Tuesday, December 16, 2014


These times of transition are strange, but we can be grateful for both sides--the things we enjoyed before and the great things after. The grass is usually green on both sides. As long as we are diligent to remember and follow the Lord, we can trust that there will be good things on both sides of the various transitions and changes in our life.

I look forward to the many blessings the Lord has in store for me and all of us, foreshadowed by the many blessings given heretofore.

I am happy for the many blessings that await our newest members and future missionaries here in Mongolia, and I hope they will learn from the strippling warriors in the Book of Mormon who, though wounded in battle, nevertheless stood fast in the liberty wherewith God had made them free; and they were strict to remember the Lord from day to day, observing to keep his statutes and his judgments, and his commandments continually.  Their faith was strong, and I plan to keep my faith strong.  Attention to obedience is the key, because that unlocks those blessings we need to be happy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.  I won't be consuming any turkey, as there isn't even a common word here for that.

Final exams for my English students are coming up soon--probably next week--so we will be reviewing this week.  Then I'll give the exams, issue the grades, and be finished with the semester.

We are looking forward to a baptism this coming Friday; that will be exciting.

At this point in my mission, this scripture comes to mind:

"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work."  (John 9:4)

I'm trying to work as hard as I can.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A few thoughts from the Steppes

Alma 27:29 tells us of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites who would rather die than commit sin--they didn't want to take up arms again and kill as they had done in the past, having repented of this sin. This makes them a special case, of course, and their desire is more important than simply not wanting to sin.  There are many times when we justify sin, like when we get angry to get our way, yell at someone to stop something from happening that we don't like, or lie to protect ourselves or our pride. The reasons that justify our incorrect actions seem important to us, and perhaps the sin of our reaction seems small.  But if we remember the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, who were willing to die rather than repeat serious sin, we should remember that to suffer frustration is better than to get angry, to be humble is better than to justify our pride.  Just my thoughts today.

Stake Conference was this past week.  One sister is the Japanese wife of a ward's Mongolian Bishop. She gave her talk entirely in Japanese and had it interpreted.  It was pretty cool to listen to.  Our work here is going well and we are preparing the wife of one of our members for baptism; we hope to help prepare him to do the ordinance.  We are teaching a lot of people right now.

One note about being on a mission for nearly two years now:  I can say I know how to cook eggs tastily and correctly: omelette, poached, sunny-side up, and more!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Halloween

I told six different English classes about Halloween and Trick-or-Treating this week.  It's always a fun topic for my English students.

I have some photos from the last baptism I mentioned.  Things are going well with my new companion.  I have set some goals for the end of my mission, and one of them is to be the best trainer I can be.  I've learned a lot on my mission, but I know there's plenty to learn after I come home, too.

I believe that those who serve most in the Church learn the most.  Certainly, the New Testament shows us that the Lord's Apostles learned the most during His ministry.

I was reading in Ephesians 4 this week, which includes the teaching that anger is sin. Actually, the Joseph Smith Translation clarifies part of v. 26: "can ye be angry and sin not?" Anger in times of frustration or annoyance, even a little, is natural to all of us, but through the Atonement of Christ we can put such things away and be more Christlike. We need to replace anger with Christlike attributes.

Also I was reading in Mosiah 2.  All the Lord asks of us is to keep the commandments, and if we do, he blesses us!  It reminds me of the Primary Song: "What doest he Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say? Have faith, have hope, live like His Son, help others on their way."

Have a great week!  I plan to.

My new companion, me, our newest 9-year-old member, his mom, and my other companion. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Last Transfer

We had a baptism last week: the 9-year-old son of a new member.  He's a good kid, and he's read the Book of Mormon Stories picture book like 5 times.

I would have missed the baptism at transfers last week, but I was transferred within the same area, and so I was able to attend the baptism.  I am now training a new Elder; he's really great. So, now until the end I will just focus on being a good trainer.  I'm sure the time will fly and we will be so busy.

