Monday, December 28, 2009

A great Christmas indeed

Monday, December 28, 2009 0
So this past week was Christmas and it was a great one to say the least. Thanks for all the letters and packages everyone they were great!

This week we didn't get a lot of work done because we had to be home at 6 Christmas eve and Christmas day. But during the week we got a person to commit to baptism! His name is George and he is going to get baptized on January 3, which is this Sunday. So that was the exciting news with our investigators. Other than that nothing much else happened with the people who we are teaching. But since it was Christmas I got to call home and it was great. I got to talk to some of my extended family that I haven't seen or heard of for a long time! It was great. Even though I wasn't at home I really felt the spirit that was there as we were all celebrating the birth of the Savior. I'm so grateful to have a family and so grateful that we are all really close. Here in LA you don't see much of that and it was refreshing to talk to my family. It was funny because my parents thought that I only had like 5 minutes so they were passing the phone along really fast so i could talk to everyone haha. Gotta love those moments. But the time went by too fast it felt like 15 minutes when in fact it was about an hour. Gosh I miss you all but I know this is where I need to be.

I thought I'd share something from my journal today so here it goes:
In my personal study today I continued reading the New Testament to fulfill the mission challenge and once again something hit me that changed my view on the Savior and His atonement. In John 12 and in other parts of the New Testament there is a constant scripture in all the gospels and its something that goes along with the one in John, it says: "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. But what amazes me about the account in the gospel of John is what the Savior said afterwards. The Savior says, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?..." To me this shows the true humility that the Savior has towards our Heavenly Father for many reasons, but specifically because He has been given power and dominon over everything on this earth; yet He still seeks guidance from the one on high. How great of an example is that? To still maintain the same humility even when we have received everything. But the Savior doesn't stop there, he takes it a step further to show all mankind how we should act in our efforts to glorify the name of our Father. He said, "...Father, save me from this hour:but for this cause come I unto this hour...Father, glorify the name..." The Lord could have at this point caused a great sign to come forth for the welfare of others, but instead He follows the guidance of the Father just as we should take heed and listen to the spirit. In the Book of Mormon we also read of valiant men with true humility as well. When Nephi broke his bow he still searched and sought after the guidance of his father Lehi, even after the prophet himself had murmured against the Lord. Not to brownnose, not to gain power over him, but because we should always seek the counsel from those who are in higher authoity than us, even if we disagree. It's truly amazing how the Lord was perfect in every single way, even that of perfect humility.

Anyways I love and miss you all. It was hard being away from home but the mission is so worth it. I'm learning so much and I can't wait to share all the crazy experiences I had while I have been out here. Hope all is going well. Take Care.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's 75 degrees...this aint gonna be an ordinary christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009 0

This week has been an amazing week....not a lot of work done but we had a lot of special events that have been leading towards the Christmas day. But for some reason the weather hasn't necessarily agreed with the christmas season, none the less, it is one of the best times of the year.

On tuesday we had zone conference and of course it was centered on the season. We were read christmas stories, enjoyed everyones company, but the best part is that we had an AMAZING dinner haha. President Blackburn made a funny comment when his wife was reading the christmas story, he said, "all of your eyes were glued to her, if only I could get that attention" haha. Thought that was pretty funny, but I think one of the best talks that we heard that day was of President, he talked about the difference between the holy ghost and the light of christ. He first described the light of Christ and its purposes and said that it is a free gift given to all people by our Heavenly Father, to know the difference between right and wrong. It influences people to do good and it helps prepare us to receive the Holy Ghost. So in summary, its our conscience, but it most diffinitely not the Holy Ghost because the Holy Ghost cannot be in an unclean thing since its a member of the Godhead. He continued by saying, that the Holy Ghost witnesses of the Father and of the Son, just as the Father witnesses of both, and Jesus Christ witnesses of both, and it reveals and teaches the truth of all things. But the thing he said we need to remember is that it is a gift that solely is given if we are obidient to the commandments of the Lord, if we are not the guidance, the teaches, and our most loving companion goes away. At that point it I started thinking about the importance of being obidient and I imagined the the Holy Ghost leaving, and I picture Him in tears, not only in tears but sobbing. It reminded me of the Savior when He was on the cross and died for us and at His last breath He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And this leads me to my Christmas thought. During Christmas we have a lot of things to do and sometimes we loose track of why we are really here and what the reason for the season is for. President Monson shared this story and I really loved it, here it is:

"Many years ago I read of an experience at Christmastime which took place when thousands of weary travelers were stranded in the congested Atlanta, Georgia, airport. An ice storm had seriously delayed air travel as these people were trying to get wherever they most wanted to be for Christmas—most likely home.
It happened in December of 1970. As the midnight hour tolled, unhappy passengers clustered around ticket counters, conferring anxiously with agents whose cheerfulness had long since evaporated. They, too, wanted to be home. A few people managed to doze in uncomfortable seats. Others gathered at the newsstands to thumb silently through paperback books.
If there was a common bond among this diverse throng, it was loneliness—pervasive, inescapable, suffocating loneliness. But airport decorum required that each traveler maintain his invisible barrier against all the others. Better to be lonely than to be involved, which inevitably meant listening to the complaints of gloomy and disheartened fellow travelers.
The fact of the matter was that there were more passengers than there were available seats on any of the planes. When an occasional plane managed to break out, more travelers stayed behind than made it aboard. The words “Standby,” “Reservation confirmed,” and “First-class passenger” settled priorities and bespoke money, power, influence, foresight—or the lack thereof.
Gate 67 in Atlanta was a microcosm of the whole cavernous airport. Scarcely more than a glassed-in cubicle, it was jammed with travelers hoping to fly to New Orleans, Dallas, and points west. Except for the fortunate few traveling in pairs, there was little conversation at Gate 67. A salesman stared absently into space, as if resigned. A young mother cradled an infant in her arms, gently rocking in a vain effort to soothe the soft whimpering.
Then there was a man in a finely tailored grey flannel suit who somehow seemed impervious to the collective suffering. There was a certain indifference about his manner. He was absorbed in paperwork—figuring the year-end corporate profits, perhaps. A nerve-frayed traveler sitting nearby, observing this busy man, might have identified him as an Ebenezer Scrooge.
Suddenly, the relative silence was broken by a commotion. A young man in military uniform, no more than 19 years old, was in animated conversation with the desk agent. The boy held a low-priority ticket. He pleaded with the agent to help him get to New Orleans so that he could take the bus to the obscure Louisiana village he called home.
The agent wearily told him the prospects were poor for the next 24 hours, maybe longer. The boy grew frantic. Immediately after Christmas his unit was to be sent to Vietnam—where at that time war was raging—and if he didn’t make this flight, he might never again spend Christmas at home. Even the businessman looked up from his cryptic computations to show a guarded interest. The agent clearly was moved, even a bit embarrassed. But he could only offer sympathy—not hope. The boy stood at the departure desk, casting anxious looks around the crowded room as if seeking just one friendly face.
Finally the agent announced that the flight was ready for boarding. The travelers, who had been waiting long hours, heaved themselves up, gathered their belongings, and shuffled down the small corridor to the waiting aircraft: twenty, thirty, a hundred—until there were no more seats. The agent turned to the frantic young soldier and shrugged.
Inexplicably, the businessman had lingered behind. Now he stepped forward. “I have a confirmed ticket,” he quietly told the agent. “I’d like to give my seat to this young man.” The agent stared incredulously; then he motioned to the soldier. Unable to speak, tears streaming down his face, the boy in olive drab shook hands with the man in the gray flannel suit, who simply murmured, “Good luck. Have a fine Christmas. Good luck.”
As the plane door closed and the engines began their rising whine, the businessman turned away, clutching his briefcase, and trudged toward the all-night restaurant.
No more than a few among the thousands stranded there at the Atlanta airport witnessed the drama at Gate 67. But for those who did, the sullenness, the frustration, the hostility—all dissolved into a glow. That act of love and kindness between strangers had brought the spirit of Christmas into their hearts.
The lights of the departing plane blinked, starlike, as the craft moved off into the darkness. The infant slept silently now in the lap of the young mother. Perhaps another flight would be leaving before many more hours. But those who witnessed the interchange were less impatient. The glow lingered, gently and pervasively, in that small glass and plastic stable at Gate 67."
It is my wish that we have that same spirit, the right spirit of Christmas, that we don't loose track of why we are really learn and try to emulate the characteristics of the Savior. I know life isn't easy but neither was the Savior's, so why should it be easier for us when He sacrifced everything for us. I'm so thankful to be serving him for these two years and I can't wait to learn more about the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I witness that the spirit is with us because without it people would not be getting closer to him through our message. George, who lives with a less active, is going to get baptized January 3rd. I'm so excited for him and the best part is Lydia, the less active, is starting to come to church again! How amazing is that?!
I love you all and miss you all, as well. I know this is a special time to be with family but I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do and that is to solely serve him. There is nothing I'd rather be doing. I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and remember the reason for the season is the Savior, Jesus Christ.
With Love,
Elder Leavell

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting a hug from a drunk interesting event

Monday, December 14, 2009 0
Hello Hello everyone,

So this week was another awkward week since we had to plan around a bunch of things but it's amazing how the Lord has blessed the work, even though we haven't had a bunch of time to work.

