Monday, January 25, 2016


I couldn't believe it when I first heard about it. Ah. I just can't.
And Blackstar topped Adele's 25 on the charts?? That's unbelievable!! Is it a good album? I can't wait to hear it.
Anyway, it's been such a great week. The Lord has blessed us so much. I don't know if I've ever felt happier than I do here on the mission. I feel really confident that once I return home I'll be able to say that the mission was the best two years of my life.
And, it's been two months already?? Also unbelievable.
This week we've just been working hard and having a lot of fun doing it. We've been receiving a lot of referrals (a pretty miraculous amount, to be honest) and it's led us to some amazing people.
One thing I've seen is yet another testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon. People who don't want to hear a thing from us will suddenly open their minds so much as soon as they read from the book. One lady we teach, named Debbie Norris, is probably crazy. She tells us there are millions of blackbirds living in her attic and they all come in through this hole by her window. (the hole doesn't exist.) and she is just really uneducated and doesn't know how to read/comprehend super well which is pretty typical of a surprising amount of people down here. (I never thought such poverty could exist in America. Maybe I'll send a few pictures next week of places where people live in the poorer neighborhoods so you guys can see what I mean. It's pretty bad. Did I already say that white privilege is really a really thing? Because it's really such a real thing.)
Anyway, we read the Book of Mormon a couple of days ago with her, and it was just amazing how it opened her mind. It was super obvious too. We could literally hear her reading and comprehension improving as she read first Nephi chapter one. It was awesome. When we finished the chapter, we asked her how she felt, and she told us she felt like she doesn't need to worry about all the crazy things like the blackbirds anymore. So yep, it was a small miracle, but a miracle it was.
The other thing I've learned is how much of a difference taking members to your lessons can make. It's really more of a psychological thing than anything. People honestly don't trust us missionaries most of the time. They see us basically like salesmen, the only difference is, we're selling a church. When you bring a member of the church, though, they see that member as a real human being. It's funny how obvious it is, when we watch investigators talk to us vs. talking to members, how much more they trust members of the church. It makes a really powerful difference in the lessons though. The members have real, human experience that comes not just from reading about God, but living life and learning of Him through their own experience. They have some really powerful testimonies to bear. It also helps that the members here are awesome.
Anyway, that's about all i have to say about the mission nowadays. Oh. one other thing. I actually have gotten to eat some somewhat exotic food. I ate a crawfish (not too exotic but weird) and got to pull it apart and everything. it about made me a vegetarian. And I ate some kind of root called yooka? that's how it's pronounced. It was pretty dang good.
People like to ask about food so there you go. That's all. The mission is so good, I just can't even express how good it is. Everyone should go on a mission, or something. I hope you guys are all finding happiness and fulfillment out there in life. All I have left to say is that God is real, and He is really good.
I love you all. And I would love you even more if you guys would e-mail me. I really appreciate the e-mails so far but as my good friend Elder Butler has said, some of you people need to repent!
-Elder taylor 

A new week

Jan. 18, 2016
This week was so much better than the last one. It was kind of a new start for Elder Jones and I. We did a lot of tracting and found a couple of really promising new investigators. Time is just going by so fast. I can't believe that I've been in the field for more than a month already. Anyway, we just keep working hard and the Lord is really blessing us. Perseverance is the key.

Does anyone know the rules for badminton? Elder Jones and I just hit a shuttlecock around for two hours yesterday and it was so much fun. (it was P-Day so that sort of behavior was appropriate.)
Anyway, I've had a couple of really cool experiences this week.
On Tuesday we heard about a Baptist revival happening in Sealy, so we decided to go. (I think Elder Jones was inspired to lead us that way, personally.) It started at about seven o'clock in the evening. We were two of three white people in a congregation of over 100 so that was cool. A preacher came up from Dallas and spoke to us. He was a really talented speaker and also really crazy and loud. The purpose of the meeting was to learn to be better people, but also to party because we're SAVED! Baptist meetings are really celebratory. It's pretty cool. Going to the revival really helped me gain respect for that religion specifically. Most people here in Texas, Christian or not, are really honest and good.
Also at the revival, I got to see what speaking in tongues and "shaking" (in the Spirit) is from a traditional Christian perspective. So that was really interesting. The preacher - in the midst of his other yelling - would release random bursts of glossolalia and when he shook it was like he was having muscle spasms in his arms. (Luckily, the spasms were never crazy enough to make him drop the microphone.) Those things were really strange to me as a Latter-day Saint, but I learned a lot from the meeting.
So now a ton of the black people in Sealy know who we are because the preacher talked to us (and we stood out in the white shirts and ties and, uh, skin). It really helped them see us as people, not just missionaries. And one of our investigators, Mary Davis (who believes firmly that the preacher was a prophet) who was at the revival has been way more open-minded toward us since then. She even said she would attend our church because we attended hers! So yep, I really like how the revival helped us cultivate an attitude of mutual respect.
There are a couple of really good service opportunities in our area. We did some flooring this week for Habitat for Humanity, which basically provides really cheap (yet well-built and high-quality) houses to people who can't afford them normally. And we visit a couple of nursing homes to play dominoes with some old people. It seems kinda silly, but it really surprised me how much they really appreciated it.
I'm out of time but I'm excited to hear from you all. Good luck with your weeks. I love you all.
Elder Taylor