We are teaching the wife of a member, and she is doing well.  I think she will be baptized soon.  The weather is getting really cold, but there's no snow on the ground yet.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

General Conference

We got to watch General Conference this weekend, a week later than everyone else because of the time difference. We American missionaries were able to get together to watch in English. This will be my last time watching Conference in Mongolia.

I liked a lot of the talks, but here are a few that stood out to me:

Elder Linn Robbins, who asked which way we face.
Ted Callister, who reminded me of important habits and priorities.
Elder Klebingat, reminding us to have confidence before the Lord.
Elder Craig Christensen, who taught about knowing the truth for ourselves.  A lot of speakers seemed to focus on the need for and power of personal revelation.
President Uchtdorf, whose talk on "Is it I?" was very powerful.
Elder Godoy, who talked about reaching our potential with the Lord's help.

And I could go on. I liked hearing the non-English speakers, but I would prefer to only hear them and to read subtitles rather than hear a translator.

Hey, look on page 3 of the October 2014 Ensign magazine.  You'll see a photo of a young girl praying.  The Book of Mormon on the bed is Mongolian, as is the girl!  Just thought that was cool.

I had an interesting thought during Conference.  The word "mission" comes from the Latin root that means "to send."  We send missionaries out all over the world.  But every member is also a missionary. How are we "sent" when we don't leave home?  We are sent to live in this world, this Babylon. We don't keep to ourselves or live in an isolated community, but we are sent into the world by the Lord to share the Gospel with everyone.  So, every member is a missionary! I hope to remember that when I leave my formal mission and return home.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Winter Descends

It snowed!  Winter has begun. Some say it will melt and warm up one last time before winter, but it has been pretty cold lately.

We have had some great successes lately with less active members attending Church more regularly.  We are happy to see families coming together.

In 2 Nephi 33:4 Nephi has already seen in a vision that his people will eventually be destroyed, but he prays diligently for them--and he knows of a surety that the Lord will 'consecrate his prayers for their gain'. I think that is interesting wording. In our mission, sometimes we pray things for our investigators and such. A little while ago, we invited a man to come back to Church. We fasted that he would come to Sacrament meeting, and we both felt it was right.  But he didn't come. Still, I don't feel that our fast has gone unanswered.  I know the Lord will bless that member because of our faith and prayers. It doesn't matter if the Lord brings him back right when we ask. Sometimes He will bless the way was ask and sometimes another way, but He will always consecrate our prayers for the gain of those we pray for. That's my feeling, anyway.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Unbirthday

My birthday box arrived a little late, but that just gave us a great excuse to celebrate my Unbirthday!

This was a great week.  We learned that Elder Gong and Elder Rasband are coming for our mission conference next week.  I didn't get transferred, so I get to stay here with my companion.  And we got to eat pizza!  We had budgeted so we could go to Pizza Hut on P-day, and on our way there we ran into a member who insisted on buying our dinner for us!  It was delicious.  The next day, I had a lot to do at my college and so we didn't have time to go home for lunch.  My boss took us to his Korean restaurant; that was also delicious!  Just fun stories.

Monday, September 8, 2014

You have Agency. Be happy.

2 Nephi 10:23: "Therefore cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves--to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life."

The simple message I find here is that we can trust in God's providence because whatever happens, we have Agency which gives us the power to choose eternal life. Our agency coupled with Christ's Atonement is powerful enough to overcome all other influences and opposition in the goal of gaining eternal life.  Even if times are hard, we have the agency to choose to serve God and please Him.

It has started to get chilly this week. I hope we will have one more course of warm before the onset of winter; for me, once it becomes true winter, it will just get colder and colder until the end.

But I'll still be happy :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

School and weather

We start school tomorrow--the college where I teach English.  We had a little opening ceremony today.  When I walked into the room, the students started cheering. I'm not sure how genuine it was, but it was funny.  This semester will go right up until I am going home.

Now that it's getting cooler in Mongolia, I joke with the students that I am going to escape to America in December because it will be so cold here. It's strange how the year is just long enough that every summer, no matter how short, is just long enough for you to forget what it's like to be cold....