This past week we have been working really hard on Luis, who is 14 and through teaching him I have discovered the tip of the ice berg of why I'm here in Los Angeles. Luis has been having the Jehovah Witnesses come over every wednesday to teach him english, so us coming over hasn't been the most ideal situation for him. As we were teaching him I felt like I was looking at myself, looking at the same situation that I was in as I was trying to discover what the Lord wanted me to do with my life. Luis, since he is young, doesn't really understand fully the importance of this is, but I know that the Lord has truly testified to him that this is His church. As we got to know him, he was really stuck on the teachings of the Jehovah Witnesses and wasn't really willing to change. But as I shared my experiences with him, the Lord blessed him through me so that he can could know that there was a need for change. We talked with him the other day and he asked the Jehovah Witnesses to stop coming over and he is reading the Book of Mormon. To me there is nothing greater than that :)

On thursday, we decided that we would go through the area book and see who is interested, who has moved, etc so that day we were meeting a lot of people. On our way to one of our appointments a guy yelled across the street, "are you the missionaries I've been looking for?"-And of course we said yes- so he ran up to us, well let me be more specific...he wobbled over to us to say hello. Now I've talked to drunk people but this man was TOTALLY gone. He kept saying "forgive me, forgive me" and since I was the only one who knows spanish I got the privalage to talk to him. As we were talking he admitted that he was drunk and that he has lost his family for it, and as I was talking to him he looked up at me and said "ángel podrias pedonarme?" (which means Angel will you forgive me?) and then he fell to my feet. I can't explain how awkward that was but what made it even more awkward was that a whole crowd of people were watching. Just my luck huh? SO....I asked him to stand up and told him that we should not worship anyone but God and that we must prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. He smiled and then said, "oh ángel yo se que hay un celebración y se llama...." and I said "Christmas." For some reason I thought that would help the situation but to make the story short, me filling in his words made him think I was more of an angel because I could read his mind and gave me a hug for a long time. But that got me thinking that maybe he did. Since we are representatives of the Lord, Jesus Christ, maybe he saw the Savior's countenance in me, even though he was drunk he still thought he saw something. So yeah that might have been awkward but I know that the Lord blessed him through me, just as what happened with Luis, and I pray that that man will see the need to change so that he can live with our Heavenly Father again.

I love you and miss you all! I pray that we may be blessed with the countenance of the Savior so that we may be able to bless the lives of others. I know the Church is true.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 7, 2009

Short Week

Monday, December 7, 2009 0
HELLLO FAMILY & FRIENDS! How have all of you been? How's the weather treating you? It's raining pretty hard here right now but other than that nothing too much has gone down. Since my last pday was on wednesday this has been a short week but A LOT of things have happened that I don't think I mentioned last time.

So wednesday and saturday we got to go to the temple and it was amazing! I think it was a little more special than normal because we have been trying to read the scriptures everyday in effort to try and finish our President's goal of reading the New Testament and Book of Mormon by New Years. Also, I have been reading some of the conference talks from this past general conference and hearing the sacrifices that many have made gave me more motivation to treasure the temple and the blessings we receive from it.The first time, on wednesday, I went with my zone and we had a really good time coming together as a zone and enter the House of the Lord. The second time we went with the Branch, and as normal it was all in ASL. But either way both times were amazing and I learned so much from both times I went.

But the best part of the week was our baptism that we had this last sunday! Her name is Ailinne and she is 9 years old and a daughter from an active member of the Branch. It was amazing! We had a couple of our investigators and recent converts come to the baptism and the spirit was so strong. It reminded me when I got baptized and how I felt the spirit after I was made clean in the eyes of the Lord. Even though it was a children's baptism, it reminded me of the times when the Savior blessed all the children that were there and encouraged us to become as a child. I know that the Lord is mindful of everyone but I also know that he is more mindful of His little children because of His actions when He was here on the earth, and to me that is something special.

For my spiritual thought I thought I would speak on something that I have learned in my reading. Recently I got to one of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon and it's Alma 26:11-12, it says: "11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." But something I hadn't remembered that came after Ammon's words was these scriptures that followed, in verses 34-37 it says: "34 For behold, they would take up arms against their brethren; they would not suffer themselves to be slain. But behold how many of these have laid down their lives; and we know that they have gone to their God, because of their love and of their hatred to sin. 35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name. 36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land. 37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen." As missionaries we are asked to bear witness of all the things we know to be true. And this is a perfect example. Yes, we go through hard times and yes, we might be struggling just to get by, but I know that we are being watched and I know it saddens the Lord when He sees us suffer because we won't rely on Him. I know that if we obtain that joy, the joy that Ammon had, we can obtain the fulness of joy and I know that it comes with relying on the Lord. I know this Church is true, I know that everything that we believe in is true, yes I might not understand it all, but who understands everything? So I challenge you to find that joy that Ammon had, to we may find that happiness and joy in the Lord, especially as Christmas is right around the corner. May we rejoice in our Savior's life and His glory.
Know that I love you all and that I miss you dearly. Know that I pray for you always and I only wish the best for all of you. I hope that I hear from all of you soon! Take care!
Elder Leavell

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And it was a Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 0
Hey how's it going? how was thanksgiving for all of you? I hope you "counted your blessings, and named them one by one." So this last week was a little bit longer because we didn't have your pday on the normal day of pday...but it was a great week, both finding new people and finding the true meaning of thanksgiving.

This past week I went on splits A LOT. I think I was in my own apartment 8 out of the 12 days, so I lived out of my suitcase. But I think that I have learned a lot from beings with the other Elders and finding a new way to do missionary work. Tuesday I had to go to 13 day training again, so that was the same old thing, except I went to the other meeting since I have been here for awhile. But my mission president pulled me out and decided to talk with me and it was great. I can't believe how inspired he is and I have come to know that he has been called from the Lord. We talked about the work and where he wanted me to be in the future, and not going to lie I'm a little nervous for the things to come. But I know that the Lord doesn't give any commandment unless we provides a way that we can overcome it. So hopefully I will be ready and prepared enough to do the things that he is going to ask me to do. Saturday I went on splits with my Zone Leader and it went great! Was nervous at first so that I didn't make any mistakes but I truely saw what the other programs are like. Wow. haha. That's all I can say. We tracted all day pretty much and it was hard trying to get people to listen and/or accept our cards. It just amazes me how people are so confused and are following silly traditions but then don't believe in it. But that is what we are hear for :)

Now for the personal things I have learned this past thanksgiving week. In spanish we say el Acción de Gracias, which the direct translation would be the action of thanks. And I think that I have truely understood the way we should be thankful for. With the challenge that our mission president has given us, which is to read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, before new years, all of us are crampt trying to finish both of them before that time. I'm starting to catch up but I'm still behind, but I came upon a scripture that we use as missionaries all the time. This scripture is Alma 34:38 and it talks about how the Holy Ghost works and how we should act upon it. I have read this scripture a million times and I think I have finally figured out how to apply it. "That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ (which is what we do when we get baptized); that ye humble yourselves even to the dust (we already have done that when we get baptized), and worship God (baptismal commitment again), in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." But I think that we forget the "live in thanksgiving daily" part and I have come to understand that it is the most important part. Because it also says "for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." That is the part that I have learned. When we pray we ask for blessings but how many times have we been blessed and not noticed what we already have? But that's not all. When we think of everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has dominion over, He is over everything but there is one thing, one specific that our Heavenly Father has asked us, His children, to do...and that's pray directly to him. Not to His Only Begotten Son, but directly to Him. Doesn't that put more perspective on how important prayer is? And doesn't that make it seem more important to say thanks for the things we already have to our Heavenly Father? I found that to be very impactful in my life, especially since the mission isn't the easiest thing in the world.
Here is a picture! Well I hope all is well, and I can't wait to hear from all of you :) Love you all and take care of yourselves! Oh and be happy!

