Hey Everyone!
This is my blog about all the activities and details about my mission. My folks are going to be updating it weekly, based on the information that I send them through my letters. My current address:
Elder Brigham James Merrell
MTC Mailbox # 138
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I did have a rough first week. it´s definitely been interesting to learn and grow out here. I have a lot of time to think, and I mean A LOT!
Tuesday: We pretty much just went out contacting some people, and visiting families that we have already found, so that they can continue to grow in the gospel. We visited one family that stood out to me. They´re the only ones with a baptisimal date, they´ve committed to be baptized, and they´ve been coming to church every sunday, and they´re just great. They´re living together, but they´re not married. They´re wedding date is the same day as their baptisimal date: Aug. 7th. But even after all this, we found out on tuesday, that Robin (the boyfriend) still had doubts about whether God exists, or not. As he began explaining his problems and his thoughts, I had the impression to ask him if he had been praying every day. The language got in the way, and I took time to think about how to phrase it, but by the time I had figured it out, my companion said, "Robin, have you prayed to your Heavenly Father about this question?" The Spirit was totally working through us! We all started tearing up, and bearing our testimonies. it was awesome.
Wednesday: We visited an investigator for the first time in three months, or something like that. He´s a really nice guy (And a 4th degree black belt in taekwondoe), and he wants to be baptized, but he can´t. He´s living with a girl and he´s married to another. He´s tried to get divorced, but his wife won´t sign unless he gives her the equivelant of $750,000! Crazy, huh? So he really can´t be baptized. But Elder Barajas gave him an answer he hasn´t heard in 15 years of visiting missionaries. He said that after he dies, his son (who is a member, along with his girlfriend) can do temple work for him. Isn´t that so cool? I think that our gospel is one of hope and joy. I love it! Elder Barajas played a joke on me. At 12, there´s an alarm that goes off that is the great big wailing kind. it goes off every day, but I didn´t hear it until today. it went off, and he said, "Do you hear that?" I said, "Yeah, what is it?" He said, "It´s the bomb alarm. It goes off when an attack is about to come. But we should be alright. You´ve been watching the news, right? You know that we´re in a war with argentina?" I hastily shook my head with some pretty big eyes. Just then an air plane flew in front of us. He pointed up and said, "Don´t worry, the Chilean air force usually shoots them down before they can do anything. Where are they?" The plane turned around, and flew right over us. I stopped dead in my tracks, and started questioning my recent sins, to see if I was ready to die. I was too scared to really reach any conclusion. Elder Barajas started cracking up when he saw that I had stopped walking, staring straight up at the plane. He explained it was a normal plane, and that the alarm goes off every day, so that the fireman can know that it´s lunch time. We also had a 6.6 earthquake at 4:30 this morning. I didn´t wake up, and I´m pretty sure that everyone else did. haha.
Thursday: Today I had a spiritual attack. It was a doozy. I also discovered that bananas, covered in honey is my favorite dessert. Anyway, back to the story. We visited a less-active family, and their was only one member of the family home. He was about our age. We talked for about 20 minutes, before his dad and brother came home. We all greeted each other warmly, and talked for a while. The older brother whipped out his phone to show us some cool videos. We agreed, and sat down to watch. The first one was about a knife-wound victim. He was stabbed twice, and then it showed his throat, that was slit. I felt sick. the other one was of divers jumping off some docks into the ocean. One guy made it. But the second one fell 20 feet, and landed on a cement slab on his face. the water turned red, and it changed scenes to the E.R. His friggin´ head was exactly in half, and he was still alive. A feeling overcame me, that I still can´t describe. I imagined myself in his position, out of habit, and felt so...hopeless. So much pain. No chance of love. I felt despair. That there was no chance of hope. My heart wanted to give up, I wanted to die right then. I wondered what kind of people would carry that stuff on their phones, and then I realized that I couldn´t understand their spanish anymore! Then I felt just how far away from home I am. All these feelings came from a small, horrific video, and a bit of empathy. I wanted to either die or go home to my Daddy, and people I knew. I was scared. So I cried for a bit, as we walked away, and then sang "I know my redeemer lives." I did it on purpose, because I knew hymns are a way to pray, and express love. This hymn is my comfort song. I sing it when I get scared or lonely. the third verse gave me what I needed, and I cried some more, but these were tears of love and happiness. I felt the Spirit witness to me of Heavenly Father´s love for me, and give me the help I needed. this was a Sprititual attack that was sudden and unexpected, but I was able to heal with the help of my Father.
