Monday, December 26, 2011

Stick Em!

We got a little snow on Wednesday, but the first time I used the shovel this year was this morning.  Only about an inch or so.  Crazy!  Last Christmas it was white; this one had a bit of green.  But, I'm not complaining!  It can stay as warm as it wants to.

It was a slower week.  But things have been turning out well.  We have found a few potential people this week we hope to start teaching this week or 'after the holidays.' 

Christmas Eve, we made some treats for some investigators, then tried some less-actives around town.  Then that night we went to the DeBucks for dinner with the Steimles.  It was awesome:  hot (spicy) enchiladas, green chilli, turkey, yummy goodness.

Then we went over the the Hakes home where they invited some less-actives, co-workers, Lorena and DaFrank, and us. The little kids did the nativity (reminds me of a faint memory of having the missionaries in our home for Christmas Eve and having them dress up as wise men).  We sang some songs, ate more dessert, and even learned how to 'stick' people with needles (a new Christmas tradition, I think).  Brother Hakes and his co-worker are both medics in the army and showed us/let us try it.  (pictures for proof)

Elder Simmonds and I ended our night with reading scriptures and drinking sparkling cider.

Christmas Morning we made waffles.  Good stuff! (Warning, don't run microwave and waffle iron on same circuit.  It will blow the fuse) [ride to the store: .2 miles. Replacement Fuse: $3.58.  Eating waffles in the dark on Christmas Morning: Priceless.  For everything else there's Master Card].

Then we had our personal study.  After that, we opened our stockings (Good Stuff!) and then went to church.

After church we had our companion study, opened gifts (Sweet!), went to the Steimle's for dinner with the Cramers (Timothy and Michele).  More good food!  More good dessert!
Watched Mr. Kruger's Christmas.  Visited a member and wished them a merry Christmas.  Came home.  Planned for the next day.  Called family.  Called district and zone leaders.  went to bed (after brushing my teeth).

This morning I did not want to run!  but we did anyway.  I'm excited to get back into it, and not have these 'weird' days.

I hope you are all doing well.  No food poisoning.  :)

Enjoy the week! and Happy New Year!

Elder Shurtz

Two Elders Track-ting!

Luetta's Baptism

Sweet Nativity!

Elder Simmonds takes the plunge!

Should I consider a career in medicine?

Stick em!


Cool Dudes!

Just what I needed!

That's what I'm talking about!

Timothy's Baptism

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Week

It has been a fun week!

Tuesday for district meeting Elder Simmonds and I talked about our callings as missionaries and our responsibility and right to be led by the spirit.  Hopefully it was good.

I then went to Lowville on exchange with Elder Lamborn (from my MTC district).  It is a small area in the woods, with only about 20 active people.  I find myself thankful for a ward!

Friday we had Return & Report.  We drove down to Utica (after having breakfast at this wonderful local diner), only a little bit of snow on the way.  Had a great experience with the training we received.  Elder Simmonds is a great missionary, with lots of faith.  Sister Cox, a sister missionary in my MTC district goes home this week.  She is done.  It is crazy to think that.  Elder Call (my trainer) goes home as well.  I feel like I don't know many of the missionaries now!

After Return & Report, we came back to Carthage for our Ward Christmas party.  It was huge!  People had assigned seating.  We had about 200 people there.  The YSA were supposed to serve the food (everyone placed an order on a sheet of paper), but many of them left!  So we spent about an hour and a half serving tables their food (what a mess!).  But the food was good (turkey, ham, potatoes, bread, salad) and had a fun nativity that the primary did.

Luetta's baptism went well.  Both Elder Simmonds and I were in the water to help her.  I performed the ordinance, and Elder Simmonds helped in support.  She has a hard time with stairs and they make the font stairs so steep.  We had her sit on a chair in the font then helped her lean back.  (Luckily we only had to do it once!)  She is such a strong lady.  She had her friend in the church give the talk on baptism, and had Austin, a 19-year-old kid who has been helping us teach her, gave the talk on the Holy Ghost.  We had about 40 people there, and it was a good experience.  The spirit was strong!

Sunday she was confirmed by Elder Simmonds.  She was shaking the whole day, and only had enough strength to get to the chair and back.

Timothy was ordained a Priest today by Brother Fetters (1st councilor in the bishopric and co-worker in the army).  YAY!

We had Lorena (apparently I have been spelling it wrong.  It is NOT Lorina) came to church with Brother DaFrank (fiance).  I'm glad they keep coming. 

Transfer calls were Saturday.  Carthage and Watertown are staying the same.  But Lowville is going to be closed.  We have 11 missionaries coming in this transfer, and 12 the next, so I'm guessing it will be opened next transfer.  Elder Christensen (MTC companion), who has been my Zone leader, is now the new AP.  His companion is his trainer, Elder Miller.  He will do great!  Elder Stanton (my last companion) was called to be a Zone Leader and replaced Elder Christensen in Rome.

This week will be interesting (21st, the darkest day of the year) and right before Christmas, and we don't have anyone else with a baptismal date.  Christmas should be good.  We have some awesome members who are feeding us, and hopefully we don't find ourselves tracting on Christmas. I remember last Christmas Eve, we were pulled over by a cop, just as we were leaving an area (in our 12 passenger van), because people thought we were casing the houses!  Good times, that I do not want to repeat.

Thank you everyone for your cards, and packages.  I am always overwhelmed by my many blessings in life.  For my family and friends.  For the gospel, the opportunity and ability to serve.  But, especially for the gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.  The only [true] gift is a portion of thyself.”  May we strive to follow Jesus Christ who did not just give 'a portion' of himself, but his whole-self.

Have a great Christmas!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, December 12, 2011

Revelation is the Rock of the Church!

It has been a good week.  Got a little bit of snow, and I have felt a little sick (sore throat, cough, chills), but believe I am doing better.  Taking a lot of Vitamin C.

