encouraged him to make a change in his life and really do better. I felt that it had an impact, and I hope that it really did impact him. She turned the tables. For preparation day today, we will play basketball for a recreational activity. This week, it had actually been a little bit warmer outside, but according to the trees, fall and winter should shortly come. Leaves are turning yellow to the cinnamon and amber colors, and it is actually quite pretty. I am excited to see and know how the cold feels, but the only problem is that it means there will be fewer people on the streets.

I Hope all of you at home are doing well. Shane- it sounds like you are doing well. you will treat your new area fine. Make the most out of what you have and be grateful always you all. I am really enjoying my time here on the mission and learning a lot. I am grateful for grandma and granddad's letter. I love you all. Remember who you are and where you will be continuing in obedience, faith, and hard work. Bye- Elder Larson.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13, 2010

Hello Family!
I am gaining some weight (Shane saw it in the face) . It is due to a lack of cardiovascular activity. The 30 minutes in the morning is just not cutting it, especially since we don't run for the exercise. oh well. It is really cool to see that wards across the world are on the same page. We talked about Job on Sunday as well. That sister mom was talking about is from the Ukraine. One of our members (who is the American) gave that Job lesson and related himself to Job. He got in a fight (supposedly he knows kung fu well and is okay at fighting), had us unload and reload a truck for service because they got the order wrong, he got stuck in the elevator, and he was on the bus all through the city about 2 or 3 times throughout, which would have taken probably 5 or 6 hours out of his day. He was fine and had a good laugh about his experiences.

It is good to hear that the brakes are good and that Erik is safe and that the kids are doing better and that Shane is having good times. I am also excited about Sean's news. When does Blaine leave for the mission? I am really happy for Brendan that he is on the mission. I think it will really build him and it is good that he is enjoying it. Thank you mom for the package. Right now, it feels like an Arizona mid November. It is kind of cold, and for the past two weeks, it has been raining on and off. Mom would be happy to hear I bought boots, so all my winter clothes are in order. It should'nt start getting really cold until the middle to the end of October I hear.

Dad, you said you wanted a story about my mission. Maybe I will try to include two. The first on relates to teaching simply, requiring faith on those you teach, and the fruit of your labors. We had the investigator Michael. We randomly met him on a bus, and he was practically a genius. New 5 languages, was the 5 best at Russian grammer for his age in Russia, had won other various competitions, and played instruments. He had done everything we asked him to, read, pray, keep the commandments, and even talking about the gospel to friends. But then he wanted to know more, searching for the answers, using wisdom of man rather than faith. He fell of the radar, but I am confident he will find what he is looking for in this church and find comfort and healing from it. He fell back to smoking as well. The friend (who he referred who was not as smart, couldn't read well, and smoked) started hearing from us. I left. What I hear from the zone leaders is that someone in my old area is getting baptized soon and it was a friend of Michael. Although we made a mistake teaching too deeply, our hard work allowed us for another opportunity and success in helping someone exercising faith unto repentance. I hope Michael too decides to move forward with faith.

The other story relates to love. Some people (including missionaries) after constant rejection or torment or comments, begin to bend and get angry at their situation. I have seen it, and I get frustrated, but you all know I am fairly calm. Others get made at races, religions, and the world. Christ loved people until the last minute and asked God to forgive the people that did not know what they are doing. People sometimes reject us as a whole (and maybe missionaries more often), but it really should not diminish your love towards them. It is hard, but remembering to love God and your neighbor as yourself are the great commandments.

I love you all. Bye- Elder Larson

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 6, 2010 старейшина ларсон

Hello Family!
I got an email from Madison, and she sounded a little happier. I love those children, and I want the best for them. It is wonderful to know that Madison is excited to be baptized. Maybe Madison can find a member at her school who can help her make it to church.

I don't know if you all have seen or talked to Shane Sorenson recently, but he sent me and Shane a message. He sounds like he is happy with life and that he has got a plan for the future. I really hope the best for him. It is funny how he looks though because he has a moustache and goutee. He looks much older than me. I still feel and look like a little kid, and I hardly have to worry about facial hair. In that picture of missionaries you all received, there is a Russian sister (the smaller one with dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and blue eye shadow toward the center of the picture) and a Ukrainian sister (who has orange hair). We do email at the same place, so she says привет, which means hi.