Elder Leavell

Monday, November 23, 2009


Monday, November 23, 2009 0
Family & Friends,

How are you all doing? It's been another crazy week of course. But it's been a really inspiration experience to see how the Lord has prepared His children for us so that we may have the opportunity to teach them. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for me as the mission goes on.

On saturday I got the opportunity to go on splits with my district leader, which so happens to be my companion haha. I know that that day was a test of faith for the both of us to see if we would endure to the end of the day because we received the biggest blessing that day. Throughout the whole day we didn't have a single lesson, we tried to contact some people we hadn't met before and they were either busy or not home. It got really discouraging to see that we were having no success that day. But it all was in the purpose of the Lord. We were about an hour ahead of schedule and we were on our last backup, Juan, so as were driving to his house we were trying to think of people who lived in the area so that we could at least find one person but no one lived near him. We got there and he wasn't home but his aunt, Nancy, was home and said that Juan had gone to the store but would be back shortly. But for deaf people that means a long time. At that point, we had nothing else to do but try and see if the Nancy would be willing to hear our message. This is were the blessing comes in. I told her, "¿Señora ha eschucado del evangelio de Jesuchristo?" so in english "Mam, have you heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ?" And to my amazement she said, "no but my sister has heard it and I would like to hear it too." She continued to express that she knows her church is wrong, but needs to have that feeling that this Church is true. I bore my testimony and I shared Joseph Smith's first vision and we all knew that the spirit was there. The spirit was so strong and you could see in her eyes that she knew it. After that lesson, we were discussing and we noticed that if our day had gone any differently we would have missed the opportunity to meet her. Had we taught another lesson, had we given up and called it a day, we would have missed her.

And that is how life works, as well. We may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, we may think we are doing everything right and aren't seeing any success, but the Lord is fulfilling his word that he said in D&C 4-the field is white already to harvest. I know that if we can withstand our trials until the end that we will see and receive those blessings that are instore for us. If only it were that easy-to see those blessings instantly but it's not that easy. As I have been reading the Book of Mormon, I have noticed that mostly all of the people received their blessings instantly but most end up becoming prideful and later turn away from the Lord. Look at Laman & Lemuel, they received the promise of the promised land, they saw angels, they felt the power of God, but yet they still seemed to not have that faith to endure a short trial of being in the wilderness. I know this Church is true, I know that if we apply the teachings of the scriptures that our trials will be lightened. I know it because I have seen and experienced those blessings, despite all the trials and hardships I've gone through. All we have to do is trust the Lord with everything and then we got it made.

I love you all and miss you tons! I hope that you have a wonderful thanksgiving holiday and remember to look for those blessings that the Lord has given you, and then give thanks for them! But most of all remember to be happy! Take care.

Elder Leavell
P.S. Next week my pday is on wednesday, so email me before then!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Monday, November 16, 2009 0
So transfers were this week and...I got transferred out of the ASL program. It's all good I know that our President is an inspired man and knows what he is doing. I can't wait for the new adventures that this new transfer will bring...Haha just kidding. I'm still in the ASL program but we are in a threesome. Our new addition is Elder Lingam from Provo, UT. Great Elder, little shy but President said that he has confidence in me that I will take that away from him haha. I don't know what he was supposed to mean by that ;) But this week we got NOTHING done. All we had were meetings and more meetings, so I felt like the biggest bucket in the world. Bucket means to do nothing and to do what a bucket does which is to sit around and carry things, which in the case of missionary work is weight. Luckily this week we had excuses because normally bucketing normally doesn't end well, especially with the President.

At the beginning of the week we visited the Maravilla family again and we tried to help them get ready for baptism that was supposed to be this coming week. But, as always, something came up. The court decided that it would be a good idea to council and mentor the kids, which it is a good idea, and try to help them to stop rebelling against their parents. The problem with this is that they come over during Church hours. LAME! Dang court people, always getting in the way haha. But really it's a good thing because we can only do so much as missionaries and the court has more influence and power over them -because they have to do it. Anyways the court people will be going over there for about 2 months, so that puts them off till January. But for the past week I haven't been feeling well, and I have been trying to make it through me being sick but it got the better of me and I had to stay home on Sister Blackburn's orders. I got this sweet tiger pillow, well it's like a kids bed but I still think it's pretty sweet. Haha but my companion decided to close it while I was sleeping, somehow I didn't wake up, maybe it's because of the Nyquil. Either way that pillow is amazing and that ended our day early.
Wednesday we were at the mission home all day picking up our new missionary and we went tracting, YAY! I haven't really done that ever before and it was awesome. We went to Beverly Hills and obviously they have maids there and during the day the owners are not there. Unfortunately, Elder Lingam doesn't speak spanish so all he had to do was knock and say "Hi we are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we have a wonderful message about you," and about two seconds later the woman would say "No hablo ingles." Hahaha so we told him to look pretty as me and Elder Cordy spoke spanish. It was a wonderful experience and it made me have a desire to go into the other program, so that I can have those wonderful experiences of that part of missionary work. It truely testified to me that the spirit is with us because we only talk to those people for about 10 minutes each and we have to say something that impact the rest of their lives, so without the spirit we are nothing. We don't know what to say and we don't know what's going through their lives and I'm truely grateful to have that gift and to have that inspiriation to help those people come closer to Christ. Anyways we were at the mission home the rest of the day and went through a lot of meetings to help us prepare to train Elder Lingam. That day we got home at 9:45, which isn't our fault just that LA traffic isn't the nicest when you are in a hurry haha. Oh well, hopefully Elder Lingam likes us and I hope that he enjoys his time here in the best mission in the world.
The rest of the week was meetings and more meetings because Elder Cordy is now a district leader so we were either at the mission home or at the church the whole day. So that pretty much summarizes our week...meetings. But one exciting thing that happened is that we went to the deaf expo...ha not there was only like 30 people there and it really wasn't worth our time. But we did meet with some people who work for Sorenson, the VP service. The said that they were waiting for our call and we said that we were waiting for their call, but we got everything resolved and we are finally going to get a VP! I'm so excited partially becuase we can talk to more people but because it will help us become more like a Preach my Gospel missionary, since we are asked to visit our investigators and make daily contact everyday but our investigators are pretty seperated and it wouldn't be effective if we just go to one area of the city and not going to the others. So I'm excited for that.
But once again I have to flake on the spiritual thought so I'm sorry again. I didn't have much personal study this week because of all the meetings. Promise next week. But I do want to leave you with a challenge. Our Mission President, President Blackburn asked us to read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament by Christmas. Now I know this sounds like a big challenge but all of you have more time. I only get an hour a day. So I challenge you to do that, to strengthen your testimony of Christ and to read His word. I want to hear of all of you who do that, so I will be expecting letters from all of you.
Ok I have to go and I love & miss you all so very much. I know this Church is true and most of all I love the work. There is nothing greater than this. Hope you are all doing well and hope to hear from you soon! Love you!
Elder Leavell

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hmm...was that a miracle?

Monday, November 9, 2009 0
Transfers are this hopefully nothing too dramatic will happen. The good thing about the ASL program is that not much can happen, so you know what will happen for at least two transfers. BUT transfers are still transfers so anything can happen.