We met a kid one day walking near our apartments who spoke perfect English. It turns out he learned English in three years when he lived in America at about the age of 8. It was fun to meet his family, all of whom speak English to some degree. We were happy to introduce them to the first lesson about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Not much else to report here.  I know the next few months will go fast, and I'm working hard to focus on using my time as a missionary well. 

Here's a little poem I wrote while flying from Choibalsan to Ulaanbaatar in August:


The sun retreats, the sky grows dim as clouds grow thicker overhead.
The hope of sunshine growing thin, we wait for raindrops to be shed.

Though heaven's metamorphosis from light to dark spells no sure doom,
we know that as the clouds persist, they cast on earth a certain gloom.

The sun who bears the light of day casts cheer on every human soul.
To see this beacon fade away can dull this joy and take its toll.

The cheer we knew a day before can even fade from memory,
And in the rain we may implore to have the day brought back to be.

But don't forget, the sun's not gone; it lies untouched beyond the mist!
The land the sun smiles down upon will see the light clouds can't resist.

Of course, this comes as no surprise to us who've seen our every day
That when the sun sets, it will rise e'en though the clouds push it away.

Today the clouds bedeck the sky, but I'm aboard an aeroplane!
And at the altitude we fly, we see the sun without restrain.

Quite rightly are the heavens named; up here whenever it's not night,
E'en where the earth by storm is framed, the sun shows forth its mighty light!

I see the clouds which, dark below, are crowned on top a snowy white!
This landscape spans, for all I know, from coast to coast all glowing bright!

That's not to say the land's not dark; that's not to say the sky's not dim.
But I wish only to remark that we must all remember Him

Who sees each day from past the clouds and we cannot peer in return:
Despite the veil that thickly shrouds above, as ever His Glory burns.

Though clouds may come, and sure they will, the rain is not a cause for doubt.
When darkness looms, remember still That Light above has not gone out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Random Posts from UB

My companion and I have been working hard, and we have been blessed to meet new people and find some inactive members we didn't know lived in the area. It often happens that we are working toward one goal, but we are given a different good result from the Lord. He knows who He wants us to teach.

1 Nephi 15:14 says that the Gospel will be restored so that people can "come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come until him and be saved." That's an important thing we teach, the very points of his doctrine, that all people may know HOW to be saved. Many good people do many good things, but only from Christ's revealed doctrine can we learn exactly HOW to be saved--which we can't determine or figure out ourselves because only Christ has the power to redeem us.  Many things about our lives come down to personal revelation, but the Gospel teaches us specifically those doctrines, covenants, ordinances and commandments that we need in order to be saved.

Also, I noted that in 1 Nephi 16:18, Nephi says "I broke my bow" which is an active sentence, but he says "My brothers bows lost their spring," which is a passive sentence. He accepts responsibility for the malfunction of his own bow but does not blame his brothers for what they  may or may not have done to their own bows. It is a good example.  We need to accept responsibility for our own mistakes and avoid blaming others.

I was reading in Matthew 12:13.  In this passage, the Savior commands a man with a withered hand to stretch his hand forth. When he does so, he is healed. I thought this was a good example of how the Lord gives us commandments to bless us. Oftentimes, the Lord would lay hands on someone or command them to be healed, but in this and other cases He commanded the person to do something in order to be healed.  While showing his power to bless, He also demonstrates the importance of obedience.

Well, I have my official release date now: December 18.  That's the same day I headed to the MTC two years ago.  I look forward to being home, but I still have four months to do my best to serve here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Farewell Choibalsan

I am back in Ulaanbaatar, back to Enktaivan Ward, where I served for six months last year! It was a little strange being back in my old ward, but it's great to see how people are doing. We are now 4 Elders in one apartment here.  Since we are all  North Americans, we ate at Pizza Hut last week (it's not far from our apartment)!

I did enjoy my time in Choibalsan and all the people we worked with there.  I have a couple of photos from my birthday excursion.
Mongolian horses on the Steppes. It's so remote and beautiful here.

The home we visited on my birthday.
The solar panel gives them electricity, so they can get Chinese TV. 