The reason why there are Muslims is because the Bashkortastan area is inhabited by people that originally had Muslim beliefs (Bashkirians, Tatarians, etc.) I do not know exactly where they come from, and you may be able to find out more, but the place was founded about 500-600 years ago. Some of the people are also from the -stan countries, or armenia. There are many different people and situations, so I do not definitely know.

That is a crazy story that Shane shared. I have seen some crazy things happen, but nothing to that extent and that kind of crazy. It is too bad that that did happen though. I heard about my past area that michael kind of fell of the radar, but 2 of his friends (who I got to meet with) have baptismal dates. That is not exact information as it is passed from the zone leaders, but I hope that will happen. A few funny things that happened to me a while ago. A man in the train had an empty noodle box and walked in front of our train coupe shouting pizza just for an excuse to talk to us. People will sometimes tell crazy stories to try to talk to us. A ton of the youth here will say hello to us, which is actually how the majority of Russians answer phones, to try to communicate to us in English. Some laugh at the fact that we respond often with an ordinary hello. Many are very friendly, and their age groups different, and they want to talk to us. A man we met also recently gave us as a gift his army belt buckle with the hammer and sickle on it. I let Elder Cordon have it since he has less time to get gifts. He recently passed his half way mark on the mission.

One nice thing that happened this week is we visited an older lady that made us tasty food. Russian food is actually generally simple (focusing on breads, pastries, fruits, and vegetables. Generally people make food with very good ingredients and us their own vegetables which were grown on the garden. She was very grateful that we came out to visit her. I really enjoy speaking with older people.

The new Preach My Gospel simplified curriculum will help us focus a lot on teaching by the Spirit and according to needs. It is not a different Preach My Gospel, but it is simply a focus on those most important aspects of teaching. I understand people alright now, but I just want to love them. we only have 1 investigator, so we are spending a lot of time trying to find people and meet with our members. We have a service opportunity to help someone remodel this week.

I know that Christ is my Savior, and I am glad we can be his servants. I liked what you had to say dad about that duty to God. You don't need to be a missionary to be his servant or carry his name. I just get a great opportunity to hone into that servantship. I love you all bye.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30, 2010

No, I have not gotten the package yet mom. Maybe something that will make you and grandma feel better together: there is a lady in our ward that is dad's age and she looks much older. She is very kind to us young missionaries (much like you and grandma are nice to me and Shane). She does have a problem though, and it is with her husband. He is a drunkard, and he drinks every day. He yells at her just for the amusement, and he refuses to bath for long times on end. The house she lives in is very, very small. The only escape she feels like she has is relatives. It is tough to live with someone that constantly yells or complains, but add alchoholism, smelliness, and live in a very small space, and it would be even tougher. Just hold on a little longer and try to find those good ways to escape offered by the Lord. Rely on him, and he will help lift you.

It is good to hear about the football team. I do not think that I write grown up. It is just as grown up and very great to include those funny stories. President Monson does that. We got to see the Ukraine temple dedication broadcast, and it was amazing. President Monson threw in a ton of jokes as well throughout each session and the cornerstone laying. He poked funny at the translater and threw him for a loop when he started talking about his favorit old songs and what mongrol meant. He also acted very silly towards the audience at the cornerstone laying (including petting a man's head saying he had nice hair that he should give to the bald man behind him). He thought Elder Nelson had a good hand in putting some morter in the stone (as he was a doctor( He also bor his testimony in Russian), and he called a lot of the little boys tigers. He was really funny and also spiritually uplifting. It is great that these people have a temple so much closer to them. The members were all very excited to see such an event happen. I was excited for them, and I am glad that there are some strong members willing to make sacrifices to receive the great blessings.

In Ufa, there are a lot of Muslims, feeling like it is almost 50% here. People look like they are asian and almost native American. It was a hotter summer here than in Kurgan, and though I thought it was cooling down, today was also warm. There are more hills here, but about the same amount of trees, and it is slightly cleaner here than in Kurgan. Central ufa is also a more modern city. I am staying here again for this next transfer that is coming up.

