Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Haven's Homecoming Video

Haven's Homecoming Video by Desiree Rogers

Final Week: This Is It

...Wow...this is my last email as a full-time missionary. It's hard to believe that my time has come to an end. It's hard to accept, I want to stay here longer; participating in the Lord's work is one of the greatest blessings I have been able to experience in my life so far.  

Last week was another good week. We were blessed with a ton of referrals and we have been trying to contact them. We picked up a new investigator named Brad from a Spanish referral that was given to us, and he had a lot of questions/concerns about the Book of Mormon and the prophet Joseph Smith. He doubted most of what we said, but he committed himself to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it is true, if it is the word of God!
 General Conference was great! I was inspired and uplifted, and had questions answered. Much focus was put on the Book of Mormon. I liked that. We have a planned Church tour this Saturday that the whole local community is invited to. We've made flyers for the event, passing them out and have been trying to work with the members to get this to work. We hope it goes well. 

Well, being that this is my last email, I'll leave you with my testimony. My testimony, my beliefs, have been put to the test many times over the course of my mission. Because of opposition and trials, my personal testimony of this gospel has been strengthened and has grown. Our conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ increases as we act on what we know to be true. One thing I cannot and will never deny, is that I, and all of us, have a loving Heavenly Father, who knows us and wants to bless us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth to live a perfect life and be a perfect example to us of how we should live our lives. Most of all, he willingly took upon himself our sins, pains, afflictions and sicknesses, to provide a way for us to overcome our sins and imperfections in our lives, and to enable to us to become better people, to reach our divine potential. The power of Christ's Atonement is real. I have felt it in my life, and I have recognized more as I have come to personally know my Savior more during my mission. Repentance is an amazing blessing that we have as mortal beings. Through repentance and relying on our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his Atonement, we can not only receive forgiveness of sins, but we can be relieved from the burden of guilt and shame that results from the decisions we make in our lives. It is through sincere repentance that our nature is changed, meaning that who we are can be changed for the better. I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice that he made on our behalf.  I am grateful to a loving God, who loves us so much that He has restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety through a man that was called of God, Joseph Smith, to restore Christ's church on the earth. I bear my witness, and I know of a surety, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that He did see God and Jesus Christ in a vision, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord's church on the earth, with God's authority to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel. I know that we have a living prophet on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson, who receives direct revelation from the Lord to direct the Lord's church here on the earth. All these things I know to be true because I have read, and continue to read every day, the Book of Mormon. I want you all to know that I know with all my heart that the Book of Mormon is indeed the word of God, that it contains the doctrines of salvation, and it is, as the prophet Joseph Smith said, "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." It really is! As you study, ponder, and apply daily the teachings found in the Book of Mormon, you will be so blessed! Your life will change, and you will be a better person. I know that to be true because I have experienced it myself, and continue to experience a change in my life for the better!  I have grown closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ because of the Book of Mormon. I love this Gospel, and I love you all. Never forget that God loves you! I'll be seeing some of you next week and in the near future! Have a good week!


Elder Haven Ruiz

Monday, October 2, 2017

Week 100: The Final Countdown!

Last week was great! We had zone conference on Wednesday, it was awesome! Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the Seventy came to our mission. I learned a lot and was reminded through personal revelation about some things I can improve on. I love learning from the Holy Ghost! He is the best teacher!  He knows exactly what we need to learn, all the time! 

We picked up a new investigator named DJ on Monday, he's a young man going to high school. We taught him the Restoration, and he was listening the whole time, and he explained to us that it makes total sense! Goad has a specific way of talking to people on earth, and that is through prophets! And he's right! That's the doctrine of prophets, in a nutshell! We invited him to be baptized and he said yes! We called him last night to confirm our appointment for today and followed up with him on commitments, and he said that he did pray about what we taught him! We are really excited to meet with him again tonight! 
We tried contacting a referral from the Spanish Elders, who ended up not being home, so we tried working in the neighborhood and talking to the neighbors. One of the neighbors, a young man, answered the door ( we recognized each other because we actually walked past him earlier that day). He let us into his home, and he had a lot of questions about what we believed. We taught him some of the Restoration and he liked it! 
Another experience we had was when we we stopped by a member's house because they were providing dinner for us. As we got out of the car, I saw a man across the street in his driveway working on a bicycle. I pretty much have it ingrained in my mind now that I'm supposed to talk to everyone haha, so Elder Brimhall and I walked over and talked to him. Turns out his name is Dave. He's Baptist, but had a lot of questions about our beliefs. At one point he said something along the lines of "I respect what you guys do, but I won't listen to what you guys have to say, especially because you guys don't believe in blood transfusions." Whoa whoa whoa whoa, hang on a second. So I had to explain to him that he was mistaking us for Jehovah's Witnesses, and that we are actually Mormons. "Oooooh, okay!" Then he opened up more and we were able to teach him the Restoration. I saw him watch and listen intently as I recited Joseph Smith's own words of his experience seeing Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It was awesome, probably one of the coolest street contacts I've experienced on my mission. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that Jesus Christ restored His church and His gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. I testify that Thomas S. Monson is a modern day prophet of God. What a blessing that is; just as in ancient times, God once again speaks to mankind through an authorized servant today who has His authority and receives revelation from God to direct God's children to paths and choices that can, and do, bring us lasting joy and make our lives so much better, and, if continually followed, will bring closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. As you make the Savior the focus of your life and the foundation upon which you are built (see Helaman 5:12), everything else in life will fall into place. Things will work together for your good.

There's a quote from President Ezra Taft Benson that I want to share with you. He said: 

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life"

I know that to be true. I know that as we seek to forget our selfish wants and desires, and instead seek to carry out the will of God and seek to care for and serve those around us, that we will find lasting joy that lasts!

