Monday, March 31, 2014

Sometimes, Fishers of Men are Fishers of Fish

Hey, Dad.

I'm sorry about the short emails and I'm sorry to say that I still don't have pictures from this past week, but I will definitely get you some next week.  But here's a little teaser; one of the photos is of a roast that Elder Quayle and I made this weekend; it wasn't bad, we got some tips on how to cook it from a less active woman in the ward who's a pretty good cook.  The meat was kind of dry, but overall, not bad for a first time.

Here's the scoop on the Glenwood Ward; in case you don't already know, we dropped our investigator a few weekends ago.  Pretty much all he wanted to do was to get us to bash with him.  All we could do was bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel and his response was a pleasantly curt, "Thank you.  That was passionate, very good."  So we dropped him ("I knew it would get to this point," he said), and then we get a voice mail from him a couple of days ago in which he said, "I think we dropped the ball," like an ex wanting to get back with their significant other.  We haven't called him back yet; this is nothing new with him.  He's been doing this with the missionaries in this area for years.  We did find a former investigator but since she's a single woman, we handed her over to the Sisters to teach.  We're on the lookout, but since transfers are this week (we find out the results on Thursday and then, if one or both of us gets/get transferred, we leave Friday), we're kind of in a wait-and-see mode, but we're still on the lookout.

Mormon Iowa: Home of Strong Women, with Firm Handshakes

The ward members are nice for the most part....  We helped our former ward mission leader's son move a friend a few weeks ago and he's actually a nice guy, they're both pretty nice, and I think that might be biologically related.  The two of them are moving up to Council Bluffs to go to college.  Our new ward mission leader and his family moved in from Atlanta about a month ago and they're really cool, really nice.  His wife has the handshake of a mountain man.  The biggest challenge we have is helping a few of our less actives find the motivation to get to Church.  One of them is a good guy, really funny, he has a Duck Dynasty beard, but his "sinus infection" is killing him and has been keeping him from getting to Church since his baptism about eight months ago... He cleans port-a-potties throughout the Omaha metro area.  He defends the Church to anyone he runs into who has beef against it, but he struggles to get to meetings.    

Here's a fun game: Guess which beards are Mormon:
Lanny McDonald.  Beard.
Benjamin F. Johnson. Mormon Beard.
Heber J. Grant. Mormon Beard
ZZ Top: Beards

Orson Pratt.  Mormon Beard.
John Candy, as Gil Fisher, The Fishin' Musician: Beard.

Joseph F. Smith: Mormon Beard.
Orrin Porter Rockwell: Mormon Beard.

The Bishop is a really good guy.  He's in his 30s, he used to work for Yahoo! but got laid off and he's looking for a job.  His wife is a pharmacist and she's a ginger giant and they have a few kids who are all pretty good, quiet.  Yesterday for the third hour, Bishop delivered a PowerPoint presentation about the revamped Gospel Topics page on and how the Church is, as he put it, "taking the oxygen out of the anti-Mormon movement" by consolidating and collecting all of the facts in order to present a 100 percent transparent history of the Church.  He quoted Camilla Kimball regarding when she had unanswered questions about the Church.  She'd put the unanswered questions on the mental shelf and get back to them later, but Bishop decided to lay out a big and controversial concern and invited us to do what we will with it, but he wanted to get it out in the open.  It was about Polygamy.  He talked about how he descends from a polygamist family and presented a basic yet very detailed history about its practice.  Among other things, he explained that the reason why it was practiced was to speed up bringing more of God's Children here to Earth so that they could participate in the saving ordinances (he cited Jacob 2:30 and D&C 131 and 132), that it's estimated that Joseph Smith had 30-40 wives, that the practice of polygamy was publicly denied by Church leaders until 1852 because they thought the general Church couldn't handle it yet; and that the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 would've brought the temporal Church to oblivion had it not been for the issuance of Official Declaration 1 in the D&C.  He also talked a little bit about the practice of the Law of Adoptive Sealing and so forth, which obviously has been discontinued.  He also cited a few instances when Joseph Smith brought people back from the dead through the power of the Priesthood so in case people think that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet.  He bore his testimony and there it was.  One of the examples he cited for the Church's crusade for transparency was the 1911 case where men broke into the Salt Lake Temple and photographed it, which led to the creation and publication of the book, "House of the Lord" by James E. Talmage.  So there you go.