We do not have a whole lot of investigators right now, but we are talking with many people on the street and trying to find more people who are interested. Something funny that happened to me this week is we came across a man. We asked if he believed in Christ, and he said яа сам, which means I personally, and we thought that he was trying to say he was Christ. What he meant is that he believes that he doesn't need anyone else to tell him what to believe in. Then he wanted to shake hands, and he said he was 60, and he was proud to be that old. As a way to show his health he wanted to have a competition to see who could squeeze stronger. I didn't want to squeeze my hardest for fear to hurt his pride? (I don't know), and then we parted was after that. I also told him that my dad was older than him. Many people here do not live that long, and they look very old. Dad would have been stronger than that man. It is sad to see some of the people here who drink often, but also shows clearly visible, that the Word of Wisdom brings many blessings if you follow it. The members we have are really kind, and funny, and you can also see in them how much the gospel blessed them in their lives as compared with others. That is so important why the others get a chance. Well, I love you all. How is Molly, Matt, Ryan, Leisha, Nathan, Kirsten, and extended family doing? When do other missionaries leave? I love you again. Bye-Elder Larson

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

Well, all the excitement is now over, but it sounds like you all had a good time with the wedding celebrations and everything. So, Erik is all moved out now and just living on his own? That is really strange to think about, and it will be stranger to see when I go home. Good ward news too over there. It sounds very exciting. It is good to hear that there are a lot of friendly people where Shane is at.

Here, it is raining right now, and it is probably 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is actually pretty cold. It hasn't rained like this here for around 3 months. Just last week, it was warm, but it did recently get cold. I don't have to buy a winter jacket, because previous missionaries left their jacket in my last apartment, so I will be using that, but I will have to get some warmer shoes soon. We had a zone conference this last weekend, and it answered all my questions. It is very cool to see that our church leaders are inspired for the benefit of us. If we listen to them, we really should be able to find answers to our questions. There will be a new program for teaching and following Preach My Gospel taught to the missionaries at the MTC next May, but we are learning about it now so all the missionaries in the field will be prepared when that change comes. Old missionaries will be on the same page as new missionaries. It will be established to help missionaries be more focused on the basic doctrines and following the Spirit in order to become better teachers. We will learn about this through our zone leaders. There will only be zone conferences quarterly. I think Shane heard about some of these changes earlier than we did, although discretion is still largely up to the Mission Presidents. My president went on a senior couple mission to Novosibirsk, but he tries to speak Russian, and he actually gets along alright, and he can understand a fair bit of Russian.

We met a man this week who also came to church. We found out though that he is not in our area, so we gave him to the sisters to teach. It felt good to see that we are all part of the same work, so we all must work very hard to make the good things happen with God's help. We also had splits this week. I taught English again here in Ufa (Dyoma does not have English), and I got to be with Elder Steiner. Also, something interesting is we met a man that had lived in Salt Lake and in Miami. He was very excited to see us, but he was not interested to hear or meet with us about the Church. We just had a small conversation in the park, but at the end of the conversation, he gave us his number so that if anyone gave us problems, we would be able to call him. Strange, but a very nice offering. He was a very nice man, and respected us highly. There is a man (out of town right now) who is American that lives in our ward. He went to Ukraine on his mission, but he married a russian woman (a woman from the ward I am in who is very nice) who went to BYU. She knows English well, and they have a wonderful family, but they decided to live here in Russia. We also had a fun service project while I was on splits to help take a woman who could not walk out of her home. It was probably on the fifth floor, and there was no elevator, so we literally carried her down on a chair. She had not been outside for 3 years, and she was very grateful we could help.

Maybe winter will come soon. I hear it is cold. I am having a good time here. Something that Elder Rasband told us when he was here is to find the good in everything that you do everyday. That way, you can know if you are having success in life. Do those good things, and realize the difference you make. I love you all. Bye.-Elder Larson

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010

Hello Family,
Congratulations, Erik and Alesha. You are now married. A new sister in law, and Erik out of the house. It sounded like a great moment, and now come the activities back at home. Then comes getting used to the married life and making the most out of every minute. How delightful. I got a letter from grandma, thanks for the letter, grandma. You always seem so quiet grandma, but thanks for those letters. It tells me that you are still there and still going. Gabe had some good news about the baptisms that he received, and those pictures Shane had were also great to see. It is weird to think that it is winter in Argentina right now, and it does look a little cold.