Tuesday, for district meeting I had the Watertown Elders do a training President assigned on teaching the Law of Chasity, focusing on pamphlets and the needs of the investigators.  It is amazing, because this week that is exactly what we needed to teach a couple we are teaching, and we have been praying and trying to figure out the best way to do it.  So counseling together as a district brought even more revelation.  When we taught the lesson it was bold, and loving, and was filled with the spirit.  I am so grateful for the guidance of the spirit.

I also went on exchange in Lowville.  I worked in Carthage with Elder Bergman.  It went well. Many appointments fell through, but we worked hard, and kept going, which I think helped him.  We did have a chance to sit down for a sec with a less active, who would like to start coming back to church.  So good stuff! This week I will be going to Lowville and work with Elder Lamborn.  He was in my MTC district.

Wednesday morning the Relief Society president called us with a referral for a husband in a part-member family who would like to start taking the lessons.  We called him up that night, and had a lesson with him the next day.  He has been going to sacrament meeting for the past year or so with his wife in Watertown, though they live in Carthage boundaries.  He is a good guy, and hope to get him to come to Carthage with his family.

We continue to meet with Luetta.  What a great lady! We talked about Temples and Family History work.  She is still excited for her baptism on Saturday.  We had her try the stairs into the font after church yesterday because they are steep and she does not do so well with steps.  We are probably going to have a chair in the water she can sit on.

We had a very powerful lesson with Timothy and Michelle Friday night.  We talked about missionary work.  Scriptures came to mind in the moment.  Had Michelle describe her feelings as she not only she came back into activity, but as she watched her husband embrace the gospel.  Tender words spoken.  Spirit was strong.  Tears were shed.

The baptism was wonderful.  Not as many people showed up, but we still had about 40 people (majority probably kids).  I had the opportunity to perform the baptism.  I asked him how he felt soon after.  He answered: 'Amazing. That felt different than all the other times I was dunked.  It did not feel empty. I haven't felt this good in a long time.' After changing, Michelle shared her testimony.  She recognized that coming back to church and having her husband baptized not only saved their marriage, but brought it to a deeper level.  Her mother, not of the LDS faith, said to Michelle over the phone that she knew Michelle and her husband were closer now, than even their wedding day.

Is it not amazing!  The fullness of the gospel is here!  It has been restored!  There is power behind the ordinances!  There is power behind the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Like Joseph Smith who compared himself to Paul standing in front of King Agrippa, how can we deny something we know to be true through the power of the Holy Ghost?  How could deny the promptings we have felt?

Something Elder Simmonds and I have been noticing and talking about this week is the frequency of revelation we have been receiving.  Who we should teach? What we should teach? What should we say? What scriptures should we use?

As district leader: what to suggest?  What to train on?  How to encourage and support? 
Revelation:  This is the 'rock' of the church, Jesus Christ declared in Matthew 16.  Revelation to direct his ordained servants in His church.

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

Elder Shurtz

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Book of Mormon is the Word of God!


We have gotten a little snow, but it has all melted, and it is currently raining!  It is crazy how warm it is right now.  Yesterday was in the 50's.

As I was heating some water the power went out in part of the house.  Went to the box, not to find a switch but these fuses that looked like bulbs! (just to tell you how old our place is).  After examining the different fuses, we found the culprit.  Luckily there is a store next door that sells them, and we bought one for about 3 bucks.  Learn something new everyday!
I also found pomegranates!  Since last winter I have been wanting to have chocolate covered pomegranates, so guess what I did!  It is so good!

On Wednesday we had Zone Conference.  The subject was the Book of Mormon.  When I started my mission I knew the New Testament better than I did the Book of Mormon.  But, making the Book of Mormon my central focus of study, I have gained such a powerful witness that it is true.  It is the word of God.  The mission president challenged us again to read the Book of Mormon highlighting things pertaining to Christ.  I decided to highlight His names (and pronouns) in one color, attributes in another color, times that people say 'in the strength of the Lord' or similar instances where the Lord strengthens, His words (or when the prophets say 'thus saith the Lord'), and prophesies about Him.  It is amazing what stands out.  Nephi says early on that he will show the 'tender mercies of the Lord'.  I never quite realized how many times after that the attribute of mercy is applied to the Savior.

After Zone Conference, we went on exchange with the Zone Leaders.  Elder Christensen (my MTC companion) was with me in Carthage.  We had a great time.  He is a hard worker and a great missionary.  We reflected a lot on the changes of the last 18 months.  It is crazy that we have been out 3/4th of our mission already.  MTC seemed like the other day.

At Zone Conference the church installed 'black boxes' in our cars (I need to get a picture of it).  But, it is mounted behind the rear-view mirror, and is connected to the car, monitoring speeds, acceleration, bumps, turns, and who knows what else.  (An Elder asked if it records our conversations and the President asks: should it matter?)  They have done it for two years in 6 missions and found that it saves the church a lot of money, and keeps everyone safer.  So they now have extended it to 25 missions and we are one of the lucky ones.  It glows in the night with it's blue and green lights.  'You better watch out, you better not speed, you better not screech, I'm telling you why, President Bulloch is watching your moves.'

Wednesday night Timothy and Luetta had their interviews!  Timothy is set to be baptized on Saturday (5:00) and Luetta the following Saturday (also at 5).  It is super exciting!  Michelle (Timothy's wife) shared her testimony in sacrament meeting yesterday.  It was very powerful.  What a great family!

As for Larina and Luke, we are pushing their baptisms back a little bit.

We also found a new investigator this week.  Her name is Carry.  Tracted into her, but she does have some cousins who are in our ward.  She has had a tough life, but she felt some hope as we bore testimony and we will be teaching her the Plan of Salvation this week.

I hope you all have a great week!  It is an amazing time to be alive!

Elder Shurtz

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lateasa's Baptism

Lateasa's Baptism
It has been a good week.  Spent thanksgiving at Sister Hardy's house with some other families.  She is such a nice lady, always wanting to feed us and take care of us.