James Talmage: Beardless Mormon. Author of The House of the Lord    

Salt Lake Temple Celestial Room. From the first edition of The House of the Lord

The rest of the Bishopric is pretty cool; the first counselor is kind of a gruff farmer but he's a nice guy, his kids are pretty nice and his wife is really nice; she teaches Seminary.  Like the Bishop, the second counselor is young, really nice guy,  he bore a powerful testimony yesterday, his wife is really nice, and they have a nice little family.

A few big changes are happening this week.  One of our Assistants to the President (APs), who's known Elder Quayle for a while because he was a Zone Leader in Council Bluffs before going AP, is completing his mission and there's a lot of speculation as to who the next AP will be.  Elder Quayle is convinced that he's leaving this transfer and he probably will, but you never know.  He's been out for 14 months and has had only two areas: he was in Wahoo, Nebraska (a town of about 1,000 people just a little west of Omaha) for the first half of his mission and he's been in Glenwood for 7 1/2 months.  President Weston is trying to keep most missionaries in areas for a longer period of time than the last mission president did so we'll see what happens.  We're going fishing for P-day today; a cool family in our ward has a huge piece of property with two ponds and they let us fish there a few weeks ago.  Elder Quayle's trainer, Elder Chappell, who became one of our Zone Leaders at the beginning of this transfer, LOVES fishing and they and the Bellevue 1st Elders went fishing with us that week, so they're coming again today.  I had a rough start, but we all caught something (it was catch-and-release), so we had a good time.  We have a feeling that if you have a good P-day, your week kind of speeds by, so we're looking forward to it.  

So that's what's been going on; it'll be interesting and exciting to see what happens this week.  I appreciate your prayers and thoughts and I pray for y'all every day.  I'll fill you in on more juicy details next week.

Elder McMurray   

Monday, March 24, 2014

Of Distractions and Interrogations

Hey, Dad.

It's turned cold recently, but it shouldn't last for very long.  Some green is starting to turn up. The vegan kick is tough, especially if you haven't done it in awhile [We are attempting to eliminate most of the meat and dairy products in our lives.  It isn't easy].  
[I shared this experience in my email to Elder McMurray:

Yesterday, I visited Memorial Ward.  It had been a long week, and I’m in the middle of reading a really good book about the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.  I thought, “I’m going to take the sacrament, and sit back, turn on my Kindle, and spend an hour enjoying my book.”  The man who offered the opening prayer forced me to change that plan.  He started his prayer, “Heavenly Father, we have come to worship Thee.” 

Those words really struck me: “we have come to worship Thee.”  That hour was not about relaxing, or daydreaming, or reading a Kindle book, or checking emails, or making silly faces at the little kid staring at me from the next pew.  It was about worshipping our Heavenly Father.  For the first time in a long time, sacrament meeting was a haven for me, a “house of learning…a house of God.”]

That's a wonderful experience; distractions breed heartache, but recognize and distinguish opportunities from distractions (sometimes it's difficult to distinguish them,) act on the opportunities, and the Spirit will be even stronger.  I say hello to both Mohammed and Elder Graff.

I love and pray for you, Dad.


Elder McMurray

Thank you, Mom, for that wonderful scripture; I've heard it at least once out here and it's a good one [Mom had shared Philippians 4:15 in a previous email[.  We had a good week this past week; we dropped an investigator (or rather, an interrogator) who was desperately trying to get us involved in an argument with him regarding the Church.

The Sisters and Elder Quayle and I were there; we bore testimony, we tried to answer his questions (or rather, avoid his traps) and we finally dropped him.  Guess what his response was: he politely said, "I knew that we would get to this point." 

We shook his hand and wished him the best.  As far as we know, he's been engaged in this pattern with missionaries since the 1960s.  

Fortunately, we've received a few more referrals and made contact with a former investigator so we're hopeful for the future, and rather than being overcome with devastation at dropping someone, I felt a great burden lifted off of our shoulders; we had been seeing him on and off for a few months; we bore testimony, we taught him, we told him to read and pray with earnest intent, we went on a tour of the Trail Center with him, and at every turn, every visit, he tried to get us to argue and bash regarding the truthfulness of the Church and the Gospel.  I wish him the best and I hope that his heart is softened.