I love you all, have a good week! I'm looking forward to general conference this weekend!
🎶Come listen to a prophet's voice! 🎶

Elder Ruiz

Week 99: Beektorbeel

This transfer is just flying by, holy cow! Last week we saw lots of miracles from the Lord. While I was on exchanges with our district leader Elder Schone, Elder Brimhall and Elder Schone's companion Elder Clark were able to meet several less active members of our ward that we have been trying several times to see. As we've been knocking doors and talking to people on the streets this transfer, we happen to have talked into a lot of Spanish speaking people. So during exchanges I had Elder Schone teach me how to give a street contact approach in Spanish, that was fun haha. We stopped by an investigator that we've been having a hard time meeting with, and when we saw him yesterday he was hard at work cleaning up his front yard. He was sober from alcohol and said he's trying to keep himself busy so he doesn't get tempted. What a miracle! I had been praying for him this past week to have the strength to resist temptation and not relapse. God answers prayers! The weather has been cooling down a lot recently. On Thursday it didn't even get above 80 degrees, it was nice. We're seeking to build our relationship with the ward council and members of the ward. We have some really great members in this ward!

I have seen how living the gospel on a daily basis has changed and continues to bless the lives of church members out here on my mission. Reading the Book of Mormon every day and praying daily, giving service to others, attending church. Those are the fundamentals of the gospel right there. They all point to one objective, and that objective is to come closer to Christ. Those who apply these fundamentals in their lives are so happy! Everyone can be happy, but the restored gospel of Jesus Christ provides lasting happiness! I have seen that happiness in the lives of others, and I have been able to experience that same happiness on my mission. Just following those fundamentals can help us so much, even if we don't realize that it does, or we don't think it can, or that it's a waste of time and there are better things to do. Living these fundamentals of the gospel can do so much to strengthen our families and bring us closer together; they can bring peace into our lives, they can strengthen us against temptation, they can ease contention in the home and help us strengthen our relationships with our family members and friends. We will feel the Holy Ghost more abundantly in our lives. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ, it can change your life! All you have to do is live it. Remember those famous three words from Nike: Just do it! So many blessings will come into our lives as we seek to follow Jesus Christ and live His Gospel. Now that doesn't mean that living the gospel of Christ is going to take away all of the problems in our life and make everything happy and dandy, nor does it mean that we will be exempt from trials and difficulties in our lives. But the gospel will give you the strength, guidance, knowledge, comfort and tools you need to navigate through life and obtain God's greatest blessings for you and for your family. I know that to be true. Just do it.

Have a good week!

Elder Ruiz

 Brother Garcia and I having fun playing guitars together.
Exchanges with my district leader Elder Schone from Boise, Idaho

Week 98: Serving

Well hello from the blazing and windy community of Victorville, presenting Elder Brimhall and Elder Ruiz! This past week was awesome! Elder Brimhall has a lot of faith and he has helped increase mine. We were on fire last week with our daily goal of contacting at least 10 people a day and inviting them to do something that will bring them closer to Christ, we've been on fire with this goal! And we had a lot of miracles happen, these are just a few. A lot of them have to do with being in the right place at the right time:

1. We were walking down a street when we saw an older Hispanic lady trying to life a large microwave into her minivan. We quickened our pace and I walked up to her and asked if she would like some help. Before she could answer, I lifted the microwave and put it into her minivan for her. Though there was somewhat of a language barrier between us, I could see the gratitude she had for us. I love to serve, it's the best!

2. While we were walking out of our apartment complex we noticed a young lady that was filling a bunch of totes with stuff. We asked if she needed help and she said yes, so we went over and helped her fill up the totes and take them to the dumpster. Turns out she met with the missionaries several years ago! So we gave her a pass-a-long card and invited her to check out !

3.We got a new investigator on Sunday night, our first week here in this ward! Her name is Ellena, and we met her on Saturday while we were walking down her street in the afternoon and were able to set a return appointment with her for the next night. She is a kind old Filipino lady and has been going to a Christian church for almost 50 years. I had been fasting on Sunday for the Lord to help us find new investigators this transfer/those who are prepared to receive the gospel, and I feel like teaching Ellena the Restoration on Sunday night was part of God's answer to me. Towards the end of our lesson on Sunday night, I asked her if she would be baptized if she came to know for herself by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Restoration did happen, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the Book of Mormon is true. She said yes! We have another return appointment with her tonight (Tuesday) and we will be having a member come with us. Hopefully Ellena doesn't have her minister from her church come and be there as well, she told us on Sunday night that she might do that haha.

Fun experience: On Saturday night we were walking back to our car after trying to see a potential investigator, when we saw an older gentleman sipping on a big mug of beer, listening to some piano music. LET'S GO GET 'EM! So we walked up his driveway and introduced ourselves. He introduced himself as Phil, and then proceeded to go on an hour-long rant about how he was "a stone-cold killer" in the Vietnam war. Doesn't believe he can be forgiven for what he did during the war. But the truth is that he can! All of us can be forgiven, because Christ's Atonement covers EVERYTHING! 

Love you all, have a good week!

Elder Ruiz
 Meet Elder Brimhall!
One more picture of Elder Jeppsen and I haha.

Week 97: I'm Gonna be a Dad!!

.....Wow. This is it. The final transfer. I'm going into denial haha. Transfer calls came in over the weekend; Elder Jeppsen will be staying in Upland and training a new missionary, and I will be "white-washing" into the Mesa Linda Ward in Victorville and training a new missionary! We are both gonna be dads! I'm really gonna miss serving in the Upland 3rd Ward as a zone leader, I've learned a lot and had a lot of cool experiences. But I am excited to serve as a trainer in a new area my last transfer, it's gonna be great!

We had some cool experiences last week. We tracted a lot and were able to meet a professor of religion named Vivek, and he wants us to come back and meet with him! On Friday we got to help out at a concession stand at the Upland Hight School. That was a lot of fun! On Saturday, our sewage system clogged up on Saturday morning and flowed into our tub, so we had to shower in the owner's house over the weekend, but thankfully a plumber came and unclogged the pipes, so now it works, yay! I went around and said goodbye to a lot of people over the weekend and took picures with them. 
I don't have much to talk about today, but I'm excited for what lies in store this week. Love you all, have a good week!

