Monday, December 28, 2015

More pubs at Christmas-time

Hey everyone!

Hope you guys all had an awesome, spiritual, fun Christmas! I'm sure it was. Mine was very eventful and I definitely understood Christmas this year, not just enjoyed it. I didn't really expect Christmas on the mission to be all that great, but it turned out pretty great! Here's all the stuff that happened.

Instead of having correlation on Tuesday, we moved it to Christmas Day. So on Tuesday we had a ward mission team mission party at the Oxford chapel. The main event was a competition to see who could eat a mouthful of English candy the fastest (see picture)... basically the English version of "fluffy bunny." I won...must have a pretty big mouth.

On Wednesday I woke up feeling the Christmas spirit, but when I looked at the date I realized something: It was Joseph Smith's birthday! If my calculations are correct, he turned 210. So I decided to celebrate! I studied and read about him all day, and sang happy birthday to him. I brought it up in district meeting, and we thought that we should have birthday lunch for him at Pizza Hut with the whole district. So we did! It was great, even though Joseph never showed up...must be busy up there. We consumed over 70 pieces of pizza as a district, and the workers looked nervous because they were probably running out of pizza! We were full for the next couple days.

Christmas Eve was pretty crazy, we had another bar incident. We brought some presents to Candace and her coworkers because they've bought us loads of hot chocolate lately, and as they were closing down their technology shop for the week, they invited us to come to the pub with them. We never pass up an opportunity to teach people, so we went! A bunch of other people joined us as we went in. We met Candace's husband, who is a really cool guy. He was really interested in the whole mission thing so maybe we'll be able to teach him sometime. We gave a couple of Book of Mormons to the coworkers there and one of them wants to come to church with us! It was a good time. They all had their beers and we had our squash. Later that night, the Didcot Elders came to sleep over, and it was just like old times! We played card games and messed around until like midnight or something. The Fantastic Foursome lives on.

We went to the Sutton's house for Christmas day. We played a lot of scum (card game), ate lots of food, and opened lots of presents. A little bit later we decided to swing by to sing to the Rathbones and see how they were doing. I sang very quietly because while I can't sing, Elder Raveneau has the voice of a beautiful, French, angelic swan. The Rathbones had an awesome Christmas! Their two boys had nerf guns and were thrilled when I let them shoot me. We have high hopes for that family. On Saturday they texted us and said that they have started praying! I hope I don't leave next week so I can continue to teach them.

Christmas was great and all, but the best part of it was getting to talk to my family over Skype. It felt so good to catch up with them and tell them all about my mission experience. I'm really grateful for them because I wouldn't be here without them! Because I was away from my family this Christmas, I realized the importance of them. That's what helped me to understand and feel the Christmas spirit. It's been an amazing week and I love the mission! Have a great week and Happy New Years!

Love, Elder Thomas

Celebrating Joseph Smith's birthday at Pizza Hut

Found a minion on the street

Candace - drinking squash

With Candace and her coworkers

Christmas morning with the boys

Christmas morning

Playing scum at the Suttons

Eating English candy at the Christmas party

Monday, December 21, 2015

District contacting and Santa!


You'll be surprised to hear that the weather has been better here in England than it is in Utah! Haven't seen a flake of snow and it's not too cold right now. The weather is so weird here. If you've ever thought God is confusing, wait until you see England! It's so unpredictable.

Since it's Christmas time, everybody is SO busy! We are having a hard time talking to people on the street because they're always rushing around. The funny thing is that most people we do talk to say they hate Christmas! Witney is pretty much full of Scrooges right now. We've been taking advantage of the holiday season by knocking every house with Christmas decorations on it. Even some of those people say they hate Christmas! What?!

Our district devised a cunning plan...a Christmas stand in the middle of Oxford! So on Saturday we all went to city center and set up camp. We were playing the new Christmas video on a big speaker for everybody to hear. I had one job: bring every person in Oxford to the Christmas stand (see pictures). I've never spoken to so many people in my whole life! It was crazy. Although there were some Scrooges, there was some success. We gave out 30 copies of the Book of Mormon in total! I invited one dude to the ward Christmas Party that night, and he came! He really enjoyed the food, but I'm sure he felt the spirit as well. Santa made an appearance as well, and I managed to get a picture with him. Never too old for Santa!