Anyways this week we had a lot more meetings and a lot of lessons, which was a great thing. Tuesday we went to go visit David Turner, my first baptism, and as usual we had a great time teaching him. Elder Cordy was teaching and I noticed the his VP -video phone- was ringing so I answered and it so happened that to be some really good friends of mine, the San Diego Elders. At first we were confused but I guess David Turner knew Elder Peterson who is Elder Carlson's companion now. So it was great getting to talk with them for a little and it was also great getting to see and talk with my first companion. They don't have as much work but they seem to be making great progress on making their branch bigger, even though it's about 8 constant members going :) That same day we had a meeting with our Branch President and our Mission President concerning the future of the program. It was INTENSE but a great meeting! But our boundries now are cut unfortunately. We don't cover the Long Beach and/or the Arcadia Missions because according to Salt Lake records those are not the boundry lines for the Branch. So we are stuck in a little dilema...we can't go visit those other less active families and our investigators who we have been concentrating on for this last transfer. Luckily we got some good news from President concerning that and that is that the Church is going to get some video phones and that we will get to use them when they are finally installed in the Church, so hopefully they will get here soon! Our mission president had some really high expectations for us because eventually I will be the oldest missionary in the program, since Elder Cordy will be transferred out in February. He said (1) plan more effectively, WHY? (2) To find more work because he can't put more missionaries in a program that doesn't have work, HOW? (3) and to be exactly obidient so that we can receive those blessings of more people to teach. He didn't say the reasons behind it but he said it in that order and after thinking about it the reasons came to my mind. It's amazing to have such a leader that so insync with the Lord and who is an inspired man. He is such a great person, who is flawless in my eyes as well as Elder Pace from the Seventy when he came for last zone conference. I'm truely honored and blessed to have President Blackburn as my mission president.

After the meeting we went straight home to go to bed since it was about 9:20pm when it ended. Wednesday morning we had to wake up really early and be at the mission home at 7 to do service at the temple. I had the marvelous opportunity to do yard work that includes cutting, gathering, carrying, digging, and raking. I was so exhausted by the end of it, well correction, everyone who was outside was exhausted that it felt like it was the end of the day when in fact it was only 2:30pm :) Missionary work freaking sucks...hahaha no I love it. I love having that exhausted feeling and knowing that you are doing the Lord's work, there is really no greater feeling. Something funny was the Elder Cordy was inside dusting of all things! Gosh that got me frustrated haha no. I just told him that he had to cook me dinner :D That night we went to eat with David Spencer when Mission President called and told us some more things about the ASL program. I was a little freaked out then but that's because I thought I was going to go to the hearing program...I mean the spanish/english program since this is a Bilingual mission but I will address that later in the email.

As the week went on we visited more less active families and the Maravilla family, who is our most solid family for now. The husband still has problems working out Sundays to go to church because of his work. It's really sad to see that the problems that everyone has to go through but I know that it's worth it. We had a lesson with them about faith and keeping the sabbath day holy. While we were teaching I felt compelled to leave them a blessing, a blessing that if Juan Sr. keeps asking his boss for Sunday off that his boss' heart will soften and say yes, and if not that if he makes the sacrifice to quit his job to go to church, that he will find another one. The spirit was so strong in that meeting it was amazing. I know that they felt it and it gave them more confidence to do the things necessary to enter the waters of baptism as a family. Juan Jr. on the other hand is still struggling. He never wants to go to church so we tried to get a hold of him this week but he was never home.

Something really amazing happened this week though that showed us that we were being worthly enough to receive those blessings that our President promised us. A couple weeks ago we received a referral from Temple Square in Salt Lake, which NEVER happens. So we went over there and she wasn't home. We tried 2 more times after that, at different times of the day, and still nothing. After 3 attempts and still nothing we decided that we couldn't make the drive all the way to down town just for here since she is the only one in that area. We had splits again on friday, I was with Neil and Elder Cordy had splits with Tony Venegas. After ZDM we went to go pick him up and when we got there he was getting his VP installed. The lady working for Sorenson then asked us if we were LDS and obviously we said yes haha. What shocked us at the time was that she said I want a Book of Mormon...hmmmm...the only reason why people ask for one is that they are either Anti or they are doing it as a we were like ok...haha. No, Elder Cordy asked her where she lived and she gave us the cross streets which were exactly the same ones for Rochelle Kim, the referral. How sick is that?! We were left in silence after that, it was my first miracle that has happened on the mission, well no everything that we do works through miracles, but this one was very impactful for me because it was that obvious. After that miracle of ours, I went with Neil to visit the Maravilla family where I gave her the same blessing so that she could help her husband decide what he needed to do. We would have visited more people but Neil got us stuck in traffic so that took up like an hour and a half haha :) LA is amazing sometimes! But luckily Elder Cordy and I now know when to go on each highway so taht we can avoid traffic and be as effective as we can since we have lots of ground to cover.

I regret to say that this week I don't have a spiritual thought this week. I hope that the miracle is suffice. I know that this work is what I need to be doing and it's not easy, but with the spirit anything is possible. As you can tell our mission is blessed, as well as everyone elses because we have and are still acquiring the fruits of the spirit as it says in Galations. This is the Lord's work. I love you and miss you all! Best wishes! :)

Elder Leavell

Monday, November 2, 2009

:) November 2, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009 0
Dear Family & Friends, 

     So things here this week were pretty crazy and I think you could sum up everything with one line...wait you're a pot dealer? Haha Oh LA and it's wonderful traits. It never ceases to amaze me and/or surprise me. Anyways this week was good other than that interesting news. Lots of meetings of course but all in preparation for transfers which are in a short 10 days!

     Once again the interesting stuff happens after I email all of you so this week was no different. Elder Cordy and I went to go visit the Maravilla Family and that's when everything went crazy. I decided to talk to Juan, who has been having lots of issues lately while Elder Cordy talked with the mom. As always he was depressed and stuborn so I had to open up before he did, but to my surprise he started to open up as well. He then started saying over and over, I need to change, so I kept asking change what? He said, "Stop smoking pot..." Uh....haha. So I tried to help him start coming to church and help motivate him to do that because he felt that it wasn't going to help. So I think I started to annoy him and he started to get angry with me and he said to stop caring because he is a lost cause. Well I wasn't about to give up on him and of course I wasn't going to stop caring. I don't know why I decided to say this but I felt like I needed to say that if he didn't change fast that his parents were going to kick him out...and they were thinking about it...and that he would be stuck with no money or no home. He then said to "shut the 'freak' up" except without the freak :) He continued, "I don't need my parents money I make my own money, how they 'freak' do you think I buy all the things I have, not with my parents money because they are dead poor but because I'm a pot dealer, you want some?" And this is where the line comes in, wait you're a pot dealer? Awww the experiences of the mission. I then left that meeting concerned and confused as to what to do. But I knew something had to be done before things got worse. And that is how the day ended, sucks huh?

     Tuesday we went to do service for this lady who is in my district leaders area and first off we didn't have anything to expect move things from one side of the yard to another. It was a little retarded but we decided to cut the grass and weeds because they were really long and that's when we found Bob. This is Bob everyone. I guess we disturbed his home so he tried to attack us but we had to hide it from the lady because she is a hippy, no bad conotation there, but I know she wouldn't have like that we trapped Bob in a bucket haha. He eventually got out so everything was settled. We drove a lot that day because people were calling us, telling us that we had to meet with them because it was an emergancy. That's one goal that I have for the branch is to not rely so much on the missionaries but also on their home teachers and visiting teachers and their leaders. I mean I love helping but if it's taking time away from our investigators, that's not productive and it's not helping the Lord's work. It's sad because they don't have HT or VT so I trying to establish and emphasize the importance of them, but one problem is that there aren't very many active members, and many of those active members are not really willing to do extra things for the church. So that will be something that we are trying to fix and I'm thankful for the cooperation of our Branch President.

     Wednesday we had zone conference and that was a blast. I got to see Elder Halls, who is one of my good friends from BYU. It was great seeing him again, I was so excited to see that he was in one of the zones that was in our zone conference. It was a good zone conference and I think that I could say that it was focusing on the importance on planning and obidience. I know those are things that are always talked about, in the MTC they pretty much engrave it in your head until you are dead but I think that I have come to appreciate those more. It's tough sometimes, especially being in LA, because we have some many distractions since it's the center of the entertainment industry. I have seen so many events, for example, the premiere of the Michael Jackson movie, I was there visiting a referral and she lives right across from the Nokia theatre. It would be so easy to just lay back and wait for people to come into our path but that's not how it works out here. We have to work our tails off just to get our investigators interested, and our less actives to come to church just once. But that's why it's important to be obidient. Otherwise we wouldn't have that extra strength to help the people we are helping. So yeah there is my two cents haha. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to improve the lives of others and in turn myself with the power of the Spirit.

