This might be weird to be hearing from me. Many of you probably are more familiar with Elder Hall than with me, Shawn. I haven't been much of a blogger but something recently convinced me to pick up my keyboard again. You might have read before about my time as a LDS missionary in Japan telling everyone I met about how the teachings of Christ have improved my life and given me a sense of direction and peace that they too could have if they just decide to follow him. I have since put down my name tag for good and am at Brigham Young University, navigating life as a single, 21 year-old college student. So why I am writing this then?
Well, I have been called again to be a missionary and not the kind that rides bikes and can only do laundry on Monday. Instead, I have been called as an online missionary. Now you are beginning to see the dots connecting. I never really talked about my beliefs with my friends or on social media before so I turned to my mission for how I can best fulfill my new calling. I didn't have Facebook or social media as a missionary but I realized I did have my weekly emails that appeared on this very blog. Before I left on my mission, my stake president told me to not forget about the ones I was leaving behind in America. I thought about that a lot in the Missionary Training Center and then tried to make my emails spiritually uplifting and entertaining. I soon found it enjoyable and once as a younger missionary, I told my companion, "Maybe I will just continue writing weekly emails after my mission! It is just so fun!" "Well, Elder Hall," my wise senior companion said, "I think they call that blogging."
So here it is, my very own blog The Everyday Mormon. Many people talk about doctrine when they introduce the church to people but I hope to show it in a more unconventional way. I hope to show everybody how a normal kid from Vegas tries to apply the teachings of Christ in his everyday life and how that positively affects me. I'm not shy so please share this with others online, comment on and like my blog posts and give me any ideas on how to improve it or tell me the things you like about it. I hope that it can be a useful tool in increasing others' understanding of the LDS church and of others' testimonies. I hope to see a lot of miracles with this and please join me in sharing the gospel online!
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Wake up to an alarm and you roll out of your futon. Go to the bathroom in order to momentarily postpone your thirty minutes of exercise. Come out and exercise, get a bowl of delicious fruit granola and then bow your head to pray. Read a talk or some Japanese book you still manage to have from the MTC as you slowly munch waiting for your companion to finish his time in the shower. Hear the shower door open as you are slurping up the leftover cheap milk from the nearby Japanese supermarket in your bowl and hurry to jump into the shower. Scrub, rinse, sing a quick song and get out, only to face the ever so burdening question of "Which tie should I wear today?" Go to the kitchen to get a drink of water and happen to see the clock at. Finish the knot on your dangling tie, gulp your drink, and rush into your study room. Hit your knees hard on the floor and bow your head to ask for the Spirit to guide your studies that morning. Jump up in your rolly chair and open up your Book of Mormon. Something doesn't seem quite right now as you rummage around for the answer on your slightly cluttered desk. "Ah, my name tag..." You grab it, slid it onto your white shirt's pocket and with that click Elder Hall has officially started his day as a missionary.
That click of my slip-on name tag hitting itself against my shirt pocket has brought many mixed emotions these past few days. I realized I wouldn't be hearing it (even though it may be a sound thousands of missionaries never quite noticed until getting to my age) very many more times. After today I will hear it just once more as I get ready to hitch a ride to the airport to catch my plane back home to America. That ritual ceremony every morning seems to happen as fast as my mission happened. I came out a young 18 year old immature scared little elder and am now going back a much different and tested person. I am so grateful for the experiences I have had and the growth I have undergone on my mission. Now I am leaving with many mixed emotions. On one hand I see my family again after a two year separation but on the other hand I leave those I have come to love in Japan. On one hand I get to move on in my life to getting an education and starting a search for my next companion but on the other hand, I leave the life as a missionary that I have come to love and cherish, even with all the hardships contained in the package.