Elder Ruiz

 The Robbins! They are in the Upland 3rd Ward and are related to a good friend of mine back home.

​*Daft Punk Missionaries* with the one and only senior missionary Elder Boulter in the background.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Week 96: El Sol

Last week Elder Jeppsen and I saw blessings from planning our days better, and taking more time to go out and talk to people. We were tracting and trying to share family history and we met a man named Eric who wants to learn about his ancestry because he is adopted and knows nothing about his biological family. He seems very promising. He even offered to take us out to dinner and go bowling haha. I have noticed that as we strive to stick to our plans for the day by being on time to places and keeping dinner appointments to an hour, we have been placed in the right places at the right time to have people to talk to and invite to do something that will help them come closer to Christ. 

Zone conference was great. I was able to receive some personal revelation. I was reminded that I need to get out of the way for the Holy Ghost to teach people (because it is not me as a missionary that is the real teacher, but the Holy Ghost), and that I should not focus on myself, but rather about the Lord and His work, and the needs of His children.

On Saturday we got to go on exchanges with the Assistants, and I was with Elder Memmott for the day. It was great, we were blessed with so many people to talk to out in the streets and in the neighborhoods, our day worked out wonderfully! Our exchange was also Elder Memmott's last exchange of his mission (he goes home next Monday), so we made sure work hard and talk to everyone! After being with him for a day I have a greater reason and desire to open my mouth more and talk with everyone. As one of my MTC teachers said, "There's no growth in the comfort zone, and there's no comfort in the growth zone." Stake conference was great, Elder Eduardo Gavarett of the Seventy presided over the meeting. I loved the focus of getting members to the temple and doing family history. Our three recent converts were in attendance, as well as our investigator and two less-actives. We are happy to see that they made it. Yesterday evening we were trying to talk to people on the street and we ended up talking to a man named Eric on his porch, and taught him parts of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. He was very interested and had good questions. Hopefully we can come back and see him again.

I have been reading the Book of Mormon almost every day on my mission, and I have become a better person by applying the teachings contained within its pages. I know that no matter where you are in life or how much "free time" you have each day, I can promise you that if you take the time to read from the Book of Mormon each day, even if it's for 15 minutes, and ponder its teachings, that you will notice a difference in your life. As you read from the Book of Mormon daily, you will have the opportunity to be taught by the power of the Holy Ghost. You will find more joy in your daily life, have more patience with others and with your circumstances, and have greater direction in your life and answers to question you may have at this time. Have a good week, love you all!

Elder Ruiz

Week 95: The Prodigal Driver License...Has Returned!

I wanted to scream for joy yesterday, buuuuuuuut I couldn't because we were in church haha. Now you may inquire as to why I wanted to scream for joy and do a heel click and backflip into another dimension yesterday? And I'm here to tell you that it's because I FOUND MY DRIVER LICENSE! My prodigal driver license has returned to me!
Yes, with gratitude and a little embarassment I must admit that a few weeks ago I lost my driver license. I looked repeatedly at several places where I though I might have lost it, and I looked through my wallet several times, but to no avail. Without an authorized form of identification, I have no way of being able to fly home after my mission, so I soon started emailing with my mom about renewing my passport and using that instead. I was anxious about what I needed to do, and if there was any other possible way that I could find my license. So I fasted for a day and prayed for God to help me find my license, and if that wasn't His will for me, to at least help me find a way to fly home when the time comes. And so later that day we received a phone call from the mission office, informing me that there was a package for me that was delivered to the mission office and it said "URGENT!" on it. So the next day after our interviews with President Taylor we picked up my "URGENT!" package, and in it was my expired passport and all the paper work I needed to fill out and submit to get a new one. "Cool, thanks Heavenly Father" I thought to myself, thinking that this was an answer to my fasting and praying. I was sad that I still couldn't find my license, but I was grateful that I had some form of identification now rather than none. So, to add to my fasting and prayer, after church yesterday I picked a fast offering slip and began filling it out. Knowing that I needed to write down my Church membership number on the paper slip, I opened up my wallet and thumbed through all the cards to find my temple recommend. I was having difficulty finding that too haha, so I looked in the back of one of the card pockets hoping to find it there. "Oh, here it is!" I said to myself, thinking that I had found my temple recommend. But as I pulled it out, it was like time slowed down, and I looked more closely at the card that I was pulling out. I noticed (imagine this happening in slow motion haha) on it that there were two scanning codes on the side of the card that I saw. "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee heeeeeeeeeeeeeck?????" I thought to myself (in slow motion), remembering that my temple recommend doesn't look like that. So I flipped over the card to look at the other side, and I saw that it was my driver license! I got all excited and I was pumping my fists in the air! That was a true miracle for me! This was another testimony builder to me of the power of fasting, and that it truly can bring about miracles! This has reinforced my belief in God; I am so grateful to Him for answering my prayers. Remember that you are never alone in your experiences in life; you can always draw on the power of God through fasting and prayer. 

Anyways, about last week: We talked to an awesome potential investigator named Dwight and he said he'd bring his family to church on Sunday! Although later on in the week he informed us that they wouldn't make it due to some scheduling conflicts, but he said he'd come this Sunday! We are still working with some less-active members in the ward and they are making progress each in their own way. We've been forming a good friendship with a nonmember family, the Hickernell's, that we tracted into several months ago. They love when we come over, and in fact we had dinner with them last night and they asked us questions about the Church and being a missionary. We asked them about their family history; they said they don't know much and they got bright and excited when we told them we can help them learn more about their ancestors, so immediately we started recording down info of their parents and grandparents! This family may take a while until they are willing to hear the gospel, but family history is a great way to introduce the plan of salvation to someone. Plus their daughter is a musician, and Elder Jeppsen and I got to play her nice guitar and talk about music, it was cool.
We are working with the stake presidency to have a youth "morningside" where we can teach the youth of the stake, during early morning seminary, about how they can share the gospel with people over social media and in person and how they can strike up gospel conversations with others. It's going to be great. 