     Something that our Branch President has tried to enforce to get the members more active is going on splits with the missionaries. So today was the first day. Elder Cordy went with our Ward Mission Leader and I went with the Relief Society President and her wife. I went to go visit the Maravillas again. Juan was there and he continued saying that he wanted to change. I prayed with him and gave him this blessing that if he would make the first few steps toward change, which is going to church and reading the scriptures, that the addiction to weed that he has would go away. So we will see how that goes. But it was great to see that the members had a good time and I know they will be more willing now to come on splits with us when we ask them again in the future. The next, so friday, we went on splits again but this time with RMs. One of them is in our branch and the other is a good friend of my MTC teacher. Neil went on a spanish speaking mission but found a desire to learn sign language, so now he is fluent. How cool is that? But it was great seeing that it is possible to become fluent even if you are not deaf. We got a lot of work done so it was a great help going on splits because that means we can go meet more people in one day. But we saw something really really funny. Well I don't know if people would find this funny but I did. It just was a test of society of who would get more money, a black homeless man and a white homeless man. As missionaries we can't give money so we chilled back and wait to see what happened. Background about this area is that it isn't a nice area. So we assumed that the black man would get more money. But luckily they both got the exact same money from what we could see people were giving them. So at least society isn't totally lost. Sorry if you are offended but I thought that it was interesting to see how society would react to this.
This week I got lazy with the spiritual thought. So I'm just going to quote something out of a book that I have been reading. It's the Doctrinal Insights to the Book of Mormon. It's a great book it gives talks from general authorities on pretty much every scripture. But I thought of the missionary purpose, which is to bring people unto Christ. I know sometimes we forget that and we are worried about baptisms but that is not the important part. It's if people are coming closer to Christ with our message. This quote has to do with the Great and Abominable Church that it talks about in 1 Nephi. Stephen E. Robinson said, concerning this, "Individual orientation to the Church of the Lamb or to the great and abominable church is not only by membership but by loyalty. Just as there are those on the records of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints who belong to the great and abominable church by virtue of their loyalty to Satan and his life-style (2 Nephi 10:16), so there are members of other churches who will eventually belong to the Lamb by virtue of their loyalty to him and to his life-style, which will lead to their accpeting the saving ordinances. The distinction is based on who has your heart, not on who has your records." I thought that was so insightful because I know as missionaries we seek for quantitative progress records. But it made me think that we have temples for a reason. To save those who haven't accepted the gospel. We do those ordinacnes for the dead in the temples so that someday they can come to accept it. Now this doesn't mean we can be lazy and not preach the gospel but I know when we get discouraged that we have no quantitative reports that if we can answer saying yes to did we do everything we could to bring people closer to Christ? then we can say we have fought a good fight and the Lord will say, I'm pleased with you my son. So yeah that quote gave me more perspective in what I'm doing as a missionary and it gave me more confidence that I'm doing what I'm suppossed to be doing even if we aren't have the numbers we want.
     Again, I love you all and I love hearing from all of you and I miss you all as well. I hope everything is going well with all of you! Take Care!

Elder Leavell

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hello! October 26,2009

Monday, October 26, 2009 0
Hello Family & Friends,

How are all of you doing? It has been been another interesting week with a lot of meetings and next week shouldn't be any different. But it's all good. Meetings are great. On the other hand, our investigators are going through a lot of problems so it's been a rough week.

Last monday when I emailed all of you we had a rough day. We meet with Marcial because he wasn't coming to church and the main thing was that he wasn't being 100% honest with us. We first came to that conclusion when his mom was surprised when we told her that he wanted to be baptized but she was just scared that he wasn't go to be faithful and that he was supposedly beating her. So we decided to meet with him to settle some things because he wasn't progressing. The moment he got there he looked pretty down so we knew something was up, he told us he didn't want to be baptized or go to church. I wasn't surprised or upset because I knew that that is what he had decided a long time ago, but luckily we don't have to be wasting our time with someone who doesn't want to progress. Anyways we continued talking with him telling him that things would change and we couldn't come over as often but that is when his parents came in. They said the same thing he did, that we need to stop asking him to do things that he doesn't want to do, but they said it as if they had known for a long time. So I continued talking with the mom while Elder Cordy talked with Marcial and I had a good time getting to know her better and talking about her favorite topic, Mexico. We talked and time flew by fast but they told us to come over tomorrow for dinner. That same day we went to the Perez Family to see how the mom was doing because she had to go on an emergency trip to Mexico because her mom almost died. We then found out that the daughter, who is deaf, is moving to North Carolina with her boyfriend. UGH! We then talked with the daughter to see if she would at least continue going to church, she said she would but I don't think she really meant it.

So after that horrible day we went to visit some of our former investigators and found someone that the Lord has prepared for the gospel, his name is Anival. He had the discussions before but he was so ready and we will be working with him closely so that he doesn't slip out of our hands. It's amazing how the Lord provides even when things get rough as long as we are faithful and obidient. As long as we do those things the "sacrifices [that we make will] bring forth the blessings of heaven" as it says in the hymn-Praise to the Man. I think I have truely witnessed that this week. Anyways we then visited Mildred who has been struggling but we re-taught her the first lesson because she had forgotten everything.

Thursday Elder Cordy and I had splits with our District Leader so I stayed in Lawndale, it was way legit. I got to ride a bike, which I haven't ridden one in years maybe around 9 or 10 years haha. it's bad. But after awhile it was like I had ridden one my whole life so it wasn't too bad. Even though we didn't have a lot of lessons we contacted a lot of people and found out that some people had moved. So it was a great day. I was really tired though because we didn't drive the entire day. We ASL missionaries are very spoiled because we drive the entire day and sit the whole day, I'm really surprised that I haven't gained any weight. I feel so lazy the entire day. But it was great to get some exercise and get that exhausted feeling haha.

But I must truly say that the highlight of my week happened to be on a Friday, not because it was the weekend and we work less, it's actually the opposite because everyone is home on the weekends, but it was because I had some familiar faces come to visit me, my parents. My mission president gave approval for them to visit it me and it was a great experience. We had a meeting with President and Sister Blackburn, my parents, Elder Cordy, and I and it was great for them to explain to my parents our schedule and what we do as missionaries for the Church. We then went to get some sushi on the beach, well really close to it, in Santa Monica and then to Costco haha. I think we have enough food for at least 2 months and enough candy to give to every kid in China, no lie haha. jk. But it was great to see them, and I will admit I couldn't really focus after that, but I'm all better now and getting right back to work. It's true Sister Ludiwg, it was just like when my parents visited me at college. It's sad because we got two lessons in and that is sometimes the same amount of lessons we get when we work the whole day. I loved the experience that I got to see them again and I think the zone did too because my parents bought hamburgers for all of them so they were really happy about that. haha. Missionaries always love free food.

Sunday I blessed the sacrament for the first time because there was not enough priesthood holders again. I was so nervous but I did it right, I was so proud of myself. I also then had to translate for the class and it was so hard because I hadn't done anything like that because Elder Cordy enjoys it so he likes to take over. Oh well I did my best so that is all I can do.

For the spiritual thought I was reading in this book that I bought concerning the Book of Mormon and it had this story and I thought that it was amazing. I hope all of you think it's great as well. It's from President Gordon B. Hinckley, he said:

I clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen. With his permission, I quote from a part of it. He wrote:

“How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal—and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?

“And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks?

“This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime.

“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.

“Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault—the charge most fitting for the crime—he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

“According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’

“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears”

I think that sometimes the problem with forgiveness is not if we receive forgiveness it's if we forgive ourselves. I sometimes have problems with that because I remember everything that I have done in the past but we remember becasue we grow from those experiences, so when we think of things we have done wrong take it as a blessing because it is.