Luckily this last week was good and we worked hard. It was a lot more normal than I thought it would be though. Member appointments, four lessons plannedand all but one fell through. It rained, I got way sick my last two days and had to push through it until the end. We had a really stressful Eikaiwa party where all these kids came out of nowhere that we hadn't planned for and we had to make up an activity for them (coloring always works I learned!). We found some good P.I.s and one really good 15 year investigator! I liked how it was a normal missionary week. Yeah, it would have been cool for someone to run into the church asking for baptism but just working hard until the end in normal circumstances made me appreciate and truly love the time I have spent as a missionary even more. I wish I had just one more day to experience the joy I have felt being a full time missionary over here in the blessed country of Japan.
Even with all these feelings of sadness, doubt, and confusion, I can still feel the Spirit's sweet and quiet assurance that I truly did my best and helped people as much as I could have. Even with mistakes, times of disobedience, times of laziness and times of disappointments, that with the help of others, I rebounded from those and was able to get back on the track of hard work and diligence. I think that is what true joy is no matter what happens in your life, to you or to those you love, you feel that quiet reassurance that everything will be alright or that burning in your bosom knowing what you are doing is right. Joy truly is the reward of missionary service. Not just for others you bring to the gospel, but yourself as you lose yourself in the work. In my call letter, it promises the following, "The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children. We place our confidence in you and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary."
I have felt that promise from the prophet of the Lord come true and I feel like the Lord accepted this two year sacrifice. I didn't part the Red Sea or anything big like that but I did see many small tender mercies and miracles from God as I tried my best to live as a missionary. I know I will always cherish this experience. I know that this church is God's true church and he restored it through Joseph Smith so we could find happiness, in this life and the next. Christ lived, died and now lives again and guides this church through a living prophet Thomas S. Monson. I know God is our Father in Heaven and Christ is our older brother who loves us so much that all that they do is lead and guide us in this life so we can go back home to live with them and our families forever. I know the Holy Ghost will lead and guide us as we pray and ask for his guidance and seek to be as obedient as possible. Our everyday choices determine our destiny but by being obedient to God's commandments and his will for us, we will find joy and make our lives the best. I am excited to see my family again and know that we can be together forever. This is my testimony and my wish that all may come unto Christ and be saved, for his burden truly is light. I leave my final testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
See you all at the airport,
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day"
-2 Timothy 4:7-9
Sunday, May 22, 2016
This week has been all over the place. Stress, cool appointments, problems to face, meeting bros on the street, leaving the area, racing around to hunt for less active's, and comeback Sundays where your stats random,y go through the roof when the last week was abnormally low. Just normal missionary life. I really wish I could experience this a little bit more besides the time I have left out here. You only serve once. No second chances, no extensions, no callbacks. Once it is over, it is gone for ever. I am sad that is coming up soon. I am really glad for the time I have left and the time I had this week as well. Nothing out of the extraordinary, just tender mercies flying about as we try our best and sometimes trip up. The mission man. If you aren't out, I recommend you go.
I have been thinking a lot about the joy of sharing the gospel. I have been thinking of how I can measure my overall success as a missionary now as I get closer to the end. Obviously there can be no numbers counted up or a way to know how many people you have actually changed but the only thing I can measure is my own progress. I still have faults, I still joke around a little too much sometimes, I still let my weaknesses get to me but serving others has really changed a lot of my priorities I feel like. I can confidentially feel like I have been able to be successful because I have changed and improved. I am really sad at this time as I think about leaving soon but I also feel peace that so far I have been able to serve the Lord to the best of my ability. I heard once that you have an eternity to prepare for your mission and an eternity to look back on your mission but that you only have two years to live it and love it. Hopefully I can live this next upcoming week in order to look back on my mission and be pleased with my two years service. I guess we will see what happens. I will email you all again next week and I love you all! Enjoy the increasingly hot May weather!
"And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
- D&C 18:13-15
"I don`t think most missionaries get to see the full fruits of their labors and I don`t think most people see the effect of their good deeds and actions. Something as little as picking trash up on the side of a street or smiling to someone can change a lot. So I guess the lesson is to just keep on pushing, keep doing your best. You may never see just what comes of your good actions but trust me, someone else will always be blessed as we do our best by living and sharing the Gospel of Christ. I`ve been able to see just a glimpse of the results of my actions and I am excited to help out more and improve people`s lives once again in Numazu."