Lateasa's baptism went well.  Well attended (60-70 people).  She asked me to give the talk on baptism.  She was super excited.  We had Luke, Luetta, Larina, and Timothy's wife, Michelle, were at the baptism.  (Timothy's kid was sick so he stayed home to watch him).

Tuesday I went on exchange with Elder Williams who is in Watertown.  We worked in Carthage.  We taught Timothy and Michelle about the temple, eternal families, and family history.  It is amazing to feel the spirit testify that what you say is true and you know that they feel it as well.

We have been working with everyone else on their baptisms.  A few will be pushed back a couple of weeks.  I will let you know after their interviews.

It was a little bit slower this week, but great things were done to help eveyone progress.  It is fun to see the discovery or the 'enlightening' of the spirit in their lives.

Well I need to get going.  Sorry for the short email this week.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

Hello, Hello, Hello!

It snowed a little, but disappeared this week.  Yesterday was warm and raining.  It has been a great week teaching!  But not so much finding.
We have taught Luetta and Timothy majority of the lessons.  Luke we have taught a bit, but we are not sure where the parents are in all of this, so we might be pushing his date back a week or two.  A week from this Wednesday we are going on exchange with Zone Leaders and we will be doing interviews then.  Our goal is to have Luetta, Timothy, and (hopefully) Luke ready for the interview then.

Luetta agreed to be baptized in December!

Lareasa Hildebrand is getting baptized this Saturday at 5!  She is such a sweet lady!  It is interesting because I did not really teach her.  Elder Stanton and Elder Danells-Brown found and taught her, then the Ghizes helped her through the past couple of months and now she is ready!

We showed up at Luke's house on Wednesday for an appointment.  Grandma was there with older son, so we came in and started teaching.  Parents came home, and got a little mad at us.  Apparently, we had a miscommunication on the day of the appointment.  (Yikes!)

Timothy is doing awesome!  Last week we talked about the gathering of Israel in Priesthood (first time in Priesthood) which was a little over his head.  Then this time we talked about the signs of the second coming.  Coming from a Southern Baptist background, he felt right at home with that topic!  He is excited about it all, and on Tuesday we are going to talk to him and his wife more about the temple and getting them going on the 'next step,'  I hope I will keep in contact with them, and maybe be able to go to the temple with them in a year.  An Elder can dream you know.

Yesterday we had 5 people at church (everyone we have a baptismal date with)!  It was a great day.

I am so thankful for the great love our father has for us.  Tomorrow I am training on companionship unity and working together to overcome our weaknesses.  I am so grateful that the Lord helps us through our imperfections.  I realized more and more the many scars I have. 

Have a great thanksgiving!  I will be with wonderful families enjoying the Holiday.

I love you all!

Elder Shurtz

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hi, I'm Matt! I love to dance. Food is great. And I'm a Mormon!

I was born and raised in Washington State. ~ I love to dance. ~ I'm a horrible speller. ~ I went skydiving once and loved it! ~ My family says I have been working with computers from the age of two. ~ Family is soooo important to me. I am the only boy with four sisters. My father is a great example of someone who works hard, is patient, and puts God and family first. When I was twelve, my mother died from breast cancer. She was a great woman who loved serving others. I was sad when it happened, but I knew that God had a plan for us individually and that I would see my mother again someday -Through the blessings of the Temple, our family relationships will continue beyond the grave as we continually strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ- This truth helped me continue to live my life the way she and God would want me to. The peace and knowledge I have gained through searching, pondering, praying, and living, has supported me through the difficult times as well as the wonderful times.

Why I am a Mormon

Well, first of all I was born a Mormon! I love it. The values of upheld by the church had been a great strength to my family. In my early teens, I began to question the beliefs/values of the church and my family. Was it really true??? Or was I just so accustomed to it, it seemed 'right?' Needless to say, I was a little rebellious as I questioned. Although not completely shunning away, I did things that seemed harmless at the time, yet I was told would lead to heartache... guess what? They were right. I finally had to do what missionaries ask every seeker of truth to do: read The Book of Mormon, ponder the message it contains, and then sincerely -with real intent- pray and ask God if it is true. I got my answer. Now I am that missionary extending that invitation to others, praying they will receive the same answer I and countless others have received.

How I live my faith

Currently, I am a full-time missionary in New York. I am in New York to bless the lives of all of Gods children of whom I come in contact with. A major portion of that is teaching individuals and families the basic principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invite all to partake of the magnificent blessings by living a more Christlike life.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Power of the Spirit

My new companion, Elder Simmonds
Thanks for all your emails!  It is so fun to hear from you all.

It has been another awesome week.

Tuesday we went our day working hard, then came home to have the Ghiz's call us (Senior Couple with Military Relations on Fort Drum).  They have been working with a lady named Lateasa who Elder Stanton and Elder Daniels-Brown (just went back home to Moses Lake) found through tracting.  She was wanting to be baptized but had to work through some family issues.  They, and the bishop, set her with a date to be baptized (Nov 26th).  Things seem to be going well for it to go through, just a few small details, then she will be ready.

Wednesday I picked up my new companion.  His name is Elder Simmonds.  He is from Bountiful, UT.  Graduated high school 2011.  He is a good guy, wanting to be obedient, hard working, good spirited (kind-of quirky) guy.  It is strange to think that he graduated the same year with Katie.

They have revised the MTC training program.  So instead of focusing so much on the actual doctrines and lessons, they have the eight fundamentals of teaching (Role of HG, BOM, Prayer in conversion - How to begin teaching, etc).  They have a whole 12-week program we follow for companion study and we have an extra hour of companion study 5 times a week.  It is awesome!

It is fun to see where Elder Simmonds is at, making me realized how much I have learned and experienced 17 months out.

Luke is doing good.  We hope he will be ready for baptism in December.  The parents want to make sure he is ready as well (maybe a little too ready?? :).

Timothy is doing awesome.  Loves what he is learning and is on track to be baptized on December 10th.