Monday, January 11, 2016


This was probably the hardest week of my mission so far. I don't want to be overly pessimistic, because I feel like I always make my mission sound like a horrible experience and it's really not. It's amazing, I can hardly describe how much I am learning. I feel like God is making me so much more every day. I'm learning to be a more fully realized, assertive person. If you want to learn 10+ years of life experience in 2 years, try going on a mission. The thing is, oftentimes you learn things kind of the hard way. (meaning from actual experience!) Nothing has ever been more worth it though.
We had 3 baptismal dates scheduled for Sunday (yesterday), and their names were Nick, Blu, and Deanna Bonham. They're 13, 10, and 14 respectively, and they are just super awesome. I loved teaching them because they were so willing to learn. Kids are so open-minded because they don't have all these learned preconceptions (in this case, particularly about Mormons) that adults do. They had faith in Jesus Christ and they wanted to keep their commandments! So it was great to watch them and see how excited they were to be baptized.
Then Sister Holt, their mom (she's been through a couple of divorces) started reading anti-Mormon stuff online (I'll talk more about that later) and she expressed to us that she didn't really have a desire to keep the commandments. So that was fine, we told her we would teach her and mainly she needed to read the Book of Mormon, because that was the thing that would gain her a conviction of the truth of the gospel. She wasn't rude to us or anything, we got along fine, she said she wanted to postpone the baptism because she wanted to learn more. So we said okay.
Then a few days later she texted us and told us not to visit anymore. So just like that, we were dropped. The branch president tried to visit her on Sunday and she said she wanted nothing to do with him or the Church. She made an executive decision for her kids not to be baptized. So it was kinda crappy. I think Elder Jones was hit especially hard by it. It just felt like we were doing amazing last week and this week we just lost it. It was hard to get up in the morning and go out and try to tract, teach, etc. but we did it anyway. No one really knows why Sister Holt just cut everyone off so suddenly.
Other things in the week were awesome, though. The members of the Sealy 1st branch (which is about 125 [active] members) are starting to get so into missionary work. Yesterday in the Gospel Principles class they just discussed activities they could do to help people learn about the LDS church and their ideas were just so good. It made me really excited. This week is a new start and I am really looking forward to what comes of this new attitude among the members. They're so awesome. I wish you all could meet them.
Anyway, on "anti-Mormon" "literature": Members of the Church have a pretty easy time dismissing the writings online as "all lies". And I do believe many things are lies that you can find on the internet. People who leave the Church are often really angry about it. They might have been offended by some teaching, or by how they were treated at church meetings. Or, they might just feel bitter because they feel like they've been lied to their whole lives. (Oftentimes that bitterness is what drives me away from anti-Mormon writings. They claim so often to be completely over it and yet when they speak about the Church all it seems they are able to do is mock it, or just degrade it in any way they can.)
But, do some people have concerns about Joseph Smith, the history of the Church, or the doctrines of the Church that are completely valid? Yes. And oftentimes, as they seek to learn all they can about those things, they (tragically) lose sight of The One Thing.
The Book of Mormon is that One Thing. It's why I went on a mission in the first place. I had questions - and knew things - that made me question the authenticity of Joseph Smith's prophethood and of the validity of "his" Church. But the more I learned about church history, from reading Joseph Smith's biography and things like that, the less sure I felt about things. I didn't know if I could come to find any kind of "yes" or "no" answer about it for myself.
I experienced that because I had lost sight of the One Thing - because a testimony of the Book of Mormon is necessary in order to know if the Church is true or not. It's because scholars can be wrong, but the spiritual witness you can receive regarding the Book of Mormon is real proof. I've heard a couple of people dismiss spiritual feelings as mere emotions - of course you believe that you are "saved" because the idea of having your sins washed away feels good! It's appealing to your mind! And that can be true. I think people get the Spirit and regular emotions mixed up pretty often, both within and without the LDS church.
But I know the Book of Mormon is true. The spiritual witness I have received of it - multiple times - is absolutely unmistakable. There is no feeling that exists like it. I know it is of God.
So yep. Here comes some super preachyness but it's my job. Read the Book of Mormon. The Lord has promised that He will reveal its truthfulness to you and He always keeps his promises (according to your sincerity and your motives, of course).
I hope you guys' lives are going awesome. I'm about out of time so, that's it. Sorry to everyone who I didn't have time to e-mail back. I'll try to fit it in next week, haha..
yep! I love you all.
-Elder Taylor

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.