I love you all and miss you all. It has been great serving the Lord and feeling His Spirit everyday, there is no feeling like it. I love receiving all the letters from all of you and I hope to hear more from all of you as well. I love you all! Take Care!

Elder Leavell

Monday, October 19, 2009

¡Hola! October 19, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009 0
Hello again!
So lets see where do I start...this week has been a weird week because we have had a lot of meetings and interviews so we haven't gotten that much time to go out and teach.

Tuesday I had a 13 day training even though mine was like a 30 day training haha. It was 4 hours long but I got to meet the other missionaries that came in, so that was a nice experience. After the meeting we visited the Little Family again. We had decided that we had to leave them with a strong commitment to come to church, otherwise, we knew that they wouldn't come because after all it has been 12 years since the last time they came. I got the chance to talk to Adrian again and we had a good lesson. But I then asked him to tell his grandma why he thought that going to church was so important, and then he started to cry. I was really nervous becuase I didn't know what was happening, neither did his grandma. He eventually got calm enough to sign to his grandma and I felt that the Spirit was so strong. I knew that Adrian felt it, I knew that the grandma felt it, and most of all I knew that I felt it. So I decided to talk with the grandma and I asked her what she was feeling? She didn't say anything. But I know that the Spirit told me to tell her, I know you felt the Spirit why are you denying it? She then said, how do you know that? I didn't know what to say, I just knew because the Spirit had told me. So I told her that and hoped for the best. She then started crying. I then told her that she needed to go to church and she finally said yes. I was so happy and I left that lesson proud and filled with the Spirit. After that we went to the Maravilla family to see how they were doing. They haven't been going to church and they explained why. Their son Juan Jr. doesn't want to go and if they leave him alone his friends will come over and they would steal their things. We decided to come over later that week with a member to see if we could motivate him to come to church.

The following day we had interviews with the President, which took longer than expected because they were running really behind schedule so that threw all our plans off. But it was really good. We got permission to go to the deaf expo in Ontario and to get a VP, Video Phone, so that we could be more productive since we are the only Elders in the program. Plus deaf people can't speak English and/or are too poor to have a cell phone, so it's hard to get in contact with them. But you should see some of the texts we get, sometimes we have to sign what they say to understand more but even then you can't understand sometimes. It's really funny actually. Anyways we visited a lot of Less Actives the whole day and we got the opportunity to do some service for one of our investigators, we drove him around to get some things done because it was raining really bad and he doesn't have a working car. So that was a good experience for both him and us to build that trust.

Friday we did service most of the day for a couple of our members. We first had another meeting, starting to realize all missionary work is meetings haha. We had a DDM where I gave a spiritual thought about the Atonement. I sort of cheated and used some of the things from my farewell talk. Shhh...don't tell anyone. When that was over we went to lunch at the mall and I was talking with my district leader waiting in line with him becuase we had a lunch appointment. Then this guy comes up to us and says "I got this." I still wasn't going to get any food because I didn't want him to buy me food when someone else was going to feed me. But he comes up to us again and says "why aren't you getting any food?" So I ordered some food and ate it. It was really good though, you can never go wrong with Panda haha. But I was stuffed at that point. We then went to the Martinez Family where they gave us lunch. I never thought I could eat that much, I thought that I was going to expolde. After that we chopped up their garage door that was broken and had fallen down. It wasn't heavy or anything, it was just really hard to carry when you had to avoid all the ants that were crawling all over us. haha. Really awkward. But I was still really full so that made it even more awkward.

Sunday came around and it was going to be a normal Sunday I thought at least. But my MTC teachers showed up and I was so surprised! I loved that they came and visited, it was like a family reunion! It was great talking with them again and seeing how they interacted with the people in our Branch. That made me so happy! They told me more about the new Elder that comes in a month and they said we will get along really well. So I'm also excited for that. Anyways that made my week!

About the spiritual thought, I don't have time this week to give one. Partially becuase I didn't prepare one, but next week for sure. I have to run but I love and miss you all and I hope everything back home is going really well! Take Care!
Elder Leavell

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hola. ¿Cómo están? Oct. 12,2009

Monday, October 12, 2009 0
Hello family & friends,

     It was great to hear from all of you this past week. This week has for sure gone by so fast and my first month in the mission has also gone by SO fast! It's crazy to think about it! But there have been some interesting experiences today, well this morning was an interesting experience but I'll talk about that later.

     Tuesday was a normal day, but with some intersting turns with our investigators. I don't remember if I mentioned Adrian in my other email but I'll explain the situation again. This kid has two deaf grandparents and he lives with them and his dad. That day we decided to commit him and his grandparents to go to church. As we were teaching, the father walked in and said that he didn't want us to be teaching him anymore (even though Adrian sits in on our lessons with the grandparents) because he doesn't feel that he is ready to decide for himself. Anyways, I wish he would have heard the talk by Elder Christofferson about how agency is influenced by knowledge and truth. But what disappoints me most is the grandparents, they have found every literal excuse to not go to church and they have been without the blessings of going to church. So now we have to find a way for Adrian to go to church with the permission of his dad with another member or with his dad. I have high hopes for this kid and he is so ready to be baptized, all we have to do is get over these bumps in the road and then he will be golden. So please pray that we will have the knowledge to know the concerns of the father so that we can get Adrian to come to church.

     The following day, I had splits with Elder Lovelace and once again it was an interesting day. haha. Everything piled up on us from meetings, to driving to the mission home, all without any notice. The Maravillas family asked us to help them move some more stuff into their new apartment and no lie, they had over 300 DVDs it was INSANE! So we were there till about 1:00 PM and we decided to change and eat some lunch. After that the manager of our building decided to come inspect what needed to be done...becuase the bathroom door came he was in our apartment for another hour. As we decided to go to Long Beach to start teaching, the mission home called and said that we had to go pick up our car today...because Elder Balaich broke the transmission (it's a V4 Ford Fusion) so big car with no power...because it was car free day tomorrow. Once we got up to the mission home I had a meeting with President Blackburn until about 6. So it was a crazy day full of errands and tidious work. We finally started teaching at about 7 and went to go get dinner at 9. I was so hungry at that point. Oh well at least we got everything done so that we could be more productive for the week to come. 

     Because we are in the ASL program and the temple is in our area, the Mission President has allowed us to go to the temple with our branch to show support every month when they do, so this Saturday I got to go through the temple again. The LA temple is beautiful and huge. And the best part was that it was all in ASL. I was so nervous because I didn't know I could understand everything and do everything I needed to do but it was an amazing experience. And it was so awesome to see all the members from the different branches come and serve the Lord in His house. Such a spirital experience that was. 

     Anyways so today was by far the most interesting experience I have had so far on my mission. As we were doing our personal study we heard some shouting and banging outside our door, but thought nothing of it. Sounded like an argument but nothing too serious. We were so wrong. All of the sudden things started to escalate and we could hear things thrown against the wall of our neighbors, screaming, and hitting. Long story short we had to call the cops becuase it was really getting out of hand and the screams started turning into cries for help. Don't worry we are ok we stayed in our apartment the whole time and didn't do anything stupid, well we wanted to but we knew that the cops could take care of it better. The cops came within minutes and the people wouldn't come out. Finally the cops forced someone out and handcuffed the whole family and to our amazement the 12 year old girl had cuts and bruises on her face and all over her. They said that the girl was not obeying them so they were giving her a spanking but that was so much more than a spanking. So now child services are going to be stopping by in the near future to figure out the situation in more detail. I hope the family doesn't get serperated because of us but I know that calling the cops was something that we needed to do. So yeah it was an intersting morning haha. I love LA. 

     Alright for the spiritual thought today I decided to talk about an experience that the Savior had soon after His second tour to Galilee. At this point in time the Pharisees were trying to find excuses to kill Him but once again the Savior found another opportunity to teach more of His gospel.