Gotta go, have a good week!

Elder Ruiz

Week 94: "It's so humid here I could take my fish out for a walk!"

So this week was pretty great. I want to start off with a little miracle. So Tuesday, we were planning on stopping by to see a potential investigator named Deborah. We had talked to Deborah twice before with not much luck, other than her not saying "Get off my porch!" Lol. So we basically knew she wasn't a member of the church, but she had a sister who lived up in Utah, and her son joined the church and was sealed in the temple. So we park, and we see a vehicle with Utah licence plates, so we get all excited. We walk up the driveway and see a young man in the garage smoking a cigar. We talk to him, and ask if Deborah was home. He said ya, just go knock on the door. So we knock on the door and get let in for the first time! We sat down and talked for a minute, then her sister from Utah came in. She's from Vernal, so all her neighbors are members of the church, and she apparently went to church for like 6 months! Her daughter is close with members, and even attended activity days for a while. After talking for a few minutes, the guy smoking the cigar walked in. He sat down on the floor, and just started talking about how he used to meet with missionaries. He loved that, and he started talking about the priesthood from Hebrews chapter 7 and went super in depth. Then he mentioned he was sealed to his spouse, and we realized who this was! It was Deborah's son, Brian! Brian lives in San Diego, and he was separated from his wife that day, that's why he was in town. He (convert of 10 years) and his wife (life long member) were active in the church together for like 10 years, then she was offended and gradually became inactive. He wasn't offended at all, in fact he loves the church, but started slowly slipping away with her for the past 2 years. During that time, he began socially drinking and smoking, not heavily. While under the influence he said things that started his marriage falling apart, which led to his current situation. He was very depressed obviously. The whole time we were there, his non-member mom, and aunt were telling him he needed to go back to church. He asked for a blessing, and we gave him one. He asked me to give the blessing, and during the blessing I was focused; focused on seeking to discern what the Holy Ghost wanted me to say. He was grateful for this blessing, and when I looked over at his mom she's was at the brink of crying. She was touched. We told him to study his patriarchal blessing, and he said he needed to start coming back to church, and that he wants to come back to church. He low key bore his testimony that the Church is true and that Joseph Smith really was a prophet, and the Book of Mormon is true and everything. It was great. We hope the best, and look forward to seeing him soon.

Other cool things that happened:
Lots and lots of contacting. We are actually really busy compared to what the area was like before I got here. We've got tons of really solid potentials, and a few investigators, which we had none of when I came into the area.

James came to church. He was the less active member we visited awhile back that we had never met before, but said he wanted to come to church. 

Thursday was MLC, which is always good.

Friday after dinner with an older active family, their less active son, Todd, invited us to play a game of pool with him. How could we say no, so we played some cutthroat, it was fun.  Later, we were invited by another companionship of elders to a concert at a members home in their ward. This member, Brother Baker, was in the band Beau Nasty back in the day. He was the bass player. Super cool guy. Heard some Led Zeppelin covers, Tesla, Rush, etc. Pretty fun.  No pyrotechnics or anything at the concert, but there were some good local rock bands that played. There was also an Elvis impersonator that came out at the end of the concert haha, we got a picture with him! I told Brother Baker I play the drums and he got super excited and said I can come back anytime and jam with him in his studio!

Surprise, we had a baptism on Saturday.. Devin, the one who got baptized, is the autistic son of a member family. He's 18. He wasn't baptized at 8 because he and his family didn't feel he was ready, but he was now. He was already taught all the lessons before I got here. He's the nicest kid ever though, and it was a happy day for him and his family.

Wayne Burrows is a stud, he has a wonderful family! He is from South Africa (he's white), and him and his family are investigating the church in a different ward in Upland, but they are friends with the Robbins in our ward. And the Burrows family know my mom and stepdad and my neighbors in Provo as well! They had stayed in Provo for a few weeks this summer next door to my parents, so they got the chance to experience Mormon culture and attend church. Their daughter even went to girls' camp, how cool is that? We had breakfast on Saturday with them at the Robbins' and afterwards we all tried to answer his doctrinal/Church history questions. He's got some hard questions, but the fact that he's asked these exact same questions to several other LDS people before meeting with us makes me question his sincerity when he said he's looking for spiritual truth. 

Yesterday we stopped by our chapel to do something and there were two teenage boys sitting in the church parking lot talking to each other. We said hi to them and went inside. As we were coming out of the church building we asked them if we could give them a pass-a-long card, and they said only if we'd let them see the inside of the building. So, we had a little impromptu church tour! It was cool! 

We have been listening to Joseph Smith the Prophet, by Truman G Madsen on tape in the car, and we are halfway through and it's only been a week. It's 6 hours long, but so far it has totally been worth it. It has strengthened my testimony. I know this is Christ's church, and that Joseph Smith was indeed called by God to be a prophet and to restore Christ's Church to the earth. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and it has brought me much closer to God and my Savior. I love this gospel. And I love you all, have a fantastic week!

Elder Ruiz
Quick pic on a couch out on the street that was for sale.

Week 93: MIRACLES!!!!

Last week was amazing, so many miracles!! We were able to pick up two new investigators and teach them both the Restoration! One of them was a service referral named Sam that was given to us from member of the Upland 1st Ward. He is a strong Catholic but has a few questions about the Church ever since his son joined the Church some time ago. He is very set in his ways, so we are not very sure how far this will go. But, we are glad we were able to get in his home and share the message of the Restoration with him! 