We went to a baptism Saturday night in Watertown with Timothy and Michelle (jumping in the back of their minivan with their two kids).  It was a good experience.  Timothy liked it, but the little kids hit the wall and we darted out of there after it was over.  He later made a joke about how there are no secret hand shakes or nothing :)  by the way: their kids are so well behaved.  I have no idea how they did it, but they are both under the age of 2 and when they are told it is time for bed, they go to bed all by themselves.  They run up the stairs and jump in bed.  I don't see that too often in New York.
Larina has been out of town and we have not seen her since last Sunday, but we should be seeing her this week!
Luetta came to church on Sunday.  She stayed for all three hours and a linger-longer.  What a champ for being in her 80's!
Weather is crazy.  Had a little snow flurry, but nothing stayed.  Today is so warm, we went running in shorts, and walking with no coats today.  But, I have a feeling when you have a warm day, it means the cold is on its way.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to serve a mission.  Something that I have been noticing more and more, is the spirit and the converting and changing effects it has in those we come in contact with.  I am also become more aware on how it is changing me.  I believe it was Elder Bednar that spoke about personal revelation and gave it three comparisons to the turning on a light vs the rising of the sun vs the rising of the sun on a cloudy day.  The spirit is there, and we must strive to be in tune.

I love you all.  Have a great week!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Busy Week!

No snow yet!

Monday we went to a park and hit some golf balls.  It felt so good to be able to do that.  Then we grabbed some Subway sandwiches and went in for the night because President wanted us to stay in for Halloween.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, after district meeting I was on exchange with Elder Spencer.  We had an amazing day.  We picked up two investigators.  One we have been meeting with a few times with a less active member.  Her name is Luetta.  Had a good meeting with her and she understood a good deal, especially about Joseph Smith.  Then when we went to dinner, we had a member call us and told us his neighbor's son wanted to be baptized (he has come to church for about 2 months). So after dinner we went to the member's home and taught Luke ( who turns 11 on Thursday).  He is so excited!  We did not set up a date, because we wanted to talk to the parents as well (though the parents already gave permission).  As we are leaving we get a text from Larina, who just got back from vacation saying she had a cool experience and had something to tell us.  We setup an appointment for that Thursday.

Wednesday, we saw Timothy again.  He is so exciting to teach.  He asks lots of questions, and is really open to answers, and then goes and finds more to support what we are saying.  We talked about the plan of salvation.  I was able to use scriptures and answer questions that no one else has asked before with an open heart.  It is such a great experience!  The first meeting we talked about the Godhead  and how they are separate beings.  When we came back he said it is amazing how the bible actually teaches that!  It is so cool to see him grow.

We taught Luke the restoration Wednesday night, and setup a time for the bishop and his parents could meet with us.

Thursday, we went to Watertown so elder Stanton could do a baptismal interview.  Then we went to Larina's.  She told us she went to Palmyra in her travels.  She spent 3 hours there and had an amazing spiritual experience.  She said she believed that this is the right choice for her.  We extended a date in December.  We are so excited for her!

Friday, we saw Luetta again.  She mentioned she asked her son (she is an older lady) what he would think if she changed churches.  She loves what we are talking about, and loves the Book of Mormon.  She is a sweet lady.  We also met with Luke that night with the bishop and parents.  Parents are good with it, and he has good support to help him.  So we are shooting for the beginning of December for baptism.

Friday night President called and asked me to train and be the district leader this upcoming transfer.  It is going to be fun training again!

Saturday, we stayed around Carthage.  We had a funny experience where we went to a members home, and one of the kids opened the door rushing us in because one of her sisters started swinging on the chandelier.  The other kids were on the table trying to old it up with the wires, because mom is on bed rest and dad was not home yet.  The little girl's arms were shaking as she thanked us for getting there and helping to put it back up.

That night Elder Stanton found out he is going to Gloversville to work with my other 'son', Elder Hall.  He is getting a little scared/excited because he has been in Carthage for 8 months.

Sunday, we had three people at church: Timothy, Lorina, and Luke.  We had another amazing lesson with Timothy and set him with a date for December as well.  We asked what he thought about Joseph Smith, and he said it 'just make sense!'  We are excited for both him and his wife.

We also taught Luke, and had a good lesson with him as well. He is a bright kid, and very self-reflective.

We also had a lesson and dinner with Larina at a member's home.  Great and rare experience!  (OFFER THE MISSIONARIES LESSONS AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES IN YOUR HOME!)

Today we went to Luke with Jared (a recent convert) and his wife to lunch and had a good time with them.  They got married in March and are expecting in May.  Fun couple!

So all in all, a great week!  (10 member-present lessons!, 3 with a baptismal date, etc...)  Haven't had it like this since Syracuse!

Well love you all, and have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, October 31, 2011

We love questions!

It has been a fun week.

I am just getting used to the apartment with its crooked floors, and clicking in the walls during the night from the heater.  It is funny because your are leaning against the wall as you sit on the toilet, the floor is so uneven. :)

Last Monday we went to hit golf balls after emailing, but it was raining, then the power went out for about 30  minutes.  But, after it came back on we watched Legacy.

We had an exchange with the zone leaders on Tuesday.  It was great!  I was with Elder Farrens in Carthage. (Just found out today that he was called as the new AP, as one left today after extending his mission for 30 days).  Elder Farrens reminds me of Danny LeDosque.  I told him that, and he said I looked and acted like one of his friends as well. We taught Laurena, and read from the Book of Mormon.  We hope to be extending her a baptismal date this coming week.

Last week in church we had 205 people in sacrament meeting!  That is awesome!  We have about 518 on our roll.  Carthage ward is so big!  A lot of people are coming back to Fort Drum.  Yesterday, after church, a couple came and introduced themselves to use.  The wife is a convert of a few years, but the husband is a non-member.  He said he would want to learn about joining the church.  They asked who do they need to talk to to start that process?  After a second or two of amazement, we smiled and setup an appointment for that same evening. 