Friday: Today was my first mission conference, and it went four hours longer than what I expected. it was 8 hours! We talked about goals and had lunch, so it was pretty fun. But my Spiritual experience was during a talk that Sister Swenson gave us. She spoke about pride. How pride was not only looking down on people, but looking the other direction too. Wanting to be like other people. When we´re compating ourselves to others, we are being actyed upon by Satan. These were some things that I have discovered by myself in my short time here, on the mission. I have sinned, and made mistakes. But Sister Swenson said something that stood as a shining beacon of hope in the shadows of my doubt. She said that, in order to improve our pride (or lack thereof), we should pray for discernment. My ears perked up at this, because discernment is one fo the 3 Spiritual gifts mentioned in my Patriarchal Blessing. She said discernment is being aware of something. I´ve been aware of not knowing who I am, problems I have, and solutions to fix them. these things have strengthened me, and made me more comfortable with myself. I always thought that my gift of discernment would manifest itself in some leadership position, and knowing why my interviewee was thinking, or something like that. But I think tonight was a great witness to myself that I received another key to my Patriarchal Blessing, indicating that I am living my life according to how I should. I was so relieved to know that I´ve been living righteously, and it hasn´t just been my imagination. I find it interesting that everything is adding up in steps. I first had a spiritual experience with "Spiritual gifts" and after that, I start having experiences WITH those spiritual gifts. Step by step. precept by precept. I must say that I enjoy the thrill of finding a new "clue" to my patriarchal blessing. It´s way fun :)
Saturday: Today was a day of discovery. There were many opportunities for me to further my knowledge in many areas, including who I am. I live how I think I should live, and how I think is unique only to me. And how I live is visible and observable to others. I read through my journal of farewells from the MTC. Elder Pratt said that I search for the truth in everything. That´s very true, because in my Patriarchal blessing, it says that my spirit is one of truth. In manty situations in my life, I don´t do anything until I understand it. Having another part of my patriarchal blessing revealed was fun. Elder pratt also said people listen to what I have to say, because I care for them. It´s exactly what I want people to know! I´m here for them! I WANT people to take advantage of the service I can offere them! I love loving friends! I also realized today, that I love english. People here like listening to english and spanish music. America only has english. And I love the variety that the language gives me. I miss being able to think, too. Just think about what I want to. Maybe a plot-line to a book I´m writing. That would be nice. We taught some 17-year old punks today. We were walking, and they asked us questions (provocative) about the church. But elder barajas was able to answer their questions with authority. one of them was especially attentive and curious. At one point, Elder Barajas taught the law of chastity. He said that it was playing with your souls. With our friggin´ spirits! Maybe that´s why celebrities and other physically-addicted people like doing "the nasty" so much. they´re literally playing with the powers of god, which, fundamentally, are the powers of happiness. He also said that murder is also playing with souls. these two are tied for the 2nd-worst sins, and I think there might be a connection. We have the powers of creation and destruction given to us by god. That´s a sobering thought, huh?
Sunday:While we were walking today, it hit me that we´re in another country, I´m separated from my family, and speaking a language other than my own for two years. Two years! I don´t think I can properly explain in words How I waws feeling when I realized this. I´m alone (more or less) and this time isn´t mine. I can´t do what I used to, until 2012. It´s an odd feeling, realizing that you willingly dedicated two years, a relatively long time compared to my life so far, to someone you can´t even remember knowing, and to cinvince people what they have been taught so far is wrong, hoping that you´re worthy enought for the Holy Gghost to teach through you. It´s a wee bit stressful sometimes. I´m able to speak well enough. Every person I meet tells me I speak very well, but I cannot understand what they´re say8ing at their normal pace. I hate it. I feel like such a stranger. I wanted to go home tonight. That´s what started this whole train of thought. This is my home. My dirt, alien-like, chaotic home for the next few years. I´m always left out of conversations, and I wouldn´t be able to say anything interesting, anyway. It just feels hopeless sometimes. I want to be a big, strong, loving missionary like the ones around me, and like you and everyone thinks I can be. but I miss being in my bountry. I miss being able to understand people around me. And I keep thinking of when I go home. It´s a depressing amount of a lot of time. But I keep trying to improve and progress. Jesus wants all of his brothers and sisters to return to Heaven. And if I´m one of his tools, then how can I not? But it sure is hard. If I was closer to home, it would be a sore temptation to go home. But not here. Not ever. Nothing would/could compensate for what´s done here. It´ll be worth it. Heavenly Father will help me now, and reward me later. I KNOW it. Besides, it´s an adventure. I can do things here I can´t do at home. it sure is exciting.