Weekly update on the Rathbone family! We had a killer lesson with them on Friday evening. We decided to start off with The Coat: a video from the Mormon Channel. It's my favorite video because I feel the Spirit every time I watch it. It really set the tone, and the Spirit was there. We also showed "Dare to Stand Alone" to introduce them to the prophet. They love the prophet! Simon said that Thomas S. Monson looked familiar to him. We also taught the Ten Commandments and the Law of Chastity. Somehow the lesson shifted to the topic of the Holy Ghost. We showed them the Pattern of Light videos by Elder Bednar, and again the Spirit was there. I stopped the lesson and asked them if they felt that. Simon said he felt good, and I testified that it was from the Spirit. Imm said she had been feeling that every time she read the Book of Mormon. She also said that she has noticed a change in herself for the better. Again, I testified of the reality of the Spirit. She was so happy to hear that! We invited them to be baptized, but we won't let them answer until they have pondered and prayed about January 2nd as a date. They are so happy and so ready! They also came to church on Sunday.

This week, remember what Christmas is all about. As I've been working in Witney, I have seen a bunch of signs that say "X-mas." Think of what you can do to put the "Christ" back in Christmas. What can you give to Him? Maybe it's your time. Maybe it's your actions. Maybe it's your heart. The Savior of the world was born in such a humble setting because he had no other place to go. Nobody made room for him, but you can! Be sure to make room for Christ this year, because he is Christmas. He was born over 2000 years ago, and I know that he still lives today. Have a great week and Merry Christmas from England!


Elder Thomas

District contacting in Oxford

Oxford at Christmas-time

Swindord Bridge


Monday, December 14, 2015

Temple Trip, Reactivation, and Olympic Champions

Hey guys!!

Alright! This week was nuts. Lots of miracles, lots of piano, and lots of trains. On Tuesday we went to Reading for zone conference and it was awesome. My zone leaders are Elder Richins and Elder Rivera and they are studs. Pretty sure Elder Richins is going to be a prophet someday so watch out for him...but I got to play the piano for the whole meeting! I'm the only one in the zone who can play the piano so it's pretty nice. I also played piano in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday...never done that before! But I left zone training with fire in my bones, and the next day we taught a lady named Tina and she is set to be baptized on January 2! White Christmas coming right up.

Wednesday night we slept over at the Oxford Elders' flat because we had to wake up early to go to the temple. Sleep overs are always fun and make for the best conversations. Elder Watson, the Scottish guy was there so I had him imitate Austin Powers all night. Good times! The next morning we took a train to the temple. We went through London but had no time to go anywhere...I only managed to get a picture of the Shard! We got to the temple and it was amaaaazing! Such a nice one. It felt good to go because I've been having temple withdrawals.
We had lunch afterwards and President Gubler taught an amazing lesson on hearing the music of the Gospel. We can do the "dance," or go through the motions all day but unless we align our will with God's, we won't hear the "music," or happiness that the Gospel brings! President Gubler is the best. I always leave his lessons feeling great--even though it was a 3 hour train ride home.

Although the Rathbones weren't able to make it to church on SundayCandace came! Candace is the less active lady from Las Vegas who we found. She hasn't been to church for a few years, but she loved church and wants to be active again! Everybody in the ward loves her, her testimony is still strong, and it was a total miracle to find her! I'm excited to have her in the ward. The Rathbones are coming to church this Sunday, and they're also having us over for dinner on Friday. Imm is making Thai food so we'll see how it is.

Inspirational quote of the week goes to Jonathan, one of our investigators. His wise words came as we were sharing a message about Jesus Christ. At one point in the lesson he sat back, pondered for a few seconds, and then said: "So...Jesus is like....THE OLYMPIC CHAMPION OF GOODNESS!" Even though he was totally serious, I couldn't help but laugh!