Last week, I thought of the spirit of contention that sometimes comes into many lives.... Sometimes we try to cast out contention with contention, but from Christ's teaching we can see how that is impossible.  Contention will never cast out the spirit of contention; only humility, love, charity, and the Spirit of Christ can do that. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Birthday Adventure

I turned 21 on Monday, which was a P-day.  I had thought to go out for lunch, maybe buy a little something as a birthday present, write emails to my family, and so on.  But by coincidence, our mission doctor and his wife were visiting Choibalsan for the weekend to provide some training.  They asked to be taken Monday to some memorable or interesting site. So we arranged to go with a member to visit her relative (also a Church member) who lives about 120 km away from Choibalsan out in the countryside. We hired two taxis and assumed it would be a 2-hour drive each way.  We were thankful the doctor offered to pay for the taxis, since we poor missionaries could never afford to do so.

So, 120 km on a paved road would take a little over an hour and so we felt our allowance of two hours on the dirt roads of Mongolia would be more than enough.  But that's if the road is in good condition.  But it rained a lot on Sunday, and that meant the roads were not in good condition. Our trip was ... five hours each way.  We just didn't know that when we set out.

About two hours into the drive, our little taxi got stuck in the mud.  The other taxi avoided it but came back to help.  We Elders and the driver all took off our shoes and socks and got out into the mire surrounding the car and tried to get it out. We kept trying to lift the car out, push it out, pull it out.  The other taxi even went to a nearby (and since we were in the countryside, that means not nearby) home and got a "rope."  We tried to tow the car out and that didn't work either. Thankfully, a nice family stopped their car when they saw us and offered to help.  With their help and by picking up the stuck car's back end and manually turning it to line up with the non-stuck car, we finally towed it out of the mud.

Then we drove in this little no-longer-white car until we got to ... the river!

At the river, we stopped to wash the car.  We Elders, still with no shoes, got out and waded around in the shallow river (no deeper than two feet).  The other taxi was stopping for the driver to do some maintenance. Eventually, we let the cars go over the river with minimal passengers and we missionaries walked across the river. We then got back into the car with relatively clean feet and donned our shoes and socks again.

This brought us to Sergelen County Center, a teeny town with a single K-8 school.  Anyone who wants a higher education has to go to Choibalsan.  At this point, the mission doctor and his wife were worried they would miss their flight back to Ulaanbaatar, so they left us and went back in the smaller of the two taxis. We continued on, convinced that the countryside dwelling we were going to was about 30 minutes away. It was more like 2-3 hours away!  At least on the way, we were able to take some great photos of the Mongolian countryside, which is greener than green and void of humanity. It was pretty cool.  We also stopped by a rock that contained an impression in the shape of a boot that is said to be Chinggis Khaan's footprint.

Finally we got to the place we were going, a single ger with a singe shed in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, green as far as the eye can see.  The weather was perfect. We met a member that lives way out there (fairly isolated, eh?) and ate some goat liver.

At this point, it was getting to be 6:00 pm and we were realizing how far out we were. Still, we were convinced that we would be back by 8:00 or so.  We rode through the seemingly endless Mongolian countryside and finally got back to Sergelen.  Then we crossed the river again and made another endless ride back until we finally reached Choibalsan at about 10:00 p.m. The ride back had been uneventful--just frustrating because we realized how far away we had been.

But it was a 21st birthday never to be forgotten!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Naadam and Wrestling

Our newest member in Choibalsan, her husband, me, my companion

Visiting with friends and missionaries in Choibalsan

Although Naadam, the national holiday, meant a day off of work for most people, we were still able to get a lot of work done.  Next week, the second Naadam will bring things to a halt as everyone celebrates, but we should still be fine.