The other person was an optimistic agnostic named Rick that we tracted into two weeks ago. He had some good questions about life and the nature of God that we were able to answer, it was awesome. 

We have been tracting a lot, trying to meet a lot of people. We were so blessed to have 2 less-actives stay for all 3 hours of church on Sunday! We met with one of our other investigators and showed him a conference talk by President Uchtdorf about repentance. After showing him the video we committed him to repent of his sins, and he said he would. I could see in his face that he understood the importance, what a blessing it was to see him have been taught by the Holy Ghost.

All of these blessings we have experienced last week I know came from our inreased diligence, faith, and obedience to God's commandments and to our mission rules. And I am never more happier than when I am doing those things! 

On Saturday we thought it would be fun to go and see Tupperware Man again (long story about how we gave him the name, ask me later). He says he loves Mormons but hates the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, and strongly disagrees with our interpretation of the Bible. He kept telling us how foolish we were to be living as a Mormon, and that we should leave the Church. "Over my dead body!" I told him. He was dumbfounded at my (apparently) audacity to say that.  Elder Jeppsen and I testified to him of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restored Gospel It took him a few seconds to find some words to say. He was firing away at us, trying to rip away our faith from us and prove us wrong. But it didn't work. In fact, Elder Jeppsen and I both thought he was funny. He is not searching for truth in the world and a better relationship with God; instead he is searching for the faults and flaws of religion, but specifically the LDS church. He says he gets all his information from "experts", when in reality they are just people who are against the Church. Sure, I have been raised in this faith, and people raised in the Church tend to take a lot of things in the Church for granted. But I cannot deny the experiences that I have had in my life that have witnessed to me that there is a God. I have no doubt that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I proclaim that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I add my testimony to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles:

I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies....I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. I hope I have a few years left in my “last days,” but whether I do or do not, I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days.

Elder Ruiz

Friday, July 28, 2017

Week 92: By the Rivers of Babylon...

Last week Elder Jeppsen and I were blessed with several appointments that we were able to set with less active members and recent converts. We were referred by our bishop to a less active in the ward, and we had a great visit. He was touched by the Spirit when we showed him the Prince of Peace video. He wants to take the missionary lessons so we scheduled an appointment with him for this week. Without hesitation he said he would come to church yesterday but he didn't, so we'll follow up with him on that when we see him. 
A recent convert we're working with came to the Book of Mormon class and enjoyed it, he said he wants to come again. 

On Wednesday we contacted a potential investigator names Alex. We asked if he'd like to meet with us again and he said yes! We have an appointment with him for this Wednesday, we are super excited! He said he'll even feed us dinner!

We've been working with a less-active family, and we asked their 11 year old son if he would like to be a deacon and receive the priesthood, to which he said yes, so we committed him to come to church 2 Sundays from now, after they get home from vacation. We also committed the whole family to have daily family prayer.

On Friday we had a lesson with our investigator Jeremy, and he said the closing prayer, it was awesome!

Other than that we've just been knocking doors all week and trying to set appointments with people and talk to as many people as we can. It was a good week, simple but eventful.

I'm so grateful for the power of prayer, for the opportunity we have each time we pray to communicate with God, our loving Heavenly Father. I have felt his love and comforting influence through the Holy Ghost as I have come to Him in sincere prayer. I know He hears and answers our prayers. I am so grateful for the knowledge that we have; that we have a loving Heavenly Father who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon himself all our sins and infirmities, that we may become changed people, better people, as we choose to follow the perfect example of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. I love you all and hope you have a good week!

Elder Ruiz
We saw a coyote roaming through the neighborhood while we were knocking doors last week. Thankfully we both kept ourselves a safe distance from one another haha.

Week 91: Oh, Nice Tan

Last week Elder Jeppsen and I had many tender mercies from the Lord. We had a great lesson with our investigator Jeremy. We finished reading the Book of Mormon introduction with him, and committed him to daily prayer and to come to church. And he came to sacrament meeting yesterday, as well as his less-active girlfriend. We will soon be teaching them the Law of Chastity, because he is living with his less-active girlfriend and they are not married, and he's gotta be married or she's gotta move out if he wants to get baptized! He let me play on his little boy's drumset, and I tuned it up for him. You never know when you can use your talents or skills to serve someone in any kind of capacity! A recent convert we've also been working with came to sacrament meeting yesterday as well after a long period of absence from church. He's been doing better recently; we've been reading the Book of Mormon with him every time we meet, and he read it on his own for once a few days ago. 

Our wardmates Elder Facer and Elder Gibbons whitewashed out, and we will be getting sister missionaries as our new wardmates; they will be a great asset to the ward with working with single sisters that us elders normally have a hard time meeting with due to missionary rules about meeting with those of the opposite gender if they are alone. The work is picking up here in our area and we are getting the ball rolling. Elder Jeppsen and I are working well together. Nothing really to complain about. 

I just feel so blessed to be a part of this magnificent missionary work of inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon, and I have come to know for myself, through the manifestation of God's power through the Holy Ghost, that it is the word of God, and that it does contain the fulness of the everlasting Gospel. My life has not been the same ever since I started reading the Book of Mormon every day and have been beginning and ending each day in humble, kneeling prayer. The prophet Joseph Smith said that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book. I know this to be true, for I have experience this promise myself. The Lord directs His Church and His work by revelation through His chosen servants. I know Joseph Smith was called of God to restore Christ's Church to the earth, including His priesthood keys and authority and the entirety of His Gospel as was taught by Him. I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God today. The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is evidence that God is real, and that He is our loving Father in heaven. I love you all and hope you have a good week.

Elder Ruiz 

Week 90: I'm hot blooded, check it and see!

Dang, it has been boiling hot here in Upland. I was told that someone measured the temperature of the asphalt, and it was 120! And they measured the temperature of a plastic slide at a playground, and it was 110! So, lesson learned, don't let your kids melt.