Anyways, hope it's been a fantastic week for you. I love my mission and I really think it's the best place to be (I may be biased). It was such a good, spiritual week! It's the Season of Miracles in the Witney area, and we are going to give Heavenly Father a White Christmas. Cheers from Witney!

Love, Elder Thomas

#seasonofmiracles #whitechristmas

zone conference

St Thomas street in Oxford

Me and Elder Raveneau at the London Temple

The London Temple
The fantastic foursome lives on!

Mind the Gap in London

In Victoria Station

The shard way off in the distance

The tube was crowded

Can you find Elder Thomas?

Elder Raveneau with our Christmas tree

Monday, December 7, 2015

JWs and Christmas time

 Hey guys! 

Hope everybody's having an awesome Christmas time. I love this time of year! Even in England I can feel the hype of Christmas because everybody is psyched!

Well, it's December. I didn't think I'd make it this far! But this week has been pretty crazy. One day we we started talking to a guy who seemed to know a lot about us Mormons. Come to find out he's a Jehovah's Witness and had previously studied the Book of Mormon...obviously not sincerely. We could have easily slammed him, but I let him talk because I really want one of the new translation bibles: not to read, but to mark it up for scriptural warfare and to use their own book to contradict them! Elder Raveneau has taught me everything to know about talking with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't want to bash, but at the same time I want to walk away with honor! They're actually pretty nice people and they're fun to talk to. Anyways, he didn't have a Bible but it was cool to talk to him. His name is Graham.

One of our investigators, Jonathan, has also been talking to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Of course, because he's having lessons from them and from us at the same time, he's completely confused! Hopefully he'll come around as we continue to teach him, but it's so tempting to explain to him where the JWs are wrong! But It's waaaayy more effective just to explain the doctrine of our true church and let him feel the spirit. No contest!

Alright, the Rathbones! They have been very busy with Simon's broken hand, Imm's birthday, and their anniversary, but we were able to visit them on Friday night. As we were planning the lesson, the Spirit told us to bring Ian, a recent convert, with us. Ian is a super solid guy with a super solid testimony. A complete animal. In fact, he got baptized last year and has already read the Book of Mormon 5 times! Bringing him was a good choice...he tore it up. The Rathbones are in the same situation that he used to be in: He used to be Atheist, then he was Agnostic, and then he believed! He had also studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses--so have the Rathbones! The lesson could not have gone better. Everything made sense to them and they are keeping their commitments. Ian finished the lesson by bearing a bold testimony that the church is true! It was a spiritual bomb indeed. The Rathbones have committed to keep coming to church, reading the Book of Mormon, and last but not least: they have decided to pray. We really want to see them get baptized. They are also having us over for dinner and a lesson on the 18, coming to the ward Christmas Party on the 19, and coming to church on the 20. Can you say golden? :D

HUGE shoutout and thank you to the Burnett family for the package! It made me so so happy, especially when I found the pumpkin spice cookie mix. The Burnetts know me too well! So thank you so much! Also, thank you to Grandma for sending me a keyboard, with which I am now able to type and email with incredible speed.

I also found out that we stop in London on our way to the temple on Thursday. We only have an hour or so there but I'll try to get some nice pictures of good old London for you.

Funny/weird thought of the week: Brother Sutton always comes up with strange yet hilarious things. I don't know how he does it, but it kills me every time. His latest obsession are honey badgers. Don't ask why! He really wants to be one because I guess if one gets bitten by a deadly snake, it just goes into a 24 hour coma and then wakes up fine. They are invincible. One night he had a dream about a honey badger named Ragnor: the battle-hairy viking honey badger of the north. He's big enough to be the north land and has a tribe of indigenous elves living on his back. So weird, but that's Brother Sutton for you.

That's all for this week! Lot's of work, fun, progress, joy, and Jehovah's Witnesses! Have a good week and I'll talk to you soon, chaps!

Love Elder Thomas

Kara Burnett's famous pumpkin spice muffins

The ward dream team

The elders and the Sutton crew

The sun!  Long time no see!