They live on Fort Drum.  Timothy (the husband) is a son of a baptist minister.  He recognized that he has question that were not answered, but remembers living in Arizona and seeing the strong family relationships in the LDS church and wants that for their family (they have 3 kids).  He listened to the missionaries one or twice being 'closed-minded' he describes, but was not interested enough to truly give it a shot.  Now he is wanting to check it out, despite the disapproval of his family.  We are so excited to teach him.  He has questions. And we love questions.

As we were tracting the other day, a older lady came to the door and started kind of yelling at us that her husband is a minister and that we don't believe in the same Jesus Christ.  She would not let us share with her anything.  It was sad.  I do not understand how that can truly be believed.  What else is the main purpose of the Book of Mormon?

I know that it is through the Book of Mormon and the inspiration of the spirit that we can gain a deeper enriched understanding and appreciation for the Son of God who laid His life on the cross, and that through him, and only him, can we be brought back into the presence of our God.

I love you all.  Thanks for your love, and letters, and support.  It is amazing the work the Lord allows us to assist in.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, October 24, 2011

Family History is Key!

Another fast week!  Weather is still cold.

Tuesday in district meeting we talked about Family History in our finding efforts.  Apparently 60% of patrons that use the church resources for family history are not members.  The spirit of Elijah is a strong influence, and everyone can relate to the family.  Saturday we were talking to a guy who claims to be a descendant of Joseph Smith.

Things are going along.  Cassandra is still excited.  Though the family did not come to church yesterday :(

Also taught McKenzie and her family.  But they did not come to church either :(

We were going to meet with Laurena yesterday, but we rescheduled for Tuesday.

Many of the members are awesome.  We are getting fed almost every night.  Many times it is like a thanksgiving feast!

I love you all, and hope you have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, October 17, 2011

It is not Reasonable, It is not Rational, It is Revelation, and It is Right!

What a great week!

Last Monday after the email we went to the church and hit some golf balls.  That felt SOOOOO good.  I haven't hit a golf ball all mission.  We had some clubs and balls in the apartment.

Wednesday, we had a lesson with Cassandra, one of the nine year-old girls we are teaching.  It was great because she asked 'when can I get baptized?'  She has a desire and wants to do it, which is a great blessing.  We hope to help the whole family come back to full activity, so we are not rushing things.

Friday, at Zone Conference was amazing!  Elder Piper went to the chalkboard and asked what questions we had.  He explained that the humble have questions where the prideful do not.  One of the twelve apostles said he thought he would know a lot, but soon realized he had more questions as time went by.  We then spent the next 3 hours receiving council.  He reiterated what President Bulloch said Elder Bednar did at the Priesthood Leadership meeting on Saturday: Teach basic doctrines and principles.

Most of our questions were of the 'how' sort.  Elder Piper explained that the 'how' is explained on the top of the pyramid (application), where we are called to teach the other two parts, the 'why' and the 'what' (doctrine and principles).  One of my questions was 'how do we help the less-active families who want their 9 year-old children baptized?' So we brain-stormed what doctrine and principles surrounded that question receiving insight and greater understanding what we must do.

After Conference we went on exchange.  Elder Rymer came with me to Carthage.  This is his first transfer out.  It reminded me how much I had to learn at the beginning of the mission.  Helped me to think more now on what I have learned and hope to continue to learn.  We met with the other 9 year-old girl, Cathrine, and it went well.  We hope that her parents will teach her between our visits.

Sunday we went to Rome with a less-active brother, Brother DeSivla.  It was amazing.   Before the meeting Elder Bednar was just exiting the bathroom as we were heading in.  I was 5 feet away!  Elder Stanton and I both later commented 'he was shorter than I thought he would be!'  He was an awesome speaker.  The new stake president looks young.  Here are some highlights of what he talked about.  He said he wanted us to have a 'glance behind the curtain':

  • They don't come and choose the new stake president.  They come and find the new president.
  • When finding a stake president, it is always the same, but always different.  He went on to talk about how he has done it hundreds of times, but it is be revelation.  How companies spends millions of dollars to that a smooth succession and continual grow, yet many times they fail!
  • Shared his first experience with Elder Scott finding a new stake president and how he had to rely on the spirit.
  • He called it a miracle. The first councilor was the Stake president's scout master.  That is not how the world works.  Yet it is how the Lord works.  He said: 'It is not reasonable.  It is not rational.  But, It is Revelation. And it is Right'
  • To those who aspire for callings: 'Forgive me, but you are a nut job!'
  • He also talked about how conference talks come from above.  Shared a story of him changing a talk at the last moment, to find it wove heavenly with the other speakers.
  • He talked about the calling of missionaries and stories of him receiving the revelation.
    • How they are CALLED to be full-time missionaries, then they are ASSIGNED TO LABOR in their respective fields.  You are not called to an area.  Thus, a new assignment should not cause doubt.
    • How they are always fasting when calling and assigning missionaries
    • How the prophet reviews the suggested calling and assignment
  • Then he posed the question to those who doubt modern-day revelation - that it ended in the biblical days.  He asks: 'where does it say that in the bible?  It doesn't!'
The spirit was so strong.  You know he is a prophet of God.  An Apostle of the Lord.

I love you all, I hope all its well.  What a great time to be alive!

Elder Shurtz
'It is not Reasonable.
It is not Rational.
It is Revelation.
It is Right.'

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spirityual Feast is Coming!

Cold in the morning, warm in the evenings, cold at night.

My head is still trying to remember every one's name.  We have about 120 people at church yesterday.  Majority of them are primary kids!  I haven't seen so many kids in forever!  The majority of the families are young and in the army.  It was fun to see all the different license plates in the parking lot (like Utah and Texas).

This week we started teaching two 9 year-old children in the ward who are not yet baptized.  We also had Lorianna come to church!  Carthage is definitely small, and we find ourselves out in the country a lot.  Saturday though, we tracted into a guy who's family just moved in (army) and said 'great! we are looking for a church!'  We hope to stop by again and teach his family.