- "The Return of the Bean" 5/22/15
|My final exchange and a sweet guy from Nepal? (Yokkaichi happens to be a hotspot for Nepalese BTW)|
|Buddhism, my friends|
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Just another great week. I feel like I say it every week but I am a missionary so I can't lie at all so it must be true! We had a lot of member lessons again and are inviting everyone to our English class party later in the month. The ward is sick and helps us out a lot. On top of that they are way fun to be around! Hopefully everyone can bring a friend or three! Also other unrelated news is our recent obsessions as a companionship and apartment of making time lapses of ourselves doing normal things really slow so it looks like normal speed. I will attach a couple for you. We also had a pizza party in the middle of the woods with an older member who invited a bunch of his nonmember friends. It was way good and we got to talk to a couple people about what we do as missionaries, even though nothing concrete came out of it.
We also spent a lot of the week focusing on beefing up our finding which has been slugging off a bit. And boy, did it deliver! As a zone we have been studying one chapter each week from good 'ole Preach My Gospel and this week was the finding chapter. We were trying to think of ways on how to diversify our finding approaches. We have a couple of activities in the making but since they are more long term activities, we wanted to come up with something more short term we could do now. In the midst of this thinking, we decide to go to a little island thingy called Nagashima (Long Island in Japanese) that is thirty minutes away by train to visit less active's that may or maybe not be presumed dead. Not much logic behind that decision! We are looking for one of the addresses in this place with a bunch of rice fields and a few houses when we stumble upon a guy during some yard work. We stop to ask him where to go and it turns out he spoke fluent English and wanted us to teach his kids English. All in the middle of basically nowhere! Cha-Ching! New investigator! Just another experience proving that the Spirit is the only way to find. We are visiting him tomorrow to teach their family and it should be really fun, even though it is a bit far away.
The finding streak continued later this week as we were walking to the train station yesterday. A businessman was walking very briskly past us so we stopped him and talked. I don't know if you know anything about Japanese businessmen but they are basically some of the hardest people to get a conversation going with. Each time you try to stop them, they just look at their watch and run off with the excuse of no time or just keep moving on their way to catch a train. We thought this guy would be the same but luckily, he chatted with us as we walked together to the station. It turns out he has been studying a BUNCH of different religions because he is interested in such things as "What happened before this life?" and "What is next after this life?" which we luckily have the answers to. The stoplight before the station we all three just stopped and plunged into an hour discussion about our purpose in life, why there are so many churches, and how he can know for sure what is true. This guy really wanted to know the truth and asked SO many good heartfelt questions. "If I ask a different God will I get an answer?" "If I ask about something wrong will God lead me to the right answer?" Way, way, cool, prepared guy. His name is Nakazaki San and he sadly lives in a different city and wasn't willing to give us his contact information quite yet. We gave him fifty different ways to contact missionaries (our phone number, Mormon.org, LDS.org, Book of Mormon, church address, pamphlet) and even if he doesn't he will for sure study us up and eventually get back in touch. One of the most prepared people I have ever met in my mission though. I am lucky enough to be along for the ride with the Spirit!
These two experiences and other small ones throughout the week have made me think a lot about the Spirit and its role. Elder Hales gave a great conference talk last month entitled, well, what else but "The Holy Ghost"! In it he says that "the Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions... In these matters, Heavenly Father expects us to use our agency, study the situation out in our minds according to gospel principles, and bring a decision to Him in prayer." I think it is an interesting concept. We can't just blindly ask God for the Spirit and get it doing by nothing. Like most things, it takes work. We first have to study it out in our minds, come up with our own plan, and then ask for confirmation. If we prayed all the time at each intersection we come to which way we should go, I think we would lose sight of our personal role in receiving guidance. Instead, as missionaries, we pray to have the Spirit throughout the day and do our best to live worthy of its guidance. We pray before planning to have ideas come into our minds and feelings into our hearts and after we make the plan we pray to make sure it is right. Then the next day we pray over it again just to double check and sometimes we pray when our backups go out the window and people cancel. It is my testimony that God does guide us as we seek his help, even in the little things. Tender mercies are out there and as we do our best God will bless us with them.