I was very quickly moved to a different area of the mission because an extreme circumstance happened in that area, and I was in a threesome, so I got transferred. On Monday night (10:00) , President called and said I had to leave the next day to Ekaterinburg, so I quickly packed and left, without knowing the reason. When I arrived, I found out that I was going to Ufa, farther west in the mission. I also saw my first companion, Elder Kordon, and I found out that I will be serving with him. Now I am in a very small outer town of Ufa called Dyoma. I came by a train that took 15 hours to get here. It is a very, very small city, and takes about 45 minutes to walk around the main central part of the city. I Ufa itself, the Church has a very nice building, and the city is very large and modern. In fact, there are a few McDonalds here. There are not a whole lot of members, but there are some very strong members, and we have a hard working branch President and Counselor. Due to a youth conference in Nobosibirsk, our branch president will be the only Priesthood holder in town this week, so we might end up doing a lot of contacting, ideally finding men or families to teach. I am excited to get working there, and I will probably stay there a while now, but I don't completely know because transfers will shortly officially end. It is finally cooling a little bit down, but it is still considerably warn depending on the amount of wind or clouds. This summer has supposedly been one of the hottest in around 20 years, and it only rained twice (as I have heard) this summer in Ufa. Last winter was the coldest that winter has been for a long time. We wonder when winter will come, but everyone says that it does not come to stay until November.

We really do not know completely what is in store for the future. We make plans and goals, but sometimes change occurs. I am not sure what kind of things are going down in Kurgan. The Lord wants us to always move forward. All is never lost, but all can always be gained through hard work and steady reliance on the Lord. I wish you all love and hope you continue to work with any change the way that the Lord would want you to. Bye. -Elder Larson

Monday, August 9, 2010

August 9, 2010

Hello Family!
Exciting news about Erik. I can hardly believe that he is getting married and moving out, but it is really a great thing. An older lady on the street said that we should wait to get married when we are 32 years old. It is good that you are not getting married at age 32 and I am excited to hear how the wedding, celebration, and later honeymoon goes. I cannot hardly believe that Forrest comes home from his mission in two months, it sounds like a lie, and Michael left on his mission about a year before us, but it is also weird how he is coming back already in December. I am really learning a lot on the mission, and I have had some very unique experiences. I have made some mistakes, but I have also been growing, developing, and learning to where I hope to be a refined, excelling, prepared for life missionary the time I finish the mission. We will have zone conference and a branch conference here in Kurgan this weekend coming up, which will also be Kurgan day. Maybe our President planned conference on that day because we would have probably had to stay inside anyway because there would be drunk people. This week was a normal week. One companion had to travel because there was only one missionary in Tyumen, because his companion was on a Visa trip in Finland. When I went to finland I went on bus to Tyumen, From Tyumen to Moscow by flight, flight to Finland, there about 3-4 hours (time for the temple) and then straightway back. Maybe I have said, there are only 7 missionaries in our zone, and each companionship is in their own city. We are 3-4 hours from Tyumen, and Surgut, is 16 hour train ride from tyumen, so we only see other missionaries 2 per transfer (exchanges too). This past week was actually very hot, but finally the weather has cooled down, and what I hear is that it should continue to make it's was down. fall starts in September, and at the end of October is when it starts to get really cold. As for our investigator Michael, he has been acting strange. He does not want to be baptized until he has a complete knowldedge of everything. We want to emphasize the importance of baptism and why we do it, and then see if he is ready to get baptized some other time. we did start teaching a little girl like Madison, and she too wants to be baptized, so we are looking forward to that. I am getting pretty good at understanding Russian, but I just have to learn to speak better. It will all come, and apparently I am learning at an alright pace. Well, I'll here from you all in two weeks. I love you all. Remember that through faith, everything comes. Maybe I told you about the talk I read called you know enough, and we really do. Share what you know through the Spirit, and be planted on the foundation of Christ.