Wednesday we were making rice-crispy treats and the marshmallows exploded all over the microwave.  It was a pain to clean up.  But the treats were so good. 
Also, that night when we were walking home, we saw a dead cat in the grass that was there that morning.  It looked liked it froze to death.  But after looking at it a little closer, we found that we have been fooled in the dark, and that it was a toy cat. 
We also started teaching this awesome lady named Cristal.  She is so fun and good spirited.  She also has a little girl who is 2 or 3 and loves to talk.  We have an appointment to see her again this week. 
This coming week is Zone Conference!  It is going to be a bigger one because Elder Paul B Pieper from the 70 is coming.  It will be great!  Also, this Sunday the Utica Stake (the one I am in right now) is getting the Stake Presidency reorganized and we have Elder Bednar and President Eyring's son coming.  We will hopefully be going to Rome where they will be holding it at the Rome High School which can fit about 1000 people.  So lots of spiritual uplift this week!

I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Well hello!

It is so cold here (30's-50's)!  We are going to get a lot of snow this winter. Weeks go by so fast. Especially when your head keeps turning, trying to get your compass straight in 'another land.'  Carthage is SO small.  We focus mainly on the army base, Fort Drumb, but we can't even tract or anything on it!  We have to first call and setup an appointment, then every time we enter they have to scan our driver licenses.  Got to walk on our tip-toes!  We have about 160 active members in our ward, but it is very transient.  We are still only in a phase II building because we don't meet some of the other requirements to expand.

My new companion, Elder Stanton, is a great missionary.  It will be an exciting transfer.  He has been here for about 8 months, so this most likely be his last transfer here (which means I need to learn a lot of names and stuff real fast!).  He has about 6 months left.  He can have a great conversation with anyone, and I find myself needing to cut in to even get a few words in!

They just had 3 baptisms this last transfer, and now we have only a few people we are teaching.  We hope to get a stronger connection with ward council and work with them more.  I also got to learn all this army lingo!  We has a great lesson with an investigator, Natalie.  We is an awesome lady, with a little past understanding about religion.  We just started teaching her.

Conference was amazing!  Natalie did not come though ;-(  I loved listening to the prophetic council, but especially the spiritual promptings that came.  The Lord answered questions that I never knew I had or knew how to form in words. It seems like some common themes in conference (that I picked up at least): power in scripture study and relevance in our lives, prayer, avoiding immorality, 'opening our mouth' and missionary work, managing our time better, and most especially, the seeking after the guidance of the spirit.

Last night we had dinner with a lady named Lorianna.  She is dating a member of the church in the army.  Awesome lady.  Had a good brief meeting about the plan of salvation.  We get fed almost every night here, so I have to get use to that again (also, I have to get use to a car again)

I now have been out for 2/3rds of my mission.  I look back and I hope I have changed!  I feel like I am still myself, but I have grown in my conviction of my Savior and His church on the Earth.  I love the scriptures and the relevance they have in our daily lives.  I am more earnestly seeking the Lord through my prayers.  My desire to follow the Savior continues to increase, and my desire to not follow him weakens.

I love you all!  Hope you have a great week.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, September 26, 2011

Life is Eternal and Families are Forever!

I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes, even as a missionary, I don't realized to a full extent what life would be like without it.  My heart goes out to the Pass Family.  I know that the Plan of Salvation is real and that Jesus made that possible.  I gained that knowledge at around 6:59am Monday morning, the 20th of October, 2003.  From what witness I received, 'I too can testify: that this is the Christ' ('This is the Christ' by James E Faust & Jan Pinborough).

It has been a warmer week!  Back into the 70's, and it even hit in the 80's.  Very humid!  We are having a huge infestation of mosquitoes.  You cannot stand still, even if you are covered in DEET.  They say it is because of the storm we had a few weeks ago.  So my hands and face are poke-a-dotted right now with bites. (I am grateful they are small, and that I don't react like Katie does to mosquitoe bites). 

We found two new investigators this week.  Yohani (Yo-hon-e) is from Africa.  He was way excited about the Book of Mormon, and when we talked with his brother later, found out that Yohani has been reading it.  YAY!

Neila we talked to on the streets, and then visited her yesterday.  She loves to read (walls covered with books). She is going though a hard time right now.  I pray we will be able to teach toward her needs, simply, and by the spirit.  And may she recognize the spirit's sweet whisperings of truth.

Mrs. Edmunds came to church yesterday!  It was exciting.  She stayed for all three hours.  I taught Gospel Principles class on how a family can be together forever.

It is awesome working with the branch members more!  The branch is more and more missionary minded.  We are getting a few referrals from the branch and the members every week now.  (knock on wood that it continues!)

Transfer calls were Saturday night.  I am getting transferred to Carthage.  It is near Watertown, and is next to a huge army base (interesting because I met a guy who was visiting Lake Placid from the base about two weeks ago, and was interested in having missionaries stop by).  I hear it is a great place.  Elder Potter was trained there, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.  My new companion is Elder Stanton (from Utah.  been out 2 transfers longer than me.  Pure-heart of a guy).  Elder Rammell is getting a great missionary up here as well.  President Bullock wants to keep the member's trust going.  Plattsburgh is going to have great things happening!

Have a great week!  I've got to get packing.


Elder Shurtz

Carin with Sister Maulding. It is aways sad to say good-bye, especially with those we have been working closely with. ;(

The branch president and first councilor and family took us on a picnic for dinner last night on the Clinton community college campus, which looks right out onto the lake.  (Amazing!)

Monday, September 19, 2011


It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

Hello people.  The weather has dropped down to the 30's this week.  It has been cold!  But it is now warming back up a bit (60's).  But Fall is definitely coming!  And everyone is saying it is going to be a bad winter.  JOY!

We had interviews with President yesterday.  It was a good, humbling experience.  He likes what we have been doing with members and gave us some amazing council.  He also helped us realize areas we can work on.  I guess that is what this life is all about: working and changing the less-than-perfect part of ourselves!  I still feel like I have a lot to learn, and lots to do.