I love you all and I hope that you all have an amazing week!
I love you all and I hope that you all have an amazing week!
|Elder Hall in Japan|
|Elder Hall on a train in Japan|
|More of Japan|
Sunday, April 17, 2016
This week was CRAZY! We had transfer callsand I thought I was going to be transferred so we set up all these "meet Elder Hall for the last time" appointments. They all went pretty well and we are eating out with some members as well. Biggest highlight of the week definitely was yesterday when we FINALLY got our Uganadan investigator Baker to come to church. It was a tight squeeze in the car as we went with a stalwart member to go and pick him up (which took thirty minutes of daily planning late last night to find someone to do it). We were kept really busy throughout the week starting off with a baptismal interview. It was the first time I got the opportunity to interview someone who is Japanese because the other time I interviewed someone they were from Italy and I had to use a translator. It took some time up with travel but it was so cool to meet someone who was ready to be baptized and had a strong connection with God.
The news you have all wanted to hear though is that I am being transferred to Yokkaichi. I will be opening an area with a second set of elders with another old missionary Elder Bunch who will kill me off. Not exactly what I was expecting and even though I won't be with a young missionary like I really wanted, I am pretty excited to feel what a whitewash is like and just have six weeks to go Y.O.L.O. and work my hardest. It is really sad to leave Fukutoku where I have been for over a half a year and where I have so many friends. I have grown so much in my service here amongst investigators and my fellow missionaries and will always treasure my time here and the spiritual growth I have experienced. It is hard to say goodbye but I guess it is a good warmup for when I have to say goodbye to Japan and my mission as a whole.
As I am transferring away to go and die, I have pondered a lot about my progress and how I was able to learn so much so that I can continue that pattern in my next area. As I have pondered the subject, two quotes from Elder Owens conference talk stood out to me. "In God’s eyes, the greatest leaders have always been the greatest followers." and "There will be times when the path ahead seems dark, but keep following the Savior. He knows the way; in fact, He is the way." The times I have relied on Christ in my life are the times that I have grown the most while when I forget Him and try to rely on my own power, that is when I fail and stumble off the path. As we follow Christ's example, we will be more converted and become the examples and leaders the Lord intended us to be. I am sad that I will be leaving so many good mission friends in missionaries, members, and investigators but I am ever grateful for the impact they have had on me and hope that I helped them to the best of my ability.
I love you all and pray that we can all follow Christ's example to help our lives and those around you. Have a great week!
"Therefore, hold on thy way...fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."
"So it has definitely been cool to see how the area was dead-in-the-water last transfer and just see how all these crazy miracles are happening now. We are actually meeting new people and Weekly Planning is not just the same every week because we are meeting with more people so all of our investigators needs and concerns change. Now I just got to work on my teaching!"
- "Super" 4/20/15
|Taking Baker to church|
|My bro Ikeda San!|
Sunday, April 3, 2016
This week was busy with two companion exchanges. Funniest thing that happened was we went to go and get dinner at a restaurant at night. I went into the bathroom, very awkwardly asked a guy how he was doing as he was leaving the bathroom and he turned out to have been fluent in English and sitting at the table next to us! So we chatted for a little bit and learned he had taught himself English on his ownand randomly has a British accent. He was reading from the Economist which I can't even read! He said he was indifferent but said that the elders could talk to him anytime. He was such a bro! That is definitely one of the best parts about the mission is being able to meet total bros that you can even possibly hang out with after the mission. I already have a bro date planned in July 2018 New York at GoGo's Curry with a recent convert here. Also my good primary pianist friend goes to America often so I offered our home to him whenever (is that alright Mom?).