с любовью- Elder Larson

Monday, August 2, 2010

August 2, 2010

Hello family,
Things are going well here. The visa trip to Finland was quick, but it was cool to see my MTC group. We all went together. The trip was hard because we have little sleep, but it was wonderful to go to the temple. It is a really beautiful temple, and Finland is pretty too. I forgot my camera to take any pictures, but maybe next time, I can take some to show you. That was a great compliment that Shane received, and it really is great to keep a positive attitude. He must be exercising great obedience because happy missionaries are obedient missionaries. Erik will be married shortly here, and that will be exciting, but it is a little strange to think about.

Things here are going alright. We set a new baptismal date a week later for him under the direction of our ward and mission president to make sure that he has fully quit smoking without relapse. So he should be baptized the day Erik is married. We have been meeting with some of his friends and some younger people, and we have been spending a little less time on the streets. It has still been hot here without clouds, and yesterday was completely sunny, and probably in the 90's. It should get cool sometime soon though as I have been hearing, maybe towards mid to late august, the temperature really starts to change. I had the opportunity to anoint a lady yesterday, and my companion gave the blessing. Also, a semiactive family came to all three hours of church yesterday, although the general turnout was small. It is tougher to work in a threesome. Just the dynamics of working, teaching, and travelling together are kind of ackward, but I can't complain. There are many things to be grateful for. I read a talk today called "You know enough" by Neil A. Andersen when he was in the seventy and it was really great. We have such a great knowledge being members of the Church, and it really blesses our lives. Let's again see how we can share it. I love all of you. I hope the new week goes well. Bye. -Elder Larson

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 26, 2010

Hey Family!
First off, I want to possibly answer questions. I only write an email to you guys and the President. There is really very little time to write other letters and get them sent here. I only get mail every 6 weeks, so things aren't quite in chronological or real time order by the time I get to read letters. Thanks for all of your letters by the way, and that was a nice picture grandma sent. Just this last Wednesday, I received letters from the 19th of June up until the time you sent the wedding invitations, because I already got the invitation. She seems like she would be a very nice girl, and it was fun to see them together. Some people have been asking me what job she has, but I don't remember. Could you tell me again? It is unfortunate to hear about all the pet surgeries going on, but it sounds like all turned out well. It is also unfortunate that you all didn't go to Havasupai, but at least you still went camping and had a good time. Speaking of good times, Shane looked like he had a really fun time at the zoo, at the birthday, and at the baptism.

We are still meeting regularly with Michael, and he is great. He quit smoking, and I think it is really great to have been part of his quitting process, so now he just needs to remain that way for a little while to make sure he is worthy and ready to be baptized. In the meanwhile though, he is telling basically everyone he knows about the english club we have here, and the gospel. It also helps to use him as our online networker.

I go on my visa trip today. I will go to Finland, and I will come back Wednesday. They do the trips very fast, and try to get them done within a day, but living in Kurgan, it takes a little longer. I will be able to attend a temple sessions though, so I am excited about that.

We are now officially in a threesome, but while my companion was on his visa trip, we were a twosome. My new companion is a little shy, so I hope that while he is in our companionship he will be able to build confidence and language skills. He is from Utah, and he came into Russia one transfer before I did.

A stressful thing happened this week. We took on a translation service activity, thinking that it would be would be a few pages, but the sister in our ward gave us 70 pages of technical flooring advertisements, stats, and instructions. We thought we had a week, but then we had a day, and then we completely humbled ourselves and acknowledged that there was no possibilty in translating this piece of material. We talked with her, michael, and her friend who gave the translation to us, and we had got it all figured out to where we didn't have to do the translation. We are always looking for service, and it seems hard to come by, but when it does come, it is very difficult (or impossible) to continue or finish.

It's hot again here, but also very windy today. I am having a really good time here, and I am also getting to a point of fairly good understanding. I can understand the essence of almost everyone that talks to me, depending on their age, and what they are talking to me about. Speaking could still be a little better, but I feel like that will just come with time.

