Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Don't Forget Your Sword

To start off this email, I'll greet you all with a taste of my companion's Yorkshire lingo: "Aye up, monkeys?"

Well, the good news is Elder McEwen and I survived the transfers plague and we're sticking around for another one in Peckham! There was almost no chance of us getting moved, but our district is having some new changes. We're getting Elder Rivera who just got released from AP, and we're also getting Elder Reynolds, who was my second companion. I'm psyched to keep working here with all these great missionaries! Peckham has no idea what's coming.

Now for some not so awesome news. We don't dwell on the negatives in missionary work--or in life at all--but I feel that these experiences can provide valuable insight for you all on the ups and downs of missionary life because it's not all flowers and butterflies. I mean, let's be real!

The not so good news is that Michael, our one solid investigator, is becoming a flake! He's not keeping his commitments and he's not showing a whole lot of desire to progress. We're absolutely devastated, especially since he's the first person we spoke to and taught as a companionship. Hope and pray that he makes a turn around! But, the grind continues and we still sift through large numbers of people trying to find the elect and prepared. We're literally doing everything we can to build our area and firing on all cylinders, so I hope this next week will be different. It needs to be if we are to baptize this upcoming transfer.

The most devastating part of the week was yesterday. We had a solid appointment with what seemed to be a solid investigator so we were super excited to teach this guy the Restoration. He let us in and it turns out he had even invited his friend! We thought he was absolutely golden and couldn't help but smile. As we began teaching, I felt something weird in the air and I become somewhat suspicious. This guy's responses were too spot on to be normal and he had also served us water without even offering us tea of coffee...and everybody in England offers you tea and coffee. So this guy obviously knew a fair bit about us. Eventually the truth came out and this guy proceeded to teach US the Restoration in chronological order. I didn't have a clue what was going on. Finally he presented us with loads of anti-Mormon material that he found online and tried to fall the church by disproving the divinity of the Book of Mormon--which can't be done! Elder McEwen checked out because he didn't have a clue what was going on either. So it was all on my shoulders to sort things out. I did the best I could to explain the answers to all of his concerns, but he was past feeling and wouldn't accept anything I said. I finally just bore my testimony to him, invited him to take the Book of Mormon seriously and ask God if it's true, packed up and left. I was pretty frustrated, but my faith wasn't shaken. I know who I am and I know the experiences I've had.

Some people are relentless in rebelling against the truth, so we have to be relentless in protecting it. Some of the most relentless fighters of truth are found in the Book of Mormon. From studying their strategies and tactics, we can know how to counter Satan's work and his cunning devices. Knowing this is like knowing the opposing team's game plan, which of course is a huge advantage! Jacob, a Book of Mormon prophet, was able to stand firm when faced with opposition because he remembered the experiences he's had. We've got to do the same! We may not have seen visions, but we need to remember the times that we've felt the Spirit and trust that they are from God. Remember, remember, remember! In order to do this, we must always record spiritual experiences. If you don't feel like you have any spiritual experiences to hold on to, then read the Book of Mormon. Our companionship has a good way of remembering the Book of Mormon. Each morning as we leave the flat to proselyte, we look at each other and say "don't forget your sword, Elder!" That usually leads to one of us having to run back to the flat and grab a Book of Mormon to carry. I think there's an important lesson in that and there is definitely power in the book.

On top of that, we met a Book of Mormon hero this week. If any of you have ever seen the mormon message called "A Book of Mormon Story", then the name Chris Cook will sound familiar to you. He lived just down the road in Clapham and he attended our ward this week! Everybody knows who he is, so I had to get a picture with him. Proper Mormon celebrity, and a great teacher. If you haven't seen the video, watch it! It takes place in my area.

Hope these words have helped you along in your own journey, wherever in the world you may be. Hope you have a great week, and don't forget your sword! Take care.

Love, Elder Thomas


Chris Cook!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fruit Ninja & Running

Hey, brothers & sisters!

That's it, another week come and gone! God has been so good to us this week...cannot believe how much we've seen His hand! He's literally taken us and hooked us up to the celestial firehose of knowledge and blessings. That's how we feel! Most nights, Elder McEwen and I roll into the flat, climb into bed, and just lay there reviewing the day and talking about how merciful God is and marvel at how insignificant and undeserving we are when compared to His eternal glory. I'm so excited to share a couple of the lessons I've learned this week!