Game time

Representing my school

Christmas candy contacting

Monday, November 30, 2015

Lost in the wilderness

Hey guys!

Hope you guys had a good Thanksgiving! Since there's a bunch of Americans in the ward, there was a big party at the Oxford Chapel and it was awesome. So don't worry because I didn't miss thanksgiving this year :) I had my fair share of food. I had some good turkey and pie and probably gained a few pounds (not currency). It was nice.

This week was pretty good. We set some transfer of them is to baptize the Rathbones! Hopefully it happens before Christmas. Imm (the mom) is just about ready and she loves the Book of Mormon. It's really cool. They couldn't come to church this week but hopefully they'll come next week and then get baptized in the next couple Saturdays!

One day we went out to a town called Hailey to see one of our potential investigators. It was too dark to go on the busy streets so we had to take shortcuts through fields and stuff. Eventually our iPads stopped telling us where to go, so we didn't know what to do since it's a serious journey from Witney. We eventually got there, knocked on the door (she didn't answer), and started back. We got lost again! We made a wrong turn somewhere and had no clue where to go. We said a prayer to know what to do and started walking again. Eventually we saw the unmistakable lights of Witney! We thought we were out of trouble and it was fun and all... until we got stuck in the mud! It has been raining a ton lately so mud was everywherrre. We might have ruined our shoes. Sorry mom! I know that's a pretty cliche prayer story, but it was still amazing. We probably could have found a different way home somehow, but Heavenly Father helped us make it back in time to get to our lesson with our investigators. Prayer and faith work every time!

Not much else happened this week, it was pretty boring so sorry for the short email! Things will get interesting next week because we are going to commit our investigators to baptism. It's going to be a white Christmas and not because of snow!  Plus, we get to go to the temple on the 10th so I'm excited for that! Thanks for the emails, I love hearing from everybody! Sorry if I didn't respond, we were short on time today and it's tough to type on this iPad. Anyways, have a good week! Talk to you l8er.

Love Elder Thomas

Birthday card for Imm Rathbone

Muddy shoes!

Good times at Thanksgiving dinner

Brother Sutton

Pday at the Sutton's house

Tuesday, November 24, 2015



So transfers were this week. On Friday we got a call from president and...we're both going AP! Just kidding, we're not! In fact, none of us, not even the Didcot Elders are moving...which means that the fantastic foursome lives on! I'm pretty happy to be staying here because I think this is the best area in the mission. We have an awesome district and an awesome ward--which will be receiving an addition shortly. Elder Raveneau on the other hand has already been in this area for 8 months so he wasn't as thrilled as me to be staying. Personally, I'm glad he's staying because things are rolling here in Oxfordshire.

Looking back, it was a pretty good week. It only rained once! It started last Monday and ended yesterday.  People never left their houses, so it was tough to street contact this week. We did a lot of knocking which was a good change. The spirit really kicked in towards the end of the week and we had a bunch of lessons and some new investigators. On top of that, our current investigators are golden! We're teaching a man from Carterton named Jonathan who is looking for the truth. He's also studying with the Jehovahs Witnesses, but that won't be a problem. He's reading the Book of Mormon and praying so we just need to get him to church.

Speaking of church, the Rathbone family also came on Sunday! As you know, we found them as we were knocking a street which the Sutton family had prayed for where somebody would be baptized. They Suttons felt good about Teasel Way, and that's where we found the Rathbones. They are soliiiiid. But they enjoyed church even though kids were screaming and stuff and Simon even asked me to give him a blessing for his broken hand. I did so and they felt the spirit. Boom. Love that family! We are so tight with them--they even invited us over for dinner next month. It's been so cool to whitewash his area. We have built it up from scratch and it's now one of the most fruitful areas in the zone.

One day as we were walking through Witney, this lady ran up to us and asked us where our church was. I instantly recognised her Utah accent and told her I was from Utah as well! Long story short, her name is Candace and she's a less active member and wants to start coming back to church. We stop by and visit her at the phone shop where she works and share a thought with her every day. Her coworkers have been listening in and want to come to church as well. It's awesome!