Hey everyone. Sorry for missing a week of e-mails; the last P-Day was really busy because we had a lesson planned really early in the day so it kind of messed up our actual P-Day activities. But things here in Sealy have been great. Elder Jones and I just keep on going and we're getting some good work done, I think. The Lord is really paying attention to what we're doing. He has really blessed us in the work that we are doing.
Some events:

We (since Elder Jones and I are basically together all the time, I've found myself referring to our companionship more than myself when talking about what's happening in the mission, which is interesting.) spent a good deal of time on Christmas with the Prach family, who live in the middle of nowhere, which is pretty typical of my area. The Sealy mission area is about fifty miles wide, so it's really a huge area, just with very few people. We generally try to stick to the more populated areas unless we are visiting members like the Prachs.

Anyway, at the Prach house we got to call our families, which is pretty nice. I guess my mom decided to super-spoil all the other kids ever since I left and she bought a couple of things that I thought she was pretty determined not to get. Meaning, I hate. Haha, I'm pretty jealous and I can't help complaining about it a little, but that probably doesn't matter too much to most of the people in the group.

We ate some barbecue stuff (I'll probably gain 300 pounds on the mission especially because of all the stupid CANDY everyone gives us) and we ended the night by pouring a bunch of diesel on a big pile of wood and brush and creating a massive bonfire. Yep, that's Christmas in Texas. I guess that kind of thing is okay here.
Minor note: I expected to teach rednecks here in Texas and I really am teaching so many rednecks. (The Prachs are pretty much regular people, they just have a few redneck qualities like bonfire-building.) There are a good amount of people who live in the suburbs, and they pretty much live the same lifestyle as people in Utah (besides drinking and partying and all the not-Mormon things). They look the same and talk the same. Other people are Southern, really Southern, and you just never have any idea what they're saying because their accents are so thick. They aren't just okay with getting dirty, they'd rather be dirty than anything else. The thing that surprised me, though, is that rednecks aren't just a bunch of idiots. They are isolated and they are uneducated but their minds work just the same as anyone's, and their consciences work just the same. I judged them pretty hastily and harshly before my mission, but now I can honestly say some of the best, most honest people I've met (in life) have been rednecks.

Saying "ya'll" isn't something you catch from being in Texas, it's definitely a choice. I say it every once in a while; we'll see if I get a good habit of it.

We spent new year's at the branch president's house, which was kinda weird because they had a bunch of family over, but they were the ones who invited us, so hopefully they were ok with it. They set off a bunch of fireworks and we played a board game called Nuns on the Run (which is an excellent game, y'all ought to try it). The holiday season was really good, but also kind of bad because we didn't get much done, because who wants to talk about Jesus on Christmas? Am I right?

Another interesting experience is the first companion exchange I went on. I got paired with Elder Mariner, who I believe is from Samoa (or, at least, he was Polynesian). He was a really cool guy but the thing that made it interesting is how he treated the mission rules, meaning, he ignored them. He asked what music I like and I said Sufjan Stevens, and he just started playing one of his songs (even worse, it was "Eugene") on his iPad, and man. My heart just died a little bit. I probably would have cried or something if he had played it for more than two seconds. (not necessarily because it was breaking the rules, but because Sufjan) Most of the time he just played Linkin Park and reggae super loud. and didn't ever leave the apartment. and wasted time. I tried to do some studying but it was pretty hard with all the music. Also he had a guitar and a ukulele in his apartment and I definitely learned why those aren't allowed because they were so distracting for me.

I guess what I learned from that experience is how dangerously tempting it can be to just do nothing and live in comfort every day instead of doing work. On Christmas, I felt pretty bad for not getting very much done, but on that day I almost forgot about it (besides all the studying). That just scares me. It would be horrible to come home from the mission and realized that I hadn't accomplished anything.

I only have a few minutes left because the library here in Bellville limits your time on the computer. So, all I really have to say is that God is blessing us a lot. I'm trying to gain a spiritual conviction that Joseph Smith was a prophet, so that I can teach and testify more powerfully. I know the Book of Mormon is true, every time I read it I can feel it (which is really something else, just, it's so good.) but for some reason I just haven't made the connection to Joseph Smith yet. It's coming pretty slowly but I think that's a good thing. I don't want to just convince myself that it's true by repeating it over and over. Anyway, we have just been working really hard. There have been a few days where I felt really overwhelmed and stressed out because we just had to do so much. Then at sacrament meeting this week we had six investigators show up, which was more than we had expected. I just had a distinct impression that it had happened because Elder Jones and I had tried so hard to fulfill our duties and press forward despite the stress. We got three referrals in the past two days as well, which never happens. It all feels pretty miraculous.

There's so much more I want to tell all of you but I'm out of time. I know the gospel changes lives. I'm so excited to keep moving forward and to work hard and even to face the stress. I want to change lives and I can't wait to see what comes of all the work here in Sealy. It's not me, nor Elder Jones, who change lives, though. It's the investigators who change themselves and the Lord who gives them the ability to do it. All we are is messengers. It's pretty amazing.

I hope you all are doing well and that life is going your way. I love you all. (Please email me and keep me updated on life!)

Elder Taylor