As some of you may know, before the mission I was fit enough to run pretty well, and even ran the Moab half marathon. To be able to do that, I think it's safe to say I was in pretty good shape! I may have been able to brag then, but it's amazing what can happen in a matter of 18 months. Since then there have been big, big changes. I'm nowhere near good shape right now because I haven't run at all on my mission, apart from when we're late for an appointment or when we're chasing after a bus. I now have a missionary body, and having a car in my  previous area only deepened the wound. So, after much pondering, and having come to an honest realization of my current physical state, I've resolved to take initiative. I'm calling it "six months to shape". The goal is to run every other morning for the rest of my mission and to keep that habit when I return home. Fortunately, I have a companion who is a dead set champion and is willing to go through this with me! In a few weeks time, I hope to be in good enough shape to be able to run from our flat to the London Eye with ease. Pretty sure it's around 3 miles. Wish me luck. As I was trying to run one morning, I likened the whole out of shape thing to a spiritual sense. I went from being able to run well to not being able to run at all in a very short time because I stopped doing the basics. I didn't train for anything and to be honest, it never really crossed my mind. The same can apply to our personal conversion: we can be what some call "spiritual giants", but if we cease to put in practice the vital elements of the gospel, we can experience spiritual depletion and even total atrophy. Like the muscles of the body, faith must be exercised frequently and consistently if it is to grow. In the end, our faith is either growing, or depleting. We decide how strong our testimonies are. Being spiritually in shape comes from fervent prayer. It comes from daily scripture study. It comes from keeping the commandments willingly. It comes from diligently living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This I know to be true because I have learned it through my own experiences. I hope I never forget that important lesson!

Many other great things happened this week, but due to lack of time they will have to be shared another day! One cool thing was playing real life fruit ninja. I took a knife and an apple from the counter and sliced it in mid air. The unthinkable happened: it was cut in perfect symmetry! Not just the apple itself, but the stem as well! Elder McEwen reckons the odds of that are about 1 in a billion. Couldn't do it again if I tried. Elder McEwen had previously refused to be my valentine, but after watching that he accepted. Happy late Valentine's Day!

Hope these thoughts and experiences help or strengthen you in some way. It definitely brings me joy to share them with you! Love you all, and take care!

Love, Elder Thomas


Fruit ninja!

The London Eye

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Hello again, brothers & sisters!

Well, being a missionary in London is an absolute dream. I don't mean to brag, but I think it's safe to say that serving in London is every missionary's dream! Even though most days are cloudy (like today) and the sun hardly ever shines here, we are so happy right now with all the progress we are making individually and as a companionship. Wish I could put you on "Elder Thomas Video" so you could see things here with my eyes, but I guess this email will suffice.

One of the biggest miracles is my companion. I really wish you all could see the changes in my son! Completely different person now than who he was when he came out. Elder McEwen grew up in Sheffield, England, so of course he was subject to a much stronger type of peer pressure and unrighteousness influences than those who grew up in the Utah "bubble" like I did. Pressure like that causes people to either sink down with sin or rise up with faith. Fortunately, Elder McEwen chose the latter and that decision has led to a full-time mission! He describes that despite that, however, he was still what people here might call a "chav", or a crazy teenager who likes to party. That Elder McEwen is gone though and has been replaced by a faithful and spiritually-minded disciple of Christ. The change in him is unmistakeable, and so is the cause of it: the teachings of Christ found in the Book of Mormon. It's nearly impossible to get his nose out of that book! I may be a witness of the change in Elder McEwen, but Elder McEwen is now a living witness of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do to somebody. This transformation still continues and has strengthened my testimony beyond measure. Love my son!