Elder Jeppsen and I are spending a lot of time finding. It was difficult to stay busy because many people were out of town for the 4th of July. But we had a really cool experience on the 4th. We stopped by the home of a potential investigator family to with them a happy 4th of July. The wife opened the door, and told us to come on in, and they proceeded to feed us dinner with their family! It was a blast! They asked a few questions about being on a mission and about the Church, so we were able to talk about the Church in that aspect, it was cool. They are so cool! They want to feed us again! I have faith that they are slowly but surely being prepared to receive the restored gospel in due time.

Another cool experience we had was on Friday when we parked in a cul-de-sac to knock on all the doors on the street. Right before we got out of our car, I felt prompted to say a prayer, so I told my companion, and we stopped and said a prayer and asked for the Holy Ghost to guide us to people who are prepared to receive the gospel. Not even 5 second after we finished praying and got out of our car, we saw on the other side of the street a lady who was trying to pick up bags of groceries that had fallen out of the back of her SUV. Unplanned service opportunity, yes! We speed-walked across the street and asked if she needed help. At first she sounded apprehensive about helping her, but we just picked up the groceries anyways. She was really appreciative of us for our assistance (and disappointed in her teenage son for not getting out of the car and helping her haha), and she invited us in to her house. She got us bottled waters and popsicles, learned her name was Julie, and her and her family are Christian. We sat down and chatted for a bit. She told us that her uncle and his family in Nevada are members of the Church, and her niece just returned home from serving a mission in Utah. She adores her uncle and his family, and jokingly said "He's been working on me for a while now to get me to be part of your church." She had to leave and take her son somewhere, so we quickly taught her the Restoration. When we started teaching her about Joseph Smith's First Vision, and I quoted his own personal account, I felt a special spirit in the room and within myself, and though I was not trying to be flamboyant in speech, I felt power in the words of Joseph Smith's personal account that I was quoting to Julie. I saw in her eyes that she was intently listening. I take this spiritual presence that I felt as a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that Joseph's words were true, that he did see Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. She enjoyed our message, and gave us her contact info and said she would talk to her husband about us teaching them! Elder Jeppsen and I both think she is prepared to receive the restored gospel, we are eager to return and followup with her this week! 

We set a baptismal date last week with one of our investigators last week for September 9th, but we will probably need to push it back because he has to get married to his girlfriend that he's living with. We'll work with him and do our best, with the Holy Ghost directing us as to how we should go about the situation.

We'll keep swinging the sickle in the Lord's vineyard this week. I love you all, have a good week!

Elder Ruiz

Week 89: America! America! America! America!

Last week was good. Elder Jeppsen and I were busy last week doing many things, but we were able to see a former investigator named Jeremy and turn him into a new investigator! He really wants his life to be better, and he was focused the whole time on the lesson on the Restoration, it was great. We committed him to baptism, and we have a return appointment for this Saturday. The Spirit was there, Elder Jeppsen and I felt so good. We are working hard together. 
I got to go on exchanges with Elder Low, one of the assistants, on Saturday. It was great! We had the awesome opportunity of teaching a man named Scooter the Restoration while he was eating next to us at Cafe Rio in Rancho Cucamonga (yes, there is  finally a Cafe Rio in our mission, woohoo!). He said it helped him see why there are so many churches on the earth today.

On Thursday we got to eat with our Russian ward member, Sister Schaumann, in her huge fancy house. She had three of her friends over for dinner as well, and we got to ask them about their family history, and we able to tell them about, the Church's free family history website. 

Speaking of family history, I want to share a cool experience I had while looking at my family history last week. Before my mission, I know nothing about my father's father's parents (my great-grandparents), who immigrated to Arizona from Mexico. BUT, when I was on last week, I was freaking out because, thanks to my wonderful Aunt Eva who put this information on my family tree, I finally learned who they were! And there were pictures of them too, it is so cool! Family history is the best! It is so cool to learn about your ancestors, where they came from, and what they lived through. 

This morning we hiked Stoddard Peak for our zone activity, the mountains were beautiful today!

I love the Lord and His restored gospel that I have been blessed by throughout my life. I am grateful for the Lord providing us with our free country, so that the circumstances were right for the Restoration of the Gospel to happen here in the United States. Enjoy your 4th of July, wherever you may be! I love you all.

Elder Ruiz
 Elder Jeppsen (far left) and I with the assistants, ​Elder Memmott and Elder Low.
On top of Stoddard Peak this afternoon!

Week 88: Hot, too hot!

Konichiwa! It's been getting hotter in Upland! This past week Elder Jeppsen and I were slammed with things to do. We had zone conference in Rancho Cucamonga at the mission office on Thursday along with the Ontario Zone, so I got to see my old companions Elder Hulterstrom and Elder Porritt who are serving in Ontario right now. I was taught a lot by the Spirit at that meeting, I loved it. It's such a neat experience to be able to record spiritual impressions and personal revelation from the Holy Ghost. On Friday morning we drove up to Mt. Baldy and helped move rocks and silt in a lady's yard. She is a neighbor to a member of our ward. After finishing our project for the day she was so grateful for our help. She had expressed to us that she has a belief in God and has a favorite church down in Pasadena, but due to medical problems she can't drive that far. So we told her that she is more than welcome to come to our church on Sundays, and she could even carpool with her neighbor who is a Church member. She was supportive of and happy about the idea and she said she'd talk to her neighbor! 

Later that day we had an awesome lesson with our investigators Ronald and Abdulia. We taught them the Plan of Salvation, and they had some really good questions. When we got to the part of the lesson where we teach about the three degrees of glory, Abdulia said, in regard to the celestial kingdom, "Well, that's the place that we should shoot for then!" And she's right! We should be trying our best each day to choose the right, to do what Christ would do. It's vital that we seek to make decisions that help us draw closer to Christ. Ronald and Abdulia love Elder Jeppsen and I; this is the second week that they've fed us lunch after a lesson. Unfortunately they will be out of town to Hawaii and then to Bolivia until late July or mid-August. But Abdulia firmly said that they'll continue to read from the Book of Mormon together while they are gone. And we got their emails so we can keep in contact with them while they are away. They are such a wonderful couple.