It also got really chilly this week. It's nothing like Utah: this is humid. It feels like I'm swimming in ice and the wind goes right through my clothes. One day we froze while trying to find an investigator's home and walked for ages to find it. We always walk a lot every day, but we kept going and going and going until we were in the middle of nowhere and we froze!! Fortunately we found him and although we were cold, we didn't freeze. As President Gubler says, "many are cold, but few are frozen."

By the way, the 40 day fast works, folks! Elder Raveneau and I are doing it as a companionship to have the spirit with us and we have seen an increase in miracles. I want you to give it a try too. Just make a list of every thing you do that drives the spirit away and then just stop doing those things. Pretty simple. Just go for it and see what happens. You'll be a different person by the end of those 40 days.

Great things are happening. We got to go through the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford last week so that was cool.  It's one of the oldest libraries in Europe. And we're playing ping pong and soccer for P day today so I'm really excited about that.

That's all for this week, have a good one guys!

Love Elder Thomas

A guy was burned here a while ago

The Bodleian Library

At the Bodleian Library 

The district 

The shirt Jaden sent me

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sleepovers for zone conference and Robin Hood

Hey guys!

Alrighty! So not much happened this week.  Last week was crazy, but next week is going to be even crazier with transfers and everything. There's a 99% chance that I'm losing Elder Raveneau so it's going to be pretty sad because he's the best. He goes home in 3 months and he's not even trunky! The Paris attacks shook him up pretty good though so it hasn't been his best week...he only lives 3 hours from Paris.

We had a combined zone conference with president Gubler on Tuesday so we got to sleep over at the Didcot Elders' flat on Monday! It was so fun! We ate loads of pizza and had a blast. Elder Phelps is a party animal. It was just like old times--except I slept on the couch instead of the floor. Zone conference was in Staines, a town on the edge of London. Half of my MTC district was there so it was like a family reunion. One of them (Elder Baines) is still waiting on a visa to be sent to the Orem Utah Mission. He should be there soon--you'll know him when you see him! He's 6 foot 6, has an accent, and will probably be being fed. But zone conference was awesome! I got to play the piano the whole time and it felt good. But Elder Phelps took my thunder because he got to sing a solo--he killed it. Then President Gubler stole the show and told us that he had a revelation that our mission is going to have a season of miracles starting now. It's going to be a white Christmas! Later that night Brother Sutton took us out for McDonald's. It hit the spot.

Later in the week we went to see a recent convert named Ian Watkins. He's really cool! He lives in a small town called Woodstock, where Winston Churchill was born actually. Not only does he have a pet falcon, but he's also an archery national champion. And he's got a really stringy mustache. But he makes his own bows and arrows and wins every contest he competes in. He told me if I wasn't on a mission he would teach me. He's a modern Robin Hood!

On Friday I got to go on an exchange with Elder Wagaman. We did a lot of good work in one day and it was nice to be with somebody from Utah for a change! We had a good lesson with the Rathbone family, who are coming to church this Sunday. Hopefully we can get them baptized soon. I brought them some brownies so I'm on their good side right now.

I've been learning a ton lately, including how to cut my own hair. Elder Raveneau taught me how so I just buzzed it myself! I'll send a picture. 

That's about it though. I also decided to begin something called the 40 day fast. It's not fasting from food for 40 days, but from everything that takes the spirit away. So I made a list of every little thing I do that drives the spirit away. I want to find 40 things. Starting yesterday, I try to stop doing those little things. After 40 days, I hope I will be a different person. I won't be perfect, but I want to have the spirit as my constant companion so more miracles can happen. And guess what is 40 days from yesterday? Christmas. That's going to be my Christmas present to Jesus: a better Elder Thomas. I'm excited to do this, it's going to be awesome! And miracles will happen too.

Have an awesome week!

Love Elder Thomas

My new haircut

Selfie with some random missionaries at zone conference

Me, Elder Brown, Elder Baines and Elder Phelps

zone conference

Elder Raveneau wearing his Real Salt Lake shirt