I've found a lot of joy from the scriptures this week as well! Of course I've been reading in the Book of Mormon, but lately I've found myself in the Old Testament as well. As I've read from both Books, I've learned about how many similarities there were between the children of Israel (God's ancient covenant people) and the people in the Book of Mormon. They have loads of the same rituals, traditions, culture, and even government structure! Another similarity is the evidence of dispensations and apostasies throughout both records. But the greatest similarity is that both groups of people were led by God to a promised land. When the people kept the commandments and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they progressed in their journey. When they failed to obey, they were punished with a lack of progression. The same principle applies in our own lives: when we obey God and his messengers, we progress spiritually and "prosper in the land", but when we neglect the commandments, we remain stagnant and there is no progression. What a comfort is is to know that there is an all knowing God in heaven who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes, and neither does His love for us. He loves His children now just as He did in times of old. He wants us to progress and He wants to lead us home to the Celestial Kingdom--the promised land. These are things that I know!

Also, almost forgot to mention that the Catford Elders had a baptism this week! We decided to celebrate by going out for "kebabs", which are difficult to explain but are really good. Hence, "kebabtism!"

The Gospel is real and the Church is true! Thanks so much for all you do! Go do something awesome this week!

Love, Elder Thomas


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Fufu and a Sister's Mission

Hola, que tal amigos?

Elder Thomas here, reporting from London Town. This week has been monumental in my mission. It's the week that if I were a sister, I would be finishing my mission. With the 18 month checkpoint, I've been reflecting on my time as the Lord's servant in England. I could not have imagined my mission to be any better than it has been so far. The people, the lessons, the miracles, the companions, the areas, the blessings. I'm speechless just thinking about it. Things just couldn't have turned out this way if the power of God wasn't on the earth. This is a sacred work, although it's run by basically kids like me--which brings up another good point--there is no way an organization as large as this could be managed by 18 and 19 year old kids without burning to the ground unless God was involved. This truly is the work of God!

Had some great miracles this week amidst great trials. Not only the weather fought against us this week, but so did the food. The ward is nearly all African people, who have a very strong culture. A large part of their culture is the food they eat, and their favorite food to eat is called fufu. Don't know if you know what that is, put it's basically a doughy lump of flavored flour and oil dipped in a meaty soup. Sounds pretty interesting, eh? My definition's probably not accurate, so you're best off looking it up. But it's exotic stuff! Basically, I tell a lot of Africans I meet that I like it as a way to "break the ice" and soften them up a bit, but my companion absolutely despises it and never fails to voice it. So everywhere we go I'm pulling for fufu and he's tearing it down. His efforts were in vain, however, because we were fed fufu almost every day this week! I got to admit, I was a bit sick of it after round three or four but it just kept coming. Elder McEwen, being the musical genius he is, is planning to form a band called "Fufu fighters" after his mission. He's a passionate man!

Had a pretty good exchange with another missionary from my group yesterday--Elder Green from Down Under. He's a very diligent missionary who takes the work very seriously. We worked Peckham hard! Had a good time with him but couldn't take him seriously the entire time because whenever he talks I feel like I'm watching a commercial for Outback Steakhouse. Either that or Steve Erwin.

Highlight of the week was definitely John Paul's baptism. Remember him? He's the golden man we were teaching in Richmond. Well, he got baptized last Saturday! Sadly I couldn't be there in person, but I got to Skype in so I was definitely there in Spirit. Technology is such a tender mercy! I got to speak to JP afterwards and he was happier than I've ever seen him. Not only is he now a member of God's church, but he's also engaged to a member and well on his way to the next step: temple!  So grateful to have taught him for so long.

I've had to relearn some lessons this week. I realized that we weren't involving the Spirit in the work as much as we should be. I was pretty frustrated because the very first lesson I learned on my mission is the importance to always involve the Spirit in everything you do...thought I'd mastered that, but it needs some fixing up! The Holy Ghost is always willing to assist us, but we have to be humble enough to let it guide our feet and our words, especially in order for effective missionary work. This is why worthiness, obedience, faithfulness, and humility are all essential elements of following the Spirit. Elder McEwen and I have resolved to let the Spirit guide us in our efforts instead of expecting the Spirit to follow us. Doesn't work that way! But I guess the gospel is one of repetition. God is good!

I'm extremely grateful for all of you! Sure do love ya!

Love, Elder Thomas


Imperial War Museum

Skyping in to John Paul's baptism

John Paul's baptism

The Shard

The process of eating fufu