     Now, for all of you who have scriptures I'll be talking about the experience in Matthew 12, specifically verses 22-30. Alright, at this point the Savior was given a man that was "possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb." Having these three things in Jewish culture was thought to be uncurable, even by the Pharisees, so this man had been rebuked and pushed aside for some time. But to their amazement the Savior healed him and the people asked, "is not this the son of David?" or, in other words, "is not this the [Christ that we have been waiting for all this time for?]" With this comment made by the Jews the Pharisees attacked the Savior and said, "This fellow doth not cast devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the Devils." Now some background on Beelzebub, Beelzebub was a Philistine God that had the title of "chief of the demons" or Satan. So the Pharisees said the Savior cast of devils with the power of Satan. As always the Savior calmly responded, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:" The remarks of the Savior suggest that even with the most basic knowledge of the gospel, that the Pharisees would have, everyone would know that Beelzebub, or Satan, works against the Savior. The Savior continues, "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?" With that being said the Savior has already denounced the statements that the Pharisees have said, but he continues to explain His authority. Verses 27 and 28, "(27) And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. (28) But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." After reading these two verses two questions came up, is the Savior implying that we shall be given His authority or is He saying that He has come to establish His kingdom? The answer is simple, it's both. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and through his translation of Biblical scriptures by the word of God, I have received more insight to this scripture. So the 28th verse would go something like this, "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. (JST) For they also cast out devils by the Spirit of God, for unto them is given power over devils, that they may cast them out." One can note that the Savior said that we can receive that same power and authority that He has, to cast our devils and to be judges over the people as it states in verse 27. But without the JST we would not have gained that knowledge into the teachings of the Savior.

     But the Savior continues to further engrave His authority and gospel. He says, "Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house." As we all know, the Savior had bound and cast Satan out of Heaven AND He also has bound and cast his evil spirits out of His children. But Christ had to first bind and cast out Satan to gain power over his spirits, otherwise, Christ would have no power over them who is the "strong man." How great is the Savior's power and authority! And as always the Savior leaves everyone with a thought that I leave with you as well, the Savior said to pick a said and to not be in between, He said, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." challenge to you is will you choose a side? Will you keep the commandments or will you disobey? Will you read the scriptures and pray or will you not? This list could go on forever but I know if we follow the Savior's counsel we can become worthy of His blessings that He wishes to bestow upon us. I hope that this leaves you thinking what side you are on, becuase I know that I have found myself on the His side and I know that because I know that I feel the Spirit in everything I do as a missionary. It guides me in everything and all we have to do is choose. 

     I love you all and I miss you so much. I hope that everything is going well with all of you! Hope to hear from you soon!

With love,
Elder Leavell

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

¡Buenos días! Oct.5, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 0
¡Buenos días!

     How are you all doing?! Hope nothing too bad has gone over there...wouldn't want that. Lots of changes with transfers and general conference so its been an awesome week! you know I have been sick and trying to make it through the week was a big task but I made it. I still have lots of headaches, so I think I will have to go to the doctor for reals this week. It's hard because we have 12 investigators with a baptism date and that's big in the ASL program AND our Branch President has asked us to meet with 10 less active families. So it's really hard to keep up with all the work that needs to be done within 3 missions with 1 companionship. We have been praying that the Lord will provide a way to help us do all of this, but it's sad because no matter how hard we plan we can't really visit the people who are just investigating and don't have a baptism date. That means going to the doctor would be a near impossible task in trying to figure out a time that we can do everything that we need to do. But I'm really happy about the work we have done so far. 

     Last week managed to be a great week even with transfers because our entire zone got changed around except for us of course. We decided to visit this less active family, the Little Family, who has a hearing grandson who's mom actually lives in Las Vegas. I was not feeling too well at that time so I was letting Elder Cordy take the reins for a little bit but the Spirit prompted me to talk to the kid. I decided to ignore it and watched what Elder Cordy was saying. But the Spirit kept persisting until it made me talk to the little kid Adrian. His parents are divorced and has deaf grandparents, so I felt for the kid because he has no one to really talk to. So we talked about school and things that he liked and he mentioned church...which of course led to me teaching him about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He fell in love with it. He asked questions and I answered, he asked some more and then I answered, and then it sank in when we gave him a Book of Mormon. I then proceded told him to read, think, and pray as it says on the Introduction page and he said he would. Yesterday we had to call in for numbers so I decided to call him before to follow up on how he was doing. I asked him if he did the things I asked him and he said "Yes I have! I read and it was confusing, I thought about the things I have read, and then I prayed and I received an answer...(and with excitment, he said)THERE IS NO WAY THIS BOOK ISN'T TRUE! When can I be baptized?" I was shocked, no lie. No wonder the Lord tells us to become like a child, how great is their faith and great is their willingness to believe. He is going to be baptized on November 1st if all goes well :)

     The Maravilla family is doing well...they finally got Juan's probation ankle thing off. So now they can come to Church. But last night the pipe in their bathroom broke and flooded the whole house as they were sleeping so this morning we did some service for them. But they are so excited to go to Church and the greatest thing is that you can see the light in their eyes already. They are so ready to be baptized...but that is when the dad can get off work.

     So yeah that was my week and of course Saturday and Sunday were general conference days and it was amazing! It's interesting to note that the theme of this conference was keeping the commandments and taking responsibilities for our own actions. I remember the last two themes were (1) preparing for the economic downturn and then (2) how to deal with the economic downturn. How great is to have a prophet who talks with the Lord and helps us during these turbulant times. For this week I decided to share some things from General Conference that I wrote down. This General Conference was amazing! I'm not going to lie Elder Holland has yet to disappoint me. Wow. That's all I can After listening to that talk who can doubt that the Book of Mormon is true? Wow. haha. Sorry I thought that it was amazing and it blew my mind as well as everyone else. Another talk I liked was from Elder L. Tom Perry's talk about the temple in Manti and how it was constructed. I remember the quote he gave from Ronald Reagan, it said "I don't want to go to the past, I want to go to the past way of dealing with the future." I never thought of it that way. I haven't thought much about the things that have been said...but all I know is that I have been inspired to follow the commandments of the Lord more diligently. I know that these economic times have brought much sorrow to the lives of others and I know that it puts doubt in our mind of whether there is a God or not, I know that because a lot of our investigators have asked those questions. But I testify that this is the Lord's way of loving us. He wants us to learn, how He learned-through experience. There is no other way to learn to ride a bike other than by trial and error. How would it be different for life? I know that some would say it's different but that is because they want it to be different. I think I have noticed that our Church is so happy because we loose ourselves in the act of service. I came up with this as President Monson was talking, the cure to a man's broken heart is to give others his heart to fix the heart of others. There is a reason why our Church members are so happy, there is a reason why the Lord has asked us to loose ourselves in the act of service, because it brings happiness. President McKay said that service is the gospel. Even our Heavenly Fathers plan of salvation is an act of service, He gave His only begotten Son as an act of service, and for who? For all of us so that we may return to live with Him and so that we may become more like Him in the life to come. I testify that during these tough times we must search for the Lord diligently and in all ways so that we may obtain happiness and eternal life. There is no other way. I'm so happy that I have the opportunity, because I'm worthy, so share the gospel, to share the plan of happiness to others who are so desperate and searching for that happiness. I know this Church is true and most of all I know that the Book of Mormon is true becuase the Lord still talks to us the same way he did yesterday, today and forever more. If not why do we pray the same way that the people did in the times of the Bible? I know that Jesus Christ lives and I know that He has given us this gospel for our eternal happiness.

     Anyways I love you all soooo much and I miss you soooo much. I hope all is going well and I hope that I hear from you soon!

Take Care,
Elder Leavell

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hello again! Sept.29,2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009 0
     This week has been an interesting week so far. There have been many ups and downs but I think I have finally been able to learn to count on the Spirit for everything, not just for teaching and I'm so grateful for that ability to do so. This week I got sick, the doctors don't know yet but it shouldn't be swine flu, so don't worry I'm fine for now. But I've been praying for strength and energy to get me through the day since my body is working against me. 