One thing funny did happen in relation to Naadam this week.  We were meeting with one of our newer investigator couples, and they were watching the national Naadam wrestling match on TV. They said we could start teaching when the match was over.  But Mongolian wrestling only ends when one man gets the other on the ground.  They stand there grappling each other, starting and stopping and so on, and it can go on forever.  I knew it probably wouldn't last too much longer, but it was getting late and I wanted to be able to show a video about the Restoration for our lesson. So I said a silent prayer that the match would end soon. No sooner had I done so than I looked up and saw one wrestler toss the other to the ground. I don't know whether the Lord ended a national competition to answer my prayer or whether He timed my prayer to work out to my benefit, but either way I'm sure He answered it; and we had a great lesson.  Our investigators are really learning well and coming to Church and trying to change.  The husband is even trying to get a new job so he won't have to work on Sunday!  The Lord knows all things, and He will help this man in the best way, no matter what that ends up being.

This is my last week as a 20-year-old.  In Mongolia, I've been 21 all year, but I'll stick with my American way of counting.  Next week, it'll be 21 for sure. Or 22 if you want to be accurate in Mongolia.

Monday, July 7, 2014


We had a baptism on Friday, July 4th!  It was the wife of one of our members here in Choibalsan.  I was able to perform the baptism.  This new sister was very happy to be baptized, but she was too shy to bear her testimony at the service.  That's ok, of course.  The Sunday, however, that she received the Gift of the Holy Ghost was also Fast Sunday. I was fasting for her that she would become a strong member of the Church.  Somewhat to my surprise, she got up and shared her testimony in front of the entire Branch. It was pretty good!  I was glad to see many members expressing their appreciation to her after the meeting. They knew she was shy.

Afterward, I was thinking about it.  I realized that after her baptism, she hadn't the courage; but after receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, she had been able to stand as a witness of Christ in front of a large congregation. I can't say it was a direct cause, but it was an interesting comparison. Either way, bearing testimony strengthens our faith.

This week is Naadam, the national holiday to celebrate Independence.  The biggest celebrations are in the capital, of course, but there will be a couple of different ones here in Choibalsan. We are allowed to watch festivities because we otherwise have a really hard time making appointments during the holiday, but we will always be mindful of an opportunity to fellowship investigators and members.

The other American serving in Choibalsan and I celebrated the 4th of July by going to a nice restaurant in town and ordering steak.  It felt like a holiday, since we would otherwise not spend $9 for just one meal!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Choibalsan is Great

We have had a lot of rain in Choibalsan the last couple of weeks.  Roads aren't all paved and drainage is, well, lacking, so roads become rivers pretty quickly.  One day, we got to an intersection in the Ger Khoroolol (yurt district) and it was water from side to side with no place to pass.  We waited and then flagged down a huge flatbed truck and asked for passage across.  He let us climb in to the truck bed and we rode that way across the pond.  It was pretty good.  Even when the rain lets up, the roads are full of little streams and lots of mud.

We had an appointment on a Saturday with an investigator preparing for baptism, but we couldn't contact them on the phone and the road to their house was horrendously flooded.  So we took the chance, hopped across some dirt mounts and concretes slabs and, sure enough, they were home.  It was a blessing.  We will be having a baptism on the 4th of July!

Missionary work can easily become frustrating, since much of our day depends on whether people keep their appointments with us.  But we have to trust in the Lord.  For example, that Saturday our schedule was tumbling apart about noon, but I didn't let it bother me and I went happily, trusting that the Lord would provide for what really mattered.  And He did. Though some appointments fell through, He brought us another person to teach and also let us get through that flooded street to meet with our investigator.

A focus on the Lord's blessings past and promised--and trust in Him--has helped me to be very happy lately, regardless of circumstances.  During times that could have been boring or tedious or frustrating, I have been just happy, going about the muddy streets with a smile because I know the Lord loves me and that I'm glad to be doing His work.

Teaching on the Army Base is great fun.  The students are motivated and respectful.  For the first couple of weeks, they would stand at attention whenever I called on them.  And they applauded me at the end of a class.  Now that they have realized I don't expect that level of discipline, they aren't standing at attention anymore.  But they still work ten times harder than some of my past students.  I will be sad to leave this teaching job at the end of the summer.  All of my students are soldiers or officers.  They know almost no English except a few memorized words, so they are definitely a beginning class that wants to learn.  The sergeant major gives us a ride home after I teach.  I could get used to that!

I am learning a lot as a counselor in the branch presidency.  I have conducted sacrament meeting a few times.