We found a new investigator this week!  Her name is Amber.  She is about 19 years old.  Elder Rammell taught her with Elder Natress when I was on exchange in Lake Placid.  We will be seeing her again tomorrow.

I feel like I don't have much to write about this week. Weeks go be so fast.  I am always surprised when Sunday and Monday come around.

Carin is taking a small break from the missionary lessons, though she is still coming to church.  She will continue to learn and grow, but things are really hectic in her life, and having time for the lessons is a little difficult right now.  Pray for her!

Love you and miss you all.  Have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fertilizing the Soil!

Hello everyone!

Weather has been a little on the cool side.  We woke up Saturday morning with frost on the car windows.  So Fall is coming.  Winter in Plattsburgh is described as "being too cold to snow."  We are not affected hugely (is that a word?) by the lake effect off the the great lakes, unlike the northwest side of the mission.  It has been a week of appointments falling through, and lots of self-evaluations.

Labor day, we had a branch pot-luck with talents.  Elder Rammell and I did a skit on the spur-of-the-moment.  It was the kind where you have an overcoat, one shares a joke or story, while the other one is behind the person and be the arms and the hands.  It was fun. 

The only investigator we were able to visit with was Shannon this week.  We watched the Restoration DVD with her.  She still has not come to church!  But, we hope to keep working with her.  A week or two after we started meeting with her, she expressed how she prayed, and felt a warmth that she could not quite describe.  She is so busy with 2 kids, being a single parent, and going back to college full-time.  She can make stuff happen, for sure!  I just hope the spirit will keep working with her, and she will be able to come to church.

Carin was talking in Sunday school class about how she received 'an answer to her prayers' about something that has been stressing her out.  She seemed to be refreshed.  We are excited for her.

Besides that, we have been working A LOT with the members and less-actives.  At the beginning of the transfer we would be reporting visiting about 2 recent converts or less-actives, but yesterday we just reported seeing 6.  This is also not including the active members we are visiting to follow-up with the Preach My Gospel class to set goals in inviting their friends.

We are keeping track of who the members are working with (we call them ghost referals).  So we hope things work out!  The idea is to have them choose who and how to do it.  Some will be going into their homes, others will be invited to church!  If everyone accepts an invitation to come to church, we would have about 4 people that are member's friends!  It has been fun to see how the members react when they relize we don't want their 'referrals' (at least not yet).  We want them to get their friends, family, and acquantances involved; help them feel the spirit in their home or at a church (or church function). 

We have been finding joy in the change we have seen in one of the less-actives we have started on seeing in the last few months.  She is in her late 20's, married, with 1 daughter, and a son on the way.  She is the only member, but her husband said he is curious to have some questions answered, and learn a little about the church.  It is amazing to see the change in her countenance after she has started to read the scriptures again, taught her daughter how to pray, and talking a little about it with her husband.  She generally has a few questions when we go over, then teach her a lesson.  She comes to church when she can.  It is hard as a nurse sometimes.

We have also been having a good time with Diane and Eve (most recent-converts).  They are so excited about church.  Diane should be getting a calling soon.  We also got them started with Family History, and hope to get them to the temple soon.  They went to the Family History center (where we do our email by the way) and had a good time.  Diane's non-member mother and son came as well!

President Bulloch called us yesterday to set up times for our interviews.  He will be coming up this Sunday after Sacrament meeting in Saratoga Springs.  We sent him the Preach My Gospel class stuff last week.  He says he likes it.  He also commented on how he has been hearing good reports from the members here about missionary work.  That is always a good thing to hear!  Sometimes to go through your day and you feel like you made so little of a difference.  But, looking back, I don't think there has been a Sunday that has gone by where missionary work has not been discussed.  Branch Leaders are talking about it more.  If anything we are fertilizing the ground here in Plattsburgh (and it really did need it).

We caught the last 10 minutes of the CES fireside last night.  A good talk it seemed.  It was fun to see Uncle Bob Todd up on the stand and to think Katie was there in the crowd.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!  Enjoy my peaches!  I just had to buy some at Walmart; 3 for about $2.50!  gross!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bitter-Sweet News

It sounds like everyone is having fun!  I am so excited to hear what you are all doing.

This has kind of been a sweet/bitter week.  Two sister Missionaries in our Zone got into a big car accident.  Sister Bentley (from Arizona) was airlifted, but passed away.  Sister Love received severe injuries, but is fine, and is back home recuperating for 6-8 weeks.  It is a sad thing to hear, but we know she is in a better place.

We did not have dinner with Carin, but was able to meet with her on Thursday.  She is feeling a bit stressed out still.  Only God and time will help right now.

Mrs. Edmunds was not ready this week to stop smoking, but we had a great lesson on the restoration and had a member there who gave such a strong testimony.

Shannon.  We had a church tour with her kids.  We hope to get her to church this next Sunday.

We are making some progress with less-actives, and getting into more members' homes.  So we are expecting to see more referrals, especially as we follow-up with the people in the Preach My Gospel class.

Lots of biking. The weather has been so warm!  My white shirts are going under some major stain removal!

We should be getting more rain and wind a few more days from other tropical storms moving this way.

Have a great week!

Keep moving!  Like Jenny says: Our Family does Hard Things!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, August 29, 2011


What a beautiful week! (Except Yesterday)!

Tuesday we spent all day out on Cumberland Head Peninsula.  It was gorgeous!  (see pictures near lake).  We also found some great people out there to try back.  One was a cool guy who ordered a BOM 5 years ago, read it, and liked it.  So we hope to get back in there next week when he his home.

Thursday we had a great lesson with Carin watching Finding Faith In Jesus Christ and talking about the scriptures and prayer.  She invited us over to her house for dinner, which is a huge step!  So we are excited for Friday.

We also started teaching a former investigator, John. He is so cool.  He already owns a quad and loves reading every night a little bit.