We have been talking a lot about priesthood, temples, families a lot recently since the temple in the Ukraine is about to open up. We are really blessed to have a few temples fairly close by back at home, and someday, people all across the world will not have to go far just to visit the temple. Remember the great blessing, beauty, and importance of the temple. By going there, we can save ourselves by also saving others. I love you all. Bye.- Elder Larson

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Zone Conference-July 2010

(Elder Hans Larson is Left and Center)

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010

Hello Family!
It sounds like everyone is doing well. that is very exciting how you are going to Havasupai again. That was one of my most favorite trips. (The mission) It really is a blessing and so greatly exciting. You are excited to leave on a mission before hand, and it feels just like life when you are going through it, but when you look back on specific experiences, blessings, and realize the work you're doing, the importance really hits you. Your testimony also continuously grows on the mission, and you realize how important it is to live the Gospel and follow Chirst. We have had some really exciting things happen because that boy is inviting his friends to hear the Gospel. It is really great that Elder S Larson will have that baptism going on. I am staying again in Kurgan for this next transfer, so we plan to baptize Mike on Aug. 7. He still has to quit smoking, but he is really accepting, learning, and sharing everything really well. This is my first city, and this will be my 3rd transfer here. I will also be in another threesome, as my companion (Elder Pearson) is staying here with me, but we are also getting another missionary (Elder Olson). He was one group ahead of me in the MTC, so I got to know him a little bit.

This week has been good. It has actually been a little cooler here the past week, and there has been some cloud cover and wind. We met another boy interested to hear the Gospel, and he also speaks very good English. We will probably need to teach him in Russian, but he understands a lot of English, and he wants us to teach him in English in order to practice. We seem to connect a lot better with the young people whenever their interested. I think their minds are a lot open to different ideas, and they are willing to search and learn rather than just accepting things as they are or as they have been told. What is great about our church is it really is all about learning and revelation, and it is amazing that you can receive answers to your questions, no matter what they are. I am starting to understand quite a bit now. I know it sounds like that everytime, but I do continuously get better. We went to get pancakes though at a restaurant, and the lady used some food or drink terms, and I didn't understand a word she says. Maybe I need to be more accustomed to those kind of foods and drinks that have unique names. I only have short time, but I love you all. Bye.-Elder Larson

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

Hello Family!
There are many nationalities here in Russia, although you can only tell a few apart. As heard from others, there are different cultures in different areas of Russia, and when people move within Russia, they seem to take the culture with them. Most people generally look the same, but there are definately categories that you can say people look like. There are also People that moved to Russia from different areas of former USSR. There are people from Khazaksthan and other -stani countries or even some Asian countries (possibly Mongolia). These people look asian, and they are dark. You have the standard Russian people who are generally white, but some have a dark tint to their skin, making them look almost Mexican. Other Russians are light skin with dark hair and crystal blue eyes. There are also many Russians with light hair, eyes, and skin. Most Russians are not very tall, but they are usually bulky. Russians seem strong, and you see every so often, really big Russians. There are also Bashkirians and Tatarians that live in Russia, and they look more Asian. I have only seen 1 black person on the street. It is rare to see, but there are more in different areas of Russia. Some are from Africa. There are many Jehovah's Witnesses here, and we are often mistaken for them. There are also many Muslims here.

The dress here is about the same as America for the older generations. In general, dress is a lot looser in certain modesty aspects, but not really a whole lot different than America. The young women have a modern style of dress (it looks like America to me), but the boys dress differently. The boys were a lot of sport slick tops and bottoms. Boys and men also wear short shorts and fish net shirts (which is completely normal). There is a hairstyle here were it is commonly popular to keep the hair bangs long, and wear hair in kind of a mullet. Men wear a lot of nice pointy dress shoes, and they really try to make themselves look nice. In terms of piercings-For the young men, it is very rare to see people with pearcings, at least more so than in America. Many people have tattoos, just like it is in America. I do not see extremes in style here as nearly often as in America, but in general, people look the same as in America, except racial diversity is more greatly evident in America.