I take notes when I read the Book of Mormon.  I was reviewing notes from the Book of Ether recently.  Near the end of the first chapter, the Brother of Jared prayed that their language would not be confounded; the Lord blessed him as he asked.  But then when the Lord said He would scatter the nations, Jared and his brother did not pray that they not be scattered; they asked only to know where they would go.  Jared said faithfully, "who knoweth but that He will lead us to a land of Promise?" (v. 38).  They had faith that what the Lord willed, though different than what they had, could be better.  They trusted Him and wanted to be faithful. If we look at how Jared and his brother prayed, we can see patterns of trust, faithfulness and humility.  They never asked to go to a land of promise; they trusted that the Lord's will would be the best for them and asked only for that, deciding to be faithful as well.   It's a good pattern for us today.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Once I flew to Choibalsan to conduct some training as a Zone Leader.  I thought it was a fun excursion in a mission where we do not usually get to leave Ulaanbaatar.  Now I find myself serving this summer in Choibalsan!

It is very nice here.  It reminds me of Iowa because it is flat (UB is next to mountains).  You can see forever.  It also reminds me of Florida (although I have never been there) because it has trees.  I haven't seen trees for a long time, and they have planted some lovely lines of trees to beautify the city.  Okay, so they aren't palm trees, but it is just greener here and so I thought of Florida.  It is still Mongolia, of course, since everything is written in Cyrillic script and fresh yogurt is for sell in every store.

Anyway, I am in Choibalsan only for the summer to teach English temporarily.  My school in Ulaanbaatar does not offer classes in the summer, and so I am free to work elsewhere and they needed a teacher here.  This means I also get to be a missionary for this small branch.  It isn't part of a district; it is just under the mission.  So, I am now Second Counselor in the Branch Presidency.  Another missionary is the Branch President and a local member is the First Counselor.  I conducted Sacrament meeting on the 8th!  It was interesting to do that.

We are teaching some people the Gospel, but our presence here is small and we keep a low profile.  The weather here is different than in the capital.  It has gone back and forth between perfect, rainy, and sweaty.  But it's nice.  I like the apartment because I actually have a mattress to sleep on.  In my last apartment, we had box springs but not mattresses.  I slept on some blankets.  So this mattress thing is really nice. We are working on getting a washing machine installed; there was one before, but this apartment hasn't been used for a while and it was removed.

When the mission president called to tell us we were going to Choibalsan, we had just a few days notice to teach our area to some other Elders, baptize an investigator, and get to the airport.  It was a great baptism, though, and we feel our new member will be strong and happy.  He's humble and diligent about coming to Church.  An older gentleman was also baptized. On that same day, another investigator we taught was baptized in her new branch (which we found was outside of our area).

So here I am where mail doesn't reach Elders very often.  Choibalsan is Mongolia's 4th largest city!  Population: about 40,000.  That's Mongolia.  It's great!

Baptism in American Denj Branch (just the street name; it's not an American Branch).
My companion is second from the right.

Elder Sims in Choibalsan, June 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

School is out!

I'm grateful to live in a family established on the teachings of the prophets.  Going on a mission has shown me what an enormous difference there is between a firm Gospel family and the opposite.

My English class is winding down now.  I just gave the final exams and then graded them.  It took almost 4 hours to do that, which didn't leave much of our P-day.  Oh well.   The school has let out for the summer, so teachers are off, too.  I get to be a full-time missionary all the time!  I look forward to that.

We have an investigator in our area who is doing very well.  He was introduced to the Gospel by a new member of the ward who happens to be the father of one of our missionaries.  Because this mission is comprised mostly of Mongolians, and because the country has a limited number of cities, it is common for missionaries from Ulaanbaatar to serve in this city and even see their family often.