I´m glad that I´m example to Dev. I really miss him. I tell all my investigators about my family, and especially how pround I am of my little brother. I can´t wait to see him again. I hope that everything´s well at the home. my address is on my facebook page, under my profile picture, I had a friend change it for me. Keep writing me. My p-day is monday. A jacket would be nice. A subtle one. i just have the bright red lifeguard one that says Gringo to the natives. I love you all!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I´ll probably just tell you what´s happened chronologically. The flight here was awesome! I love take offs. They´re like really awesome roller coasters, and the rush is amazing! I left at 11:30 on Monday, and got to concepcion at 11:15 tuesday. It was a long flight. I got my stuff, and met the mission president and his wife, before we left to the mission home. It was just me and one sister, because my comp. was still sick, and he´s still at the MTC. On the drive back, they showed me some of the damage the earthquake had done. not much. they have mostly been able to clean up. but there are still some ruins. I am not up in concepcion anymore, but I´ll get to that later. We had a little devotional with some of the other experienced missionaries, and after a while, I was able to meet my companion: elder Anthony Barajas. He´s from orem, so I totally lucked out with him. And he was on the swim team too! So I really lucked out. We took a bus at 7 to temuco, my sector. it was a 5-hour bus ride, and we talked the whole time. it was good. it´s winter here, so it´s always a toasty 35 degrees. never freezing, but always raining, except for the past few days. When I got here, I was sooooo depressed, I cannot convey it in words. the temperature was a huge factor it turns out. but I just wanted to go home, and leave the mission to other things. I don´t think anyone would have let me. I mean, my house is tiny...and short. And the bathroom has nothing but sub-freezing cement that always has a film of algae. we don´t have heaters in the house, and...you get the idea. That was my first impression at the end of a long day. Not to mention the people here love to mumble and not pronounce their S´s. Needless to say, I had a bad day. The next day was the worst so far. it rained all day, and I didn´t know anyone at my zone conference, where we were challenged to get 201 contacts by the end of sunday. normally we have to get 140 in a week. But the first week of every transfer is a week sanctifying the companionship where we work really hard. We didn´t get any that day, because of all the rain. But we walked in the freezing rain for 5 hours. that was a hoot. especially since my poncho wasn´t as waterproof as I wanted it to be. haha. That´s when my soul felt pushed to it´s limits. I had yet to see the sun in this horrible country. But the next day (my third day) the sun came out, and it changed everything. just seeing the sun was amazing to me. working out every morning is great. I mostly work my arms with dumbells, and do situps. I think it´s fun, and I´m totally gonna be ripped when I get home. haha. we prayed before leaving, and we were able to get about 25 contacts that day (it was still pretty cold, and everyone was still hiding inside). We contact inactive members, as well as random people on the streets. Really it´s just my comp. that contacts, ´cause I have no idea what they say. But whenever I do speak, everyone compliments me on my spanish. A lot of compliments. :) So I can speak, but I couldn´t understand them, so that´s still a problem. But we were able to get a bunch of contacts, and that was fun getting to know the area. getting to know the members is really fun too. At the end of that night, we met the millahual family. Actually, I met them. They´re really cool. Everyone´s a member (active) but the dad, and the 13-year old son. They have a daughter that´s 21, who is really nice. She´s really tight with my comp. and she´s the first person I´ve understood in this country. When we visit them, we pretty much just hang out with them. it´s awesome. the next day we got 64 contacts, and 9 referrals. it was a butt-kicking day, and my confidence was improving. we were able to drop our laundry off at a sister´s home. she´s cool too, even if she´s inactive. :) Pretty much, by now, I´ve got a hang of the city. The worst part is the cold. I´m able to follow a lot of conversations, and we´ve only taught one real lesson so far, and it was to some lady that invited us in right when we contacted her, but she didn´t come to church, and she is busy most of the other times, so our time that we knocked on her door was perfect. I gave her the copy of the book of mormon that we had been carrying around, and marked some scriptures about the afterlife for her because her grandpa had just died. I think i did the right thing. :) The people here are awesome, even if you´ve never met them before. I haven´t really been preaching the gospel as much as I had hoped, but I´m definitely doing work. My comp. says that since I´ve gotten here, the work has been really good in our sector. I´m a good luck charm! But my spanish is really awesome, if I do say so myself, and I´m pretty fluent. it´s awesome. Something really weird is the money and malls. There´s only one mall, but it´s super nice. like a wal-mart back home. Really similar. So similar, that I think I´m home until I get to the register, and realize the cashier isn´t speaking english, and I´m not handing her dollar bills. it´s unsettling. that´s when I cry a little on the inside, and realize how far away I am. it sucks sometimes. But the sun is helping. the city is a bunch of decaying houses, with a few really nice apartment buildings--like, 2. But it will just make me that much more excited when I return, I guess, for technology. I´ve had a lot of time to think. It´s definitely harder here than the MTC was, and I thought that it was hard there, when I first arrived. But it really prepared me for out here. just a lot of little things, and it kind of stood as a testimony of why I need to stay out here, all the more. The MTC was only hard, because I wasn´t with my family. I´d be out of my mind if I came here straight from my house. but my time there gave me experiences that have really helped me. one thing in particular is when Elder Holland (of course) said, "don´t leave here for your sake" or "how can we claim to be servants of him, and not knowing even a portion, fraction, or taste of the bitter cup that our master drank from". And I just thought "How dare I shrink from my bitter cup!" So I think I´ll get better. I think my language won´t be much of a problem in two more weeks. That´s pretty impressive, I think.