The exciting thing that happened this week is we got to meet with Mike again, the boy who is smart. This week we met with him 5 times, and he is great. He keeps every commitment we give him, he prays, reads, and wants to learn and follow what we say. He has been sharing the gospel with acquaintances, and he is even making a good song about Joseph Smith. He is in a band, and he can play various instruments, and sing well too. Every time we meet, he is really great. We want to commit him either today or tomorrow for baptism, depending on whether we can meet with him today. He is very humble in everything, and it is fun just to speak with him, because he is focused on the right things in life. We will continue to meet with him more. We find out about transfers this week because this is the last week of this transfer, so hopefully I can finish the lessons with him regardless if I get transferred or stay. My visa expires on the 28 of July, so that means I have to go out of the country to get it renewed before that time. According to the current method and place, it only take about 2 days to complete the process, and I also get to go to the temple.

Everything sounds good back at home, and in Argentina. I had the opportunity to teach and think about Christ this week. Some people do not realize or access his atonement in full. Some people think living outside of the law is more free and liberating than living with guilt under the law. If we do truly realize the atonement, we recieve blessings of living within the law while being free of any guilt, because we can continually access the atonement. I know that Christ truly suffered for all my pains and sins, and I am grateful that we have the knowledge ability to be forgiven. Let us always forgive others, and share with them the great message we possess. I love you all. Bye- Elder Larson

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5, 2010

Hello Family!

Thank you for the happy Fourth of July. It truly is a great day, and I have become more grateful for our freedoms since I have been in Russia. It sounds like great things are going on at home, and the wedding plans are really coming into place so that all will turn out dandy. It is also great that you are all recognizing those blessings the Lord has given you. It is important to keep the Ammon attitude and be prideful in the Lord. He truly does pour on the blessings. Some real great things are happening here. We had our zone conference in Tyumen. It was excellent, and it address probably every concern and trouble that was on my and my companion's mind. It is really great that we can trust our church leaders, and that they receive revelation from God specifically for us. It really was a good time there. The bus ride back was interesting though. We only had one, two minute break for the 3 hour ride, and the bus driver felt like he was driving slow. My companion fell asleep, but he told me when he woke up, he questioned whether we were moving at all. It was pretty funny when he told me about that.

It did rain today. Forecast was accurate. It often rains here in the mornings or in the nights. It rained this morning, and now it is humid and partly sunny outside. I have been hearing that it starts to cool down starting in August, so I will be sure to tell you when it starts getting cold.

We had an amazing experience on the bus. A young man comes up to us wondering about English club. He said he didn't think he spoke english that well, until he started speaking in near-perfect English. He is 16 years old. On top of English club, he said he wanted to learn about the Gospel. We wrote his number down, and thought the experience was great. Yesterday, we again met with him. Come to find out, he must be a near genius because he knows Russian, English, French, Spanish, and German. He plays multiple instruments, and he always excels in school. To earn a little extra money, he gets paid for writing articles on various topics. He said he knows there is a god, but he was fed up with the Orthodox religion. He wants something new, and he was particularly interested in an "American religion" He was struck to find out that we pray from our hearts, and he was a humble, personable boy. We meet with him again tomorrow, so we are really excited. As we were walking to meet him, another person asked us who we were, and we set up a meeting with her as well.

чтобы показать вам что-то по-русский, я решил писать. That says, "In order to show you something in Russian, I decided to write." I understand a fair bit now, but it is still difficult to speak well. I want to start working on that, so that I can better communicate to people. I do learn a lot though, and I am really excited to be here. It was fairly difficult to find those keys on the keyboard to type it though.

My companion is really great. He works hard, he is funny, and he is obedient. We are really working hard here in Kurgan, and he told me he would like to serve with me again.

Something I learned this week- We are reading in the Book of Mormon together as a mission, and we are almost done. Yesterday I read something in Ether though. It talked about faith, and said that anything is possible with faith. Even if our goals don't seem like they can happen, or we begin to become doubtful, turn that around. We don't know the Lord's plan, and he works in mysterious ways. Work hard, in faith in everything that you do, and the Lord will bless you and make up the rest. Even if things happen that we didn't have in mind, he lifts us up and blesses us with those things that will most definitely be better for us. I love you all. Bye. -Elder Larson