This week was a really good week for finding. The sisters recently went through their whole phone and found a guy who had meet with the missionaries three years ago. They handed him over to us because we can teach him easier because we don't always need to have a member to come with us. His name is Tokuda San and he came to church yesterday as well. We invited him to baptism and he said he would think about it. Also we found a kid on the streetnight that told us straight up that he had a deep interest in God and taught US a lesson. Haha. He wants to play basketball as well which is a big plus and a good way to get on the bro list. We ate at Mister Donuts with another new investigator this week and he is way down for the good word of God. Finding always gives you the most interesting stories and is the best way to find those eternal bros.
Now I would like to share a side of Dendo not really talked about in my emails. Our last mission president, President Yamashita, had as our mission motto, We Are One. Recently as I have pondered obedience and uniting together as a mission to build a culture of righteousness this mission motto has crept back to the forefront of my mind. I have realized how important it is for us missionaries to have others to lean against in times of hardship. You just need a righteous bro sometimes. As a young missionary I fell under the category of struggling elders, looking for how I can be happy in this strange new life as a missionary and confident in my ever lacking Japanese and Dendo skills. I was blessed to have many good examples in my trainer, follow-up trainer, and many other leaders and older missionaries surrounding me. I was able to lean on their testimonies and follow the righteous example they set before me. This has helped me so much on my mission, this culture of being one so that when one of us elders struggles a bit or has a hard day, they can turn to the elders around them for support and can receive the help he needs to continue in the work of the Lord.
The roles reversed on me this past week as I went on an exchange with an elder that needed a little lifting up. I knew he wasn't all fine and dandy but as we got into the apartment, I put down my backpack and asked what the plan was. He laid back on his folded up futon apologized for putting this load on me and then expressed simply "I'm not enjoying my mission, I might go home." I thought he was half joking at first because some of us elders throw that around as a joke quite often but luckily I recognized it was sincere. I kind of mentally freaked out but decided to go the chill way, be a loving bro, and share my own mission story. A young missionary scared to do almost anything with Japanese who had really good companions to help him but still didn't enjoy the Dendo life. It took me having an irresponsible companion to help me see what would happen if I were to give up. I didn't learn to enjoy my life as a missionary until much later and after a couple mountains to climb. After we swapped mission stories, it was a good transition into some formal training to help him so we decided to start off with a prayer. I won rock, paper, scissors so I offered the prayer. As I prayed, I started to bless that this elder could get through this hard time and began to thank God for all that he has allowed for me to become on my mission. I don't know why but I started to cry as I had begun to think how much my mission has changed me and how this elder might lose out on it all. It was kind of embarrassing but after the prayer, I tried to help him realize all that the Lord can do for Him as he serves him as his missionary and set goals to receive that blessing. \ I think it helped a little bit. I am so grateful to be serving as a missionary and for the testimony it has given me that I know will bless me for the rest of my life. Nothing like a mission can change you if you try your best to be obedient and work hard. I stumble everyday but am grateful for the constant support I get that has kept me growing these 22 months or so. I love you and hope that you enjoyed General Conference! I will share my thoughts on it after I see it this next week.
Love you all!
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
"Even though this week has been so hard, I have come through it with the undeniable truth that Christ lives and loves us each individually. He died for us but most importantly, some 2000 years ago, he was resurrected and still lives for us. Whenever we have fallen and wonder if we ever can get back up, whenever we are hopeless and doubtful, there is always a hand stretched out for us to grab, a hand with the imprints of nails. I bear my testimony that Christ today lives and that like those apostles after his death, we will one day see Him for ourselves and that we can feel his saving influence in our lives as we turn to him for strength and the enabling power of his perfect and infinite Atonement daily."
Sunday, March 27, 2016
After a lot of high octane weeks back to back to back to back to back to back... this week seemed a little more slowed down. Maybe it is because I am just so dang tired like 24/7 or maybe just because the weather is changing or my zodiacs signs are off. Whose knows, but, nonetheless this week was a very different feel for sure. Recently there have been a lot of people that have been really hard to make appointments with which has given us some more free time luckily. We definitely needed that last week as we put the fine touches together for Friday's Zone Training Meeting. It was a full course buffet of Member Work, the Mission President's Vision, Finding, and Obedience. We tried to make things fun so during the five minute break I went to the library and got a white piece of paper, wrote on it "The Title of Obedience" and taped it to a ruler. We talked about how every small decision we make affects not just us and our companionship but it also builds the mission culture and has a lasting effect for even longer than we are missionaries. Even our own testimonies and lives are hinged upon the everyday decisions we make when we choose to follow or ignore the little rules and commandments God has given us. So, I pulled out the banner and pledged everyone to sign it. I am holding it in the picture and hope to make copies of it and send one out to each companionship. That Captain Moroni life though... united to beat Satan and disobedience, all in one swing!