things are getting better, and I can´t wait to hear from you. Give me details! I love you all!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

June 28, 2010

On the 20th, something dramatic happened. I woke up, and as I was finishing getting ready in the bathroom, Elder McConnell came in looking particularly unhappy. I can still remember the look on his face before he collapsed to the floor, dead. The life was just gone from his body. I couldn't believe it! Actually, none of that really happened. I just wanted to start my letter off with a bang! That was the first of Elder McConnell's ulcer attacks. He's had to spend at least some time each day getting rest. We've missed a lot of class time, and visited the doctor frequently. We even got to go to the Rite-Aid down by Macey's the other day. I was disappointed at how non-weird it was. Lame! It really doesn't feel like I've left or done anything significant.
As district leader, in addition to my individual report to the Branch President, I add a report on the District. A few weeks ago, my Pres. called me in for a private interview about my report. I told him I couldn't recall what I had written. He pulled it out of his briefcase, and read it to me. It told of my love for my district, and went on to tell special qualities I thought each of my missionaries had. By the end, we were both crying. I blame the Spirit, because both of us were too manly to cry on purpose. He told me it was special to him, and that he was going to keep it forever.
Elder McConnell's ulcer was because he realized we were only 6 weeks in, and we had 2 years left. I tried to comfort him, but he says he'll be fine. I had those thoughts until week 3, and the Lord has blessed me with peace, because of my obedience. While we stay home, so Elder McConnell can rest, I work-out with our "fitness elastic bands." I do 500 crunches, 1000 pec-pulls, and 1000 back-pulls per arm. Not much of a change yet. Darn! My Patriarchal Blessing says that I will not neglect my body's needs for exercise and change. I just read the Book of Mormon while I work-out, so I'm staying productive.
This week was the mission President's seminar. That's where a third of the missions get new presidents to replace the old ones. They come here for a week to receive their training on how to guide and counsel missionaries. The cool part was that their teachers are the General Authorities! I didn't see Pres. Monson, Uchtdorf, or Eyering, although they were here for the farewell yesterday. Through the week, I had two fun experiences. First, let me say that since I've arrived here, I have studied Elder Holland's talks obsessively. I love how they flow, and how emotional he gets. I have had my love grow for him. My district was chosen as "practice dummies" for the new Presidents to guide. While we were waiting our turn in the hall, Elder Nelson walked by and said "hi", but nothing more. There were a lot of missionaries waiting their turns in the hall. Elder Holland was behind him. After walking by several groups, he stopped at our district. I had seen him coming, and had offered a silent prayer, saying, "If there's one apostle's hand I ever want to shake, it's his. Please stop! And he did! He shook all our hands, and nobody else's. I wanted him to know how much I had appreciated what he had done for me, somehow. He gave everyone little one-liners, as he moved down the line. As he moved, no one spoke. They just nodded their heads politely. When he got to me, I couldn't help but blurt-out rather lamely, "You're my favorite!" Without missing a beat, he looked me in the eye (something he hadn't done to the others, he has really blue eyes) and said, "You're my favorite!" I know it was a joke, but he still said it. BOO YEAH!!!! As he kept moving down the line, he kept looking back at me, and before he rounded the next corner, he looked at me again! I felt pretty good! The next day, we rand into Elder Nelson outside, after we had returned from Rite-Aid. I shook his and his wife's hand, and talked to them for about 5 minutes. He has very soft doctor-hands. On Friday, we did get to go to the temple, although it wasn't for a session. We got to clean. It was definitely a unique experience. I though we'd be dusting and vacuuming. Nuh-uh! The first thing we were told, after we put on our white scrubs, was not to cut off anyone else's ear. Not a small portion of my mind was extremely worried about what kind of rags we'd be using. Ha ha. Go figure! We actually were handed a 4 foot handle with a 4 inch wide blade at the end. We saw that all the carpet on the second floor (the one with the chapel) had been removed, and our job was to use these little blades to clear out the remaining glue. It was tough! And it was not quiet! The other floors sounded like a construction zone. All the curtains were down, so I got a great view out the windows. I got to explore a lot. It was cool!