We are going to be helping Mrs. Edmund stop smoking this week!  It will be fun, and she is excited!

Saturday we helped out at a fundraiser to help family with kids who have cancer.  It is called Run for John.  John was the Relief Society's President's son that died at age 16 or so.  It was an awesome event with about 350 people there.  Really good people.

Sunday it was raining and windy all day long.  Apparently the hurricane did hit us, but it was only 50mph when it did.  So some lost power, and many trees are down.  But, nothing too bad, as compared with down south.  We did not do too much work in the rain (it was coming down so hard), but we still managed to get to 2 appointments that night.  It was still raining when I went to bed, but this morning was again sunny!  The water level has gotten so high!

Have a great week!  I can't beleive it is September!

Love you all,

Elder Shurtz

Monday, August 22, 2011

Preach My Gospel Class

Greetings from the other side of the United States!

It has been a relatively cool week.  Highest it ever got was in the 80's & lowest in the 50's.

We could not meet up with Carin again this week. (GRRRRRR)  but we will see her Thursday.  We are also trying to get her and the member she aids to the Preach My Gospel class that we are teaching Tuesday nights.  That will be a fun twist with a non-member there!

The class was awesome on Tuesday.  A member commented on how she has been in the church for 40-something years, and how she never realized the spiritual and social conversion needed and the vital role members play in that.  So I hope it is helping and we can get as many members as we can through it.

Yesterday we taught the second lesson in Sunday School centering around how to talk about the church and following the simple steps of Listen, Share, Testify, and Invite.  I'm going to send some of the articles we are using.  President has given us permission to use computers to prepare for the classes.

We started teaching a college kid named Ben last Wednesday.  He seems awesome, and has a good head on his shoulders.  He said he is 'kinda excited' to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  He has always had an interest in learning about different religions, so we had a great discussion with him.  We see him again tonight, so hopefully things go well. 

Other than that, It has been a slow week.  We put in a lot of miles on our bikes.  We did about 27 miles on Saturday.  We sleep good at night!

Yesterday it started raining really hard.  I took some pictures, which are included as well.  The bridge has just re-opened and is so awesome!  It saves us about 7 minutes of bike-riding from our apartment and church.  It has been closed for the last month or so.  When the rain really hit, we had to take shelter in a high school football ticket booth which was luckily open so we could keep ourselves from getting completely soaked and so we could dump the water out of our shoes.

The other picture is of us with the Senior Couple, the Bradley's, and Peck.  Peck is from China, investigating the church in California, and came here for little summer schooling and sightseeing.  He has such an awesome personality.  He left today and is going to Maine for a little while, then going back to California.  We had dinner with the Bradley's and him last night (YUMMMM).  He will be missed by the branch.

Hope you all have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, August 15, 2011

In My Dreams!

Renae asked if I have had any sleeping stories like sleepwalking, etc... I do not. 

But I have had some wicked dreams on my mission.  Last night, we (the family) had the quorum of the 12 apostles over for dinner at our home (Wenatchee home).  Then the next thing I know, a bunch of people from school started showing up as well.  It was strange, but now I can at least say I ate with the 12 apostles (in my dreams).

When Emily got her mission call, I had a dream that we were companions exercising in the morning.  Then it switched to me waltzing with this really tall black guy who we were teaching at the time. 

I've also had multiple dreams of teaching people back home, or being home, yet still a missionary.  In another dream, dad was my companion and we went tracting all day.
I guess when your mind and body are constantly going, so is the 'dream maker' part of your mind.

Tuesday morning, 5 minutes from leaving the apartment, this little girl on her bike ran into me and my bike.  She is fine.  As she went her way and we went ours, I noticed that my front tire was all bent up!  Luckily, we had a spare tire, so we pedaled back up to replace it.

Transfers are this week ,and both Elder Rammell and I are staying.  Elder Potter is going home!  I'm going to miss him.  I served with him when he was 14 months out, now he is going home, and I am 14 months out! 

This week we did not see Carin!  It was sad.  She also couldn't come to church, so we hope to see her this Wednesday.

The weather has been nice and cool.  A few showers (or buckets of rain) every so often.

We did not have the Preach My Gospel class this week because it was Branch Conference and the District was in charge for all three hours.  But we will be starting a second class that will run at the same time only on Tuesday nights.  So we will be starting that tomorrow.

Hope you have a great week! 

Elder Shurtz

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Week in the Life

Zone Conference - July 28, 2011

This past week has gone by so fast!  It seems like days just blend together.

Monday - We picked up a new investigator, CJ.  It is a friend of a member who is less-active.  We hope to get him at church some time.

Tuesday - We started teaching a lady named Shannon.  She has two kids, one with Autism.  She is curious, and busy.  We will be seeing her again tomorrow.
We also met with Mrs. Edmunds, and we are still chugging along with her.

Wednesday - Met with Carin and taught her the Word of Wisdom.  It will probably be one of the hardest things she will have to do, and she is stressed out about it.  We are praying she will find peace and courage to do it.

Also met with a less-active who seems to have brightened up.  She even fed us dinner on Saturday, and came to church yesterday.

We also met with Jamie, and read a little from Alma 32 with him.

Thursday - Elder Rammell and I talked-trained on Christlike attributes in district meeting.  Then I went to Lake Placid on exchange with Elder Natrace.  He has a great spirit about him, and is so bubbly.  We had a great time talking to people all night at a public celebration and on the streets.

Saturday - Met with Shannon and CJ again.  Shannon loves to discuss things, where CJ is a little more quiet.

Sunday - We started a 3-week Preach My Gospel class, with 7 people in attendance (invited by branch president).  It went well.  We are excited to see what happens.  It is weird teaching adults AT church.  We walked the majority of the day around the church.  But, when we decided to go get our bikes, it started raining!  So we had fun in the rain.  Visited a few more people and had a great night.

I am excited for the work this week, and I hope it goes well.  I love you all.  Have fun on the lake.

Elder Shurtz