 I gave a talk in sacrament meeting on Sunday about building our relationship with Jesus Christ, and I based part of my talk on Elder Bednar's general conference talk last October, called "If Ye Had Known Me". It is such a good talk! His talk helped me realize I need to come to know Christ as my Savior even more than I know now. I highly suggest reading the talk yoursel, it is awesome: 

I've grown to love giving talks in sacrament meeting, because I get to talk about the gospel and share my testimony. And what better topic to speak on than the Savior Himself! 
Over the course of my missionary service, I have come to better know my Savior Jesus Christ. I have been able to continue to build my personal relationship with Him, and I am so grateful for that. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Ruiz
Us and our wardmates driving home from service up in Mt. Baldy.

Week 87: The heat...I'm melting...oh look, ice cream!

Hey howdy ho hey! Happy belated Father's Day to all fathers far and wide, and to all the surrogate fathers and father figures in my life! Thank you for the good that you do.
It's getting hot here in Upland! This past week was awesome. We had a great lesson with Ronald and Abdulia, our two new investigators from two weeks ago. We met with them on Friday afternoon and we taught them the Restoration. It was great! I felt the Spirit so strongly at parts throughout the lesson. Abdulia the wife found comfort in knowing that there is a modern-day prophet on the earth today. And she told us that ever since we met with them the Friday before, her memory has improved, her arthritis pain has decreased, and she feels like her prayers are being answered! This is amazing! Miracles are happening in her life right now because she is seeking to learn more about the Restored Gospel. They've been reading the Book of Mormon together and have been writing down questions that they have. She said her prayers have been answered, and so many blessings have come into her life ever since we first taught them. They both said that they would be baptized if they came to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Joseph Smith was a prophet! Elder Jeppsen and I are so excited about them! The bonus was that they fed us a delicious lunch!

This week also Elder Jeppsen and I moved into our new housing. We're living with a part-member family now in their "granny house" on the side of their home (it's like a little cottage). We were busy with moving belongings and furniture, but now the moving is completed!

On Saturday I got to go to the Redlands Temple with one of my previous companions Elder Wedel and participate in proxy baptisms/confirmations with recent converts that we had taught and baptized when we were in Phelan. It was their first time going to the temple, so we wanted to be there with them and support them. They all really enjoyed their first time in the temple. 

This Thursday is zone conference, so I'm looking forward to that! I love being a missionary! I know that God lives, and that He loves us very much. Have a great week!

Elder Ruiz

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Week 86: Chemical Trails...and MIRACLES!!

This past week has been our busiest week teaching people during my time here in Upland, it's great! We were able to meet with two less actives and one came to sacrament meeting, and the other we met with twice and he opened up to us and explained his reason for not coming, it being his psychological state. But he quit his job so he can come to church. Now that's what I call commitment! We also met with our less-active Todd, who we tried to commit to getting rid of his stash of dope that he still has. But he's caught on the fence about it because it's worth so much money and he doesn't want to throw it all away and not use it or at least have it be used by someone. At one point Elder Jeppsen offered to give Todd all the money in his wallet if he would get rid of all his weed right then, but he didn't tell him how much money he had in his wallet (he only had like $6 haha). Todd then treated the situation like a gameshow and called Elder Jeppsen "a gameshow host from God" haha. 

We talked to one of the lost members we had tracted into last week, and the lady that was washing his dog gave us a flyer about the threat of bioengineering to our earth and society (aka "chem trails" or the white lines you see in the sky behind a flying plane). I read through it and couldn't help but laugh, it was so cheesy and faulty. 

Two Sundays ago I had fasted and prayed for the Lord to help us find new investigators. That Sunday a member referred us to his neighbors. We knocked on their door on Saturday and they let us in! We had some small talk and they had questions about the Book of Mormon, which we answered. The wife is a bookworm and committed herself to reading the entire introduction of the Book of Mormon, and both her and her husband are totally open to learning more about God! Who could be more prepared than this sweet old couple? They are genuinely interested in reading it, and we have a return appointment for this Friday! We are so excited we have this couple we can share the restored Gospel with! 

We have been knocking a lot of doors and telling people about, and many people are actually interested in learning about their family history. We've even had several people say that they want to go check out the family history center at the Upland stake center. We had two or three people tell us to come back this Friday. Elder Jeppsen and I are doing great together. We're continuing to work hard, knock doors, all that good stuff. I know that this work that I am participating in is indeed God's work. It is inspired, and it will continue to roll forth across the earth, blessing the lives of those who accept it into their lives and live it. God is always looking out for us and is aware of each of our current circumstances. I love you all, have a good week! 

Elder Ruiz

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Week 85: The Sodom and Gomorrah Garage

Hey y'all, we had a good week last week. We've been knocking a lot of doors, pounding the pavement. Elder Jeppsen and I tracted into two lost members. We met the first person, Fred, while he was working on a car engine in his garage. And let's just say he had a lot of innapropriate "worldy" pictures and items in his garage (after we left I named his garage Sodom and Gomorrah haha). So we tried to scram out of there as soon as we could, but not before Fred talked our ears off and gave each of us a huge bullet and some shrapnel (he's got a lot of military/Vietnam War memorabilia). Thanks Fred! 
The second person was a lady we tracted into (actually lives a few houses down from Fred) named Linda. She loves the Church and the restored gospel; she still watches General Conference with her kids. But when she went through the temple to receive her own endowment and be sealed to her converted husband, she was freaked out by what takes place in the endowment session. She had to leave the middle of the session with her husband because she was traumatized, and so ever since then she's been afraid to go back to the temple, and therefore she's scared to go back to church. As she was telling us all this, she just started crying, and I was so sad to see her fear and sorrow. She knows the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and very real, and she wants the blessings of the Gospel for her two special-needs children. We told her that we all have fears and trials in this life, but our Heavenly Father always has and always will love us, and He knows what we're going through. We invited her to church and tried to set a return appointment. Hopefully we can see her again and bring our Relief Society President or the bishop of our ward with us. But she's moving to a nearby city with her family soon, so we've got limited time to do so before she's no longer here.