Alright, now onto the important part of my letter. I don't know if I've told you this, but a continuing theme so far, something that is a constant doubt, is "Who am I?" Forgive me if I've told you before. One of the first Sundays, the second counselor in my Branch Presidency, Bro. Robinson, called me in for an interview. He didn't interview me, he taught me. He taught me something very special. He had noticed I didn't think highly of myself, and after hearing Elder Holland's talk to us, I had told him I thought I needed to change. In this interview, he asked me how I would feel if I didn't need to change? Being a smart-mouth, I said I would feel surprised. He asked what "surprised" would feel like. I paused for a long time before saying it would feel good! He assured me I was. I took that to heart, and that night, in my journal, wrote down a list of qualities that define me. Okay, so that was in the first few weeks. I've thought about this very much. I have to in order to know......I don't know. It's like, the worst uncertainty to have. I mean, not knowing who you are? Since the beginning of my mission, I've questioned who I am, what I believe, to what lengths would I go to do something? It has been a very disconcerting time for me. I've been able to reap the benefits of it, and I can see how it has helped me grow. I know I can't see all the consequences yet, I know that they are significant. Anyway, so that's been the biggest thing so far. I've told Bro. Robinson about it, and he said he could tell. That threw me for a loop! He's a very observant man, and reminds me of myself. Maybe that's how he's so accurate. Yesterday he called me in for another "interview" and made more guesses about qualities that I have. He said that I have an extreme talent for accomplishing goals. And if there was anyone he'd ever met, that needed to make their dreams come true, it was me. When he said that, it just seemed eery, because that's what I have been thinking. Actually, all of his guesses have gone through my head at least once, so just know that the following (all of it) is eery. He pointed-out 2 things that might hurt me with being successful. One, is that I give myself high expectations. I mean BIG. I know you guys might not think so, but if it's something I really care about, it has to be perfect. And if I fall just a little bit short, I hate myself, I mean really Loathe! I always want to be better, so I can be the best. I can't stand to be less than I am able, and Bro. Robinson helped me realize how big a part of my life this is. Especially after losing Kayla. I thought it had been my fault, and that I still could have her if I had just done that "one thing" better. Bro. Robinson asked if I pray for patience. I said yes. He said to stop it. He said he had received the same counsel from his Stake President years ago. Instead he prays for deliverance, which is having God move you from where you are now, to where you want to be. He delivers you there. In a spiritual and emotional sense, this sounds like exactly what I need. The second thing that could stop me, is something I've only been fleetingly aware of over the years, that is getting more and more noticeable, and more and more dangerous to me. Bro. Robinson says it seems like there are two different people in me. I'm not schizophrenic, or anything. I think I'm just confused. Bro. Robinson's observation was right on. He said there's a part of me that is sensitive, intimate, and loving. There's another part that is ambitious and assertive. The two are warring through the form of "impatience." Eery, I know. Part of me is about quality, and the other is about quantity. He told me I was unique and different (that is also something I've been having a hard time with here. except everyone here tells me they want to be like me, and that I'm a "good" different. I just think it's spooky how Bro. Robinson covered all my questions in one talking to). He said I was doing "amazingly intricate wonders" in a "normal life." I haven't even told him that I wrote a book,(which you still need to read)! He noticed that I'm a "Jack-of-all-trades." I added that, although that was true, I was a "master of none." He pointed-out that I need to find that one talent that God has given me. He likened me to the Fiddler on the Roof. I don't know if you've seen it? I know we have it. The peak of the roof is so sharp, that it was already dangerous to stand there, let alone playing all the "intricate" notes of a violin. That's me. Life is crazy enough without all the amazing things I've been doing and thinking about. He said something that really made me feel good. "While everyones' been playing their fiddles, I've been playing a symphony. And although I can play any instrument, he thinks I would be best suited as the conductor. That's really close to my Patriarchal Blessing where it says I will govern, both "in church and beyond," as well as my baby blessing. Cool, huh?
I love you so much, and can't wait to hear from you!