So it is with this new member.  Anyway, because he recently received the Aaronic Priesthood, we are helping him to prepare to baptize his young co-worker who is very excited about the Gospel.  The 25-year-old comes to Church every Sunday and he wants to go on a mission as soon as possible (one year) after he is baptized.  It's great to see how happy he is in the Gospel. And it's great to see how these friends can strengthen each other.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Elder Sims via Skype, 11 May 2014
Happy Mother's Day.  I'm glad on this day for both my parents who raised me in a Gospel family and did things the Lord's way.  Going on a mission has shown me what an enormous difference there is between a firm Gospel family and the opposite.

I've been reading the Book of Mormon in English again lately, instead of in Mongolian, and I was surprised by how much more understandable Jacob 5 was the most recent time I read it.  I could see all the dispensations falling right into the scriptural narrative.  My understanding drew on lessons and seminary videos of the past, but it just made more sense right away this time.  It shows you how no matter how many time you read the Book of Mormon you can always learn more.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Typical Week

(Joshua wrote about his day-to-day work for a week (week of April 6-13) to give an idea of what mission work is like in Mongolia.  He sent a handwritten letter because they don't have that much time on a computer to email.  That explains the delay.  From his letter:).....

It was warmer, with the exception of a day of snow, and we were glad to shed our coats and work in suits.  We wear no nametags, though, as my companion and I are both Americans, and we aren't allowed to wear nametags outdoors. I am still zone leader of the Ulaanbaatar East Zone. The other zone leader, not my companion, is a Mongolian I trained a few months ago.  My companion and I serve in the Samsar area, which is pretty small.  Unlike other areas where I have served, we have mostly apartment buildings in this area.

Last Sunday, we had five investigators at Church.  Afterward, we met with a college student.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation and she seems to be understanding it very well.  Then we met with a new member and taught her about how to apply to serve a mission.  The two are friends who both live in Erdenet but are going to school in Ulaanbaatar.

Next we walked across the street to teach a new fellow we met while moving luggage on P-day; he asked us to help him stop drinking. When we met on Sunday, we found him to have great desire and he received our lesson well.

Then we visited a member family that had just come back into town.  We shared a message and learned about a friend of theirs we might visit.  Then we finished a lovely Sunday by visiting an investigator preparing for baptism.  (She's pictured in a post from April 27).  She and her husband fed us Mantuun Buuz, diced meat and onion filling inside a puffy dough dumpling and steamed. Since that was Fast Sunday, it was especially delicious.

On P-day, I taught English for three hours until 2:00 p.m.  I teach at the Institute for International Studies.  Since it was P-day (preparation day), we then got groceries, emailed family, and managed to  do a little shopping.  I was looking for Bibles written in Mongolian script.  I was excited to find one for a good price.

On Tuesday, I taught English another three hours until about noon.  After that, we taught another lesson to the woman preparing for baptism.  She and her husband took us out to lunch, which was very nice.  We had Japanese food (not sushi).  That's not very common for us.  We then taught three more lessons to three different people and took the man who wanted to stop drinking over to the Church's Addiction Recovery Program class.  He received it well, and one of our other investigators was at the class, too.

By now it was 8:30 pm and we headed to the home of an investigator from Poland.  His wife is Mongolian; she had been baptized 15 years ago by our mission president when he was a young missionary, but she had since fallen away.  The man wasn't home then, but we said we would try again later.

On Wednesday, we had Zone training meeting.  I think this is the 8th one I have taught.  We taught about key indicators and building the Church from centers of strength.  After that meeting, at around 11:00, we headed over to teach a new member who is doing very well and learning faithfully.  We taught a new investigator about prophets and then went home for lunch.  We made a tasty pasta and chicken dish, but we had to hurry so my companion could get to his English teaching assignment.  He is a tutor for the children of his sponsor.  Teaching English is probably the strangest and most unique part of this mission; it's quite an experience for all of us.

We taught another lesson to the woman to be baptized, and she and her husband cooked dinner for us.  I'm learning to cook some Mongolian dishes, and I'll try them at home if I can.  It might be hard to find horse meat, I guess, but I suppose I can use beef or mutton instead.  We visited another family but they were unable to meet with us, and it was 9:00 pm anyway, so we went home to plan Thursday.