We were also blessed to be able to finally meet with a less-active recent convert we've been trying to get together with for several weeks now. He opened up to us a little and we found out why he's not coming to church. We were able to meet with him twice last week, and teach about faith and repentance and watch Elder Renlund's October 2016 conference talk about repentance. He likes watching the conference talks.

Transfers are today, and I'm happy to say I'll be serving at least another transfer with Elder Jeppsen. We have some good elders and sisters coming into our zone this transfer, I'm looking forward to serving alongside them. I CAN"T BELIEVE I'VE ONLY GOT 18 WEEKS LEFT STARTING TODAY!!!! What the heck? Can't time slow down a little, please? My mission is going by way too fast now haha. I'm trying to make the most with what time I have left. I love my Savior Jesus Christ, and I know he loves each and every one of us. He loves YOU and knows YOU personally. When all hope seems lost, when we are going through hard times, when it seems like victory over the difficulties of life is not possible, we should focus our lives on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of true, real, lasting joy and peace. I know this to be true because I have felt true, real, lasting joy and peace as I've sought to come closer to my Savior by learning about His Gospel and teachings and incorporate His perfect attributes. My life would be so miserable and dark if it wasn't for the knowledge and belief that I have of our loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I have become a better person as I've made Jesus Christ the focus of my life and sought to strengthen my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. 

I love you all and hope you have a good week!

Elder Ruiz
Elder Morton and I at transfers in Rancho Cucamonga today. We were companions for four and a half months in Chino last year. He goes home at the end of this transfer. One of my favorite companions!​

Week 84: Faz the Christian scientist.

Hey everyone! Hope you had a good memorial day yesterday! Elder Jeppsen and I have been "pounding the pavement" a lot recently. We've been utilizing family history into our daily proselyting and we've seen some success with that. A lady even invited us into her home, gave us some cold water, and we had a 20 minute conversation about her family and family history. We exchanged numbers, and she really wants us to come back! We are excited to meet with her again! On Sunday we were walking down the street and we saw a lady was cutting her bushes, so we walked up to her and started helping her cut the branches and put them in her garbage can. Soon, she just grabbed us a huge container of cold water and and we started talking to her husband Faz, who is a christian scientist (he's a biochemist who studies about dinosaurs and the origin of man, but does it with the aspect that God created everything). He gave us several books that he's written, and he wants us to come back to his home and feed us dinner sometime so he can talk to us more. We are so pumped! And one of our less-actives that we have been working with came to church again and stayed for all 3 hours, woohoo! We are proud of Todd! He's doing great! And yesterday for out last zone activity of the transfer we played kickball in a baseball field. That was a lot of fun! 

I'm short on time today, but I love you all and hope you have a great rest of the week! Never forget that God loves you very much! Also a shoutout to all my family and friends who have/will graduate in the past/next few days! Congratulations!

Elder Ruiz
And of course, a photo of us with Mr. Bu!

Elder Schmidt and I ready to play some kickball with some baseball pants we found haha.

Week 83: Mr. Bu

Hey again from Upland California! This past week Elder Jeppsen and I have been trying to work hard. We knocked doors a lot and had a few service opportunities throughout the week. On Sunday at church there were 3 less-actives that came to church! We were, and still are, so excited! We are continuing to work with them to try and strengthen them. 

This morning we woke up at 4:40 to go on a hike with some of the other elders in our zone. We hiked Mt. San Antonio (more commonly known as Mt. Baldy). It took us a couple hours, but we did it and we started driving back home at about 2:30. Most of us are dehydrated, sun-burnt to a glowing pink/red, and exhausted and sore, but it was so worth it! The view was spectacular, and I love being in the mountains and in the forest. I am so grateful that God created this beautiful and majestic earth for us to live on and to enjoy. But I have to say that the 2nd treat of the day, if not the best treat of the day was meeting Mr. Bu. As we were walking down a trail to our car after the hike, I saw in the older gentleman...with a Chinese hat...and he was playing the flute next to his van. "What the heck is that over there?", I told the elders with me. So we went to check out the situation. Turns out this old man was recording himself playing the flute. And he had a jimbe (a hand drum) and a set of bongos, so we had a little jam session with him for a few minutes. It was hilarious and a lot of fun! He had no problem telling us that he has no memory of his hippie life in the 70's because of all the LSD he had taken when he was young. And he told us he had just taken 3 THC pills a little while before we came over haha. That explains his crazy but hilarious behavior hahahaha. We took some videos and took a picture with him. I will never forget Mr. Bu. Also, Mr. Bu is not Asian, he's a white guy named Paul, but he goes buy Mr. Bu. 

I don't have much time left on this computer today, but I want you all to know that you have a loving Father in Heaven, who loves you personally and knows the ups and downs that you go through every day. He loves you so much that he has a plan for you to be able to return to be with Him and have everlasting peace and joy. His Son, Jesus Christ, loves you so much that he willingly gave his life for you so that you can have a way to be able to overcome the sins and wrongful actions that you make in this life; anything that you regret doing. He knows you personally as well, and is right by your side all the time. Your loving Father in heaven wants to hear from you, and you can talk to him personally and express yourself through prayer, a sacred form of communication between you and your Heavenly Father; like your own personal telephone line to Him. I know that He answers our miracles. And according to our faith, He will make miracles happen in our lives and in the lives of others. I know this to be true. I love you all, have a great week!

Elder Ruiz

On my way up to the peak this morning!