Another thing this week was a Nabe (Japanese soups pretty much) Party we had at the church on Saturday. It was way fun and really effective even though only one investigator came. Ikeda San had his baptismal date forbut we had to push it back to later in April so he can get over his smoking problem. HE SMOKES 50 CIGARETTES A DAY! Darn it Satan! He wants to quit though and has faith so that is really the only two things necessary to overcome. We met with him right before the party and then taught him the Ten Commandments (Moses, Moses! #
BeforeEasterTenCommandmentsOnA BC). Also a guy who comes to church every week but refuses to take lessons joined with us in the lesson (because he accidentally came early for the party) and we committed him to live the Ten Commandments and he took a Book of Mormon and asked where he should read. Still doesn't want to meet with us BUT we are making some progress. Hopefully he can read the Book of Mormon and he will come around eventually.
It was Easteryesterday and no one really mentioned it at all which was weird but it wasn't that much surprising because Japan doesn't really think about it at all. I did a lot of thinking about it though these past couple of weeks. With bearing my testimony at my final Zone Training Meeting I have thought a lot about what my mission has done for me and last Easter's experience came to mind. It was a hard, dark time on my mission, being with a companion that had given up, that had chosen to let his pride and own selfish ambitions, fears, and not wanting to work, get in the way of making his mission a fun, growing experience. During that transfer, I tried my best to work with not knowing Japanese and having a companion like that with my own problems and my own struggles with being a missionary. I have never faced a harder period of time in my life. Last Easter season as I reflected on that transfer I couldn't help but feel guilt for all the work I wasn't able to do and for not being able to help change my companion's attitude and help him gain more of a testimony. As I was thus in my state of despair, emailing all of you guys from the church the day after Easter I started to cry (which never happens BTW). I felt a warm feeling like someone was giving me a hug. I had never felt such comfort and love in my life. A voice in my head said that it was okay and that I had tried my best, I was not at fault. At that moment, I looked back at my last six weeks and recognized every moment that I was strengthened in my trials, that I felt Christ's love for my companion when I couldn't feel love for him, that unseen angels pushed me out the door when I didn't know what I was going to say to the people I would stop on the street. I came to a knowledge then that Christ lives and that he loves me. Not only that but if I try to follow him and do the little things then he will help me in my trials and help me learn what I need to to learn to be that better person so I can help and serve others.
That moment, as hard as it was, has changed my mission and my life forever. I have been a much different person since that my moment. I feel as if that was the point my true conversion began. I couldn't say it before but I now know that Christ is there for each and every single one of us. I know He has established His church on this Earth today to teach us how to be happy in our lives and to get on the path that will get us back home so we can live in peace and the utmost joy for eternity with our families, friends, and God. This I know and I am truly grateful for the opportunity this Easter season to be able to share this testimony with everyone here in Japan. May you all have an amazing Easter and be able to feel Christ's influence in your life and in the lives of those around you! I love you and everyone in America, enjoy General Conference next week!
"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."
"Anyways, I picked him up (my companion for a day) at the train station, said good-bye to my [current] companion, and then got lost trying to find a building that was one street away....then we talked to people as we rode bikes homes and I was wondering `Where is the apartment?`...[So], when you don`t know what you need to do and you have two canceled appointments with a bunch of time, just turn to the Lord and he can help you out. Maybe he won`t spell the answer out for you in every detail but, with faith all will be well."
- "My Day As A Senpai" 3/30/15
Exchange with our dorky assistants
My last ever ZTM...