     Anyways this week has been another very inspiring week and I can't wait to be able to learn more about the scriptures and the spirit. Tuesday I got the opportunity to go on splits with my district leader, Elder Lovelace, and we had a great time getting to know each other. We even found out that we have a good friend in common, Christian Bateman, so that was cool. We had an appointment around noon with Robert Ochoa, who was a referal at the time, gave me one of the best compliments that I think I could ever receive as an ASL missionary. I was really nervous because I have never really been in control of the lessons so this was my first time being in control and with having no help that got me really nervous. But I told him that this lesson would be different because I would be the only one teaching and he said, "why are you nervous? you sign like a deaf person." I was so uplifted after that and it gave me confidence in what I was teaching. We taught him about the restoration and then commited him to be baptized on October 18th. and surprisingly he said yes. I'm so happy that I got the opportunity to notice that I can be a successful missionary all by myself but most of all that I got the power of the Spirit with me each and every way.

     Wednesday we had zone conference and we got the opportunity to hear from Elder Pace, from the First Quroum of the Seventy. He was such a great speaker and I have learned so much from him. He gave this quote from President McKay and I thought that I would share it with you as well, he said, "whatever thou art, act well thy part." Elder Pace said that he wasn't denouncing this great quote from President McKay but to apply that we also need to ask ourselves "are we acting or are we becoming?" That hit me so hard because as missionaries we can't just act but we have to obtain a testimony and to do that we must become the gospel. Later that day I was reading in Jesus The Chirst and it was the chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. He came to describe the scripture of Matthew 5:13, which says, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." To become the salt that doesn't loose it's "savour" we must become a pure salt. We must fulfill our purpose and we must become like our Savior Jesus Christ. I challenge all of you to ask yourselves, are you acting or becoming? Are you becoming the salt that our Heavenly Father wants us to be or are we becoming one that looses its "savour"? I think that it is important not only to act but to become because if we become, we act what we have become, and that is all that the Savior wants of us. Anyways I love this zone conference and the ability to hear from a General Authority that has been called to his position. 

     After zone conference I got sick and it progressively got worse. Friday came around and I had to call Sister Blackburn and she told me to stay home that Saturday. But that night the Zone Leaders asked my companions to give me a blessing and what I wonderful experience that was. It was my first sick blessing and it was my first blessing in ASL. It was weird at first because I had to keep my eyes open but then I felt a different kind of Spirit, not different but I felt the Spirit in a different way. But either way I felt the Spirit and I felt a lot better for awhile. Saturday came around and I felt terrible but luckily I got to stay home and Elder Lovelace came over to do splits so my companions could go and do some work.

     Sunday came and I was feeling a little bit better. I had my first baptism today and that was an experience that showed a lot about deaf culture. First Brother Venegas forgot how to hold David Turner, who was being baptized, so to show him we had to literally show him. So that took about 5 minutes and then David got scared of going backwards in the water so the first time he got baptized his foot flew up. haha. So that took another 10 minutes to baptize him again. Definitely a funny but spiritual experience.

     Anyways it has been a great week so far. I can't wait for the week to come, and most of all its great to hear from all of you. Don't worry I'm fine and I will get better soon. I should be going to the doctor this week but who knows because we are so busy this week. Well I love you and miss you tons and I hope to hear from all of you soon! Take Care!

Elder Leavell

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hello Everyone! September 28, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009 0

     So I wrote a whole email out but it got erased so I will rewrite it and send it to my mom because I have to go now but here is a picture of my first baptism.

     Sorry but I got to go. Hope to hear from all of you soon! I Love you so much and I miss you as well. Take Care,

Elder Leavell

Monday, September 21, 2009

Heeyy Everyone! Sept.21, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009 0
Heeyy Everyone!

     How are you all doing? It's always great to hear from all of you and I'm glad that everything is going well with all of you. Anyways this has been another eventful week, but I think that is how the mission goes in general.

     Anyways, this week I started driving because Elder Baliach is leaving and Elder Cordy still hasn't gotten his driving record in so I have been given that responsibility. It actually isn't that much different than driving in Las Vegas but it's funny that I had nearly forgotten how it felt to drive. haha. But as far as my investigators, we have SO many that it's hard to maintain a constant visit with all of them. We are so blessed by the Lord and it's very evident that the Lord is placing people in our path to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. On Thursday we had the baptism interview with David Turner, who has been a golden investigator. But as he was being interviewed, he mentioned something that had to be addressed by the mission presidency, so that was quite unfortunate. Anyways, we planned the 2nd interview for Saturday because he was scheduled to get baptized this last Sunday. But that didn't work out either...we had totally forgotten that it was the Jewish New Year and Yumcipor (i think that is how you spell it) so his aunt (who he lives with) didn't allow him to leave, even though he is in his late 40s or 50s. So all that fell through and it was a huge bummer. But it's interesting to see how the Lord works with deaf people and how they are in some cases more in tune with the Spirit. That same Thursday we had planned to meet this guy Mario Alfaro, who was an investigator awhile ago but didn't go to church. Anyways, we drove to Compton and knocked on doors to see if anyone knew him...and from the looks of it the people around there were not to fond of us. Sort of scary. Oh well, but as we were walking back to the car, Elder Baliach saw him even though he was facing away from us and we had never seen him before. It was truely amazing because I know if I would have been in the same situation I would have walked right by him and wouldn't have noticed him. But it's so amazing to see the Spirit working with all of us, not just one but all of us because we are all worthy of having that Spirit that gives us inspiration from the Lord. It's so surreal sometimes that it's hard to think that you aren't doing this but the Spirit is. Anyways...another investigator family is the Maravilla family. They are scheduled to get baptized October 11th and they are by far the best family we have. They would be baptized right now but one of their kids is on probation. It's amazing to see the changes that he is making to be ready when that probationary time is over. We taught them about the plan of salvation and we have this video that is in all ASL, that acts it out instead of preaching so it's amazing. But as we were watching it the wife was crying her eyes out when it came to the part when the husband and wife were seperated because the wife had passed away (sort of like the Notebook movie but better because they would be together again). It was so amazing to see that light in her eyes when she discovered that her wedding vows were more than just "till death do us part" but that they could be "for time and all eternity." How great is the gospel of Jesus Christ that it brings families together not just for this life but for all eternity as well. How great is it to have that power and authority to seal our families for all of time and eternity. It's truely a blessing and such an inspiration to me to know that I will be able to see my family in the life to come. But going back to the wife, after she got her emotions together, she signed to us, I want that. Is it possible that I can have that as well? It was so amazing to see that ernest quesion that came from the soul. I'm so glad to be here and to witness all of these amazing miracles!

I think that is it for my investigators but before I go I want to share something with you that I have noticed while being here. I had recently finished reading the Book of Mormon and I decided that I would read it again cover to cover. It's amazing that I had forgotten the same first sentence that Nephi says, "I, Nephi, being born of godly parents" I hadn't really noticed the significance of that sentence but I think I have found out the true meaning of that. Yes, we have earthly parents here, that even though the circumstances might not be the best, they still are our parents and they are always loving. In some cases families are seperated but there is at least one parent that takes the child under it's wing and does the best it can to raise and nuture the child to become the best it can be. But something I had forgotten is that I also have a loving Heavenly Father, who presented this plan to us, who gave us the option to follow Him or the adversary. I know that we all chose to follow him, so how great is our faith already, yes we might not remember, but we had that faith to know that His plan would work so that we could become like our Father in Heaven. How great is His love, that He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus Christ, to better help us, to nurture us so that we can overcome the obstacles that have been set in front of us by the adversary. I'm so thankful for that inspiration that I received by re-reading the Book of Mormon. I know that is it the true word of God because he gave us that first sentence "being born of godly parents." I know that he gave us that first sentence because he knew that the adversary would attack the families the most so that we would forget the value of families here on this life and in the life to come. How blessed I am to know that we were presented with this plan to obtain a body and go through life to gain experience. So yeah, I'm so thankful to be here on the mission because I have noticed how blessed I am because I am worthy and I'm grateful for having this privalage. It's sad to hear that those 3 Elders came home Sister Ludwig. I know that I'm worthy and most of all I know that I will not give up becuase the deaf people in LA need this message of happiness and I know that I could never forgive myself if I made a silly mistake because I didn't want to follow the rules. I know if we are obidient that the Lord will provide in everyway, and I know that I still have a lot to learn but with the Lord's help I know I can do anything.

As always it's nice to hear from all of you and I hope to hear from all of you again. Hope all is well!

Elder Leavell

Monday, September 14, 2009

To All (Photos) September 14,2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009 0

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