Thursday, we left at 10:00 to get to my English class.  We usually walk the 30 minutes, but this time we took a taxi in 15 minutes.  Any willing driver can be a taxi; they just pull over and give rides to people on the side of the road.  The agreed upon fare is about 50 cents per kilometer.  Today's 'taxi' driver was a Kazakh man; we had a very interesting conversation, but two American missionaries are not allowed to invite people in public to listen to the Gospel.  All street contacting is also forbidden by the government.  It's strange that being a missionary in Mongolia means we cannot testify in the streets.  But we do get to teach in Church and we have lessons often, and that makes up for it.  I'm glad we do a lot of teaching.

After my English classes, we had a weekly planning session and then went to Church to meet with a new member.  She asked a lot of questions. That's good.  While at the Church, which has a distribution center, we picked up a copy of Book of Mormon Stories [children's book] for an investigator's children.  We then stopped at another home to teach.  The family is learning and listened attentively, but I'm not sure if the kids (aged 11 and 15) were following things well.  I realized I had the children's book in my pack, and so I pulled it out to give to them.  They were really excited; the pictures help with learning such new and foreign concepts.

On Friday, we made some pizza before my English classes at noon.  I like to experiment with pizza here; it's always a little different.  One time, we covered the pizza with Korean kimchi.  I don't think I'll do that again.   After English, we taught one of the investigators we are working with.  [These are all the same people I mentioned from the beginning of the week.  I don't include names for their own privacy.]  This fellow (the one with the drinking problem) likes to meet but isn't sure he believes in God.  We're helping him find out for himself.  We picked up another Book of Mormon Stories for the first family we intended to give it to and then went on a split with the other zone leader and his companion.  We two zone leaders met up with the district leader and his companion to provide some training for them on how to make a good weekly plan.  Then we went back to Church for a baptismal interview for our wonderful investigator.  We then went to teach another investigator who will probably be baptized soon, and we met with the family we wanted to give the children's book to.

With an hour left in our day, we went again to the Polish man's home and found him there!  His wife is a little wary of the missionaries, but she seemed to be fine having us there.  We gave him a pamphlet about the Restoration in Polish and a Polish Book of Mormon.  It's a little hard to teach him because I have to use a mixture of Russian, English, Polish, and Mongolian to convey concepts, but he is showing potential.  He met missionaries once before in Germany.  His wife offered us some soup, which was a pleasant surprise; we are hoping she is feeling less negatively about the Church.  He is going to read while he is traveling for a few weeks.

Saturday we got to watch General Conference in English.  We arranged for splits between native Mongolian speakers and English speakers so everyone could watch in their native tongue.  We had to wait a week to watch because Conference happens in the middle of the night for us, so it just makes things easier to watch the recorded sessions during the day a week after the conference.  I thought all of the talks were great, especially President Erying's talk about priesthood service.

After Church, we were invited by a returned missionary to teach his 90-year-old grandmother.  She's hard of hearing and fairly set in her Buddhist ways.  Many Mongolians are happy to accept Christ but believe that every religion is equally good and even the same. I think we managed to help her understand how Buddhism and Christianity are different and that the way she would worship Christ would not involve the same prayers and rituals she uses as a Buddhist.  Her member children and grandchildren could help her.  I'm not sure how easily she will accept Christ, but she said she was happy to meet with us again.

We visited a less-active member and showed him and his wife how to download conference on their iPad; they were glad to see how easy it was.  On Sunday we watched more conference and enjoyed a missionary lunch of PBJ sandwiches.  My companion and I provided the peanut butter and other missionaries contributed their fair share, as well.  After conference, we taught a nice lesson to some of the investigators mentioned earlier.  When we went to one home, there was a full, skinless, headless goat on the table.  We were grateful he took the time to listen to our lesson before he finished the work of gutting and butchering the animal.  We finished the evening with a farewell fireside for our mission doctor who leaves on Tuesday.

And that was a week in the life of a missionary in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I know the Gospel is true, and I know the Savior lives. In this world of confusion and falsehood, we can trust and rely on the Lord to be our anchor of Righteousness.  He will bless us in this life and when we see Him hereafter, our faith will be vindicated.