It's turned colder this week, but I'm okay.  I'm sorry that there haven't been pics in a while; I'll try to get some new ones for next week.  Have a wonderful day and I'm so grateful to you for your love and continued prayers.  I send you mine in return, for all of you.


Elder McMurray 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Worn-Out Shoes

Hey, Mom.

No problem about the short email.  We're trying to help our investigator recognize the importance of founding your life on a spiritual rather than an intellectual foundation.  The less active is still holding strong regarding her smoking habit and another less active is chewing Nicotine gum to kick his tobacco-chewing habit.  I won't need short-sleeved white shirts, at least not yet.  My shoes have been getting worn out, but I got a good pair of brown shoes from a thrift store that have held up very well.  My dress pants and the suit jackets are holding up well, but the suit pants need repairs.  Thankfully, I have a sturdy suit that I got at a thrift store.  So far, I don't need my contacts just yet.  

That's good that your week has gone well; I talked to Noah and I saw his video. [Noah has his wisdom teeth extracted.] It's good that he's doing better even though he missed out on a few things.  Hopefully, he finishes up strong, like I said.

Hopefully, Naomi finds a good job soon; sounds like some cool stuff is happening with her.

I did receive the CDs, thank you so much.  We had Ward Conference, too and it went well.  I'm not thinking about Easter music yet, but I'll let you know.  I love you all and I pray for you every day as well.  I'm thankful that you're praying for me as well. 

I love you all,
Elder McMurray

P.S. No pictures this week, but hopefully I'll send you some next week.

P.P.S.: Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Hey, Dad.

Yeah, [I've been out] a little over four months; I've learned the importance of charity and patience for all as well as serenity, especially in trying times.  My testimony has been refined and simplified in order to help others draw closer unto the Lord.  I've been reminded of the potential that everyone has as Sons and Daughters of God despite our follies.  I've felt that my relationship with the Savior has become much more personal as well and I feel that have a clearer understanding of the Atonement.

I thank you for your thoughts and prayers; I pray for you all every day as well and I hope that you can feel their power.

 ...Now that the snow has cleared up, we're trying to find other ways to serve.  We've occasionally helped move people and we're striving to be diligent in teaching both members and non-members. 

I think that we've developed a good rapport with the people here.  We've been able to bear testimony and I think that the Spirit has helped prick their hearts and strive to follow the Commandments of the Lord. 

Thank you for your emails, thoughts, and prayers. 

I love you,
Elder McMurray 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Elder and Elderer

Dear Dad:
Post-OP. True Quote: "I'm in a Psychedelic Paradise!"
Thanks for filling me in on the top teams in the NHL.  Hopefully, Noah's wisdom teeth surgery went well...

"Good.  Great! GRAND! WONDERFUL!"

You're going camping?  In the words of Chris Farley in, "Billy Madison": Good, GREAT!  GRAND!  WONDERFUL!  No, seriously, hopefully the best will be made of it.
Yes, it IS a goofy movie.
Speaking of goofy movies, Elder Taylor and his greenie buster (you know, the companion you get after your trainer upon the completion of the 12 Week training program) Elder Demke, my former district leader (now Zone Leader somewhere in Omaha) quoted, "Dumb & Dumber" to each other all the time.  When the new wave of greenies came in this last transfer, one of them said he was from North Carolina and Elders Demke and Taylor (Elder Demke was there to meet some of the greenies and Elder Taylor was helping pick some of them up; they're not companions anymore, but they were both at the transfer point) quoted the line, "California, beauuuuutiful."  I wasn't there, but I thought it was funny; Elder Demke made me laugh often because he was and is just a force of nature and Elder Taylor is absolutely hilarious; "Dumb & Dumber" is one of his all-time favorite movies. 

Anyway, have a terrific week and I love you, Dad.

Hey, Mom.

Yeah, Elder Quayle has been giving me my haircuts and it's actually been kind of warm these past couple of days; it was in the high 60s yesterday and it'll probably be the same today.  Thank you so much for [the supplies I'd requested], I really appreciate it; please go ahead and send them to the apartment.  I hope that Noah's surgery goes well and I hope his finals went well.  Hopefully, Grandma C's is feeling better.  I emailed Naomi and had a great exchange with her; hopefully the job search works out.

Sorry, no pics this week, but hopefully I'll have some for next time. 

I love and pray for you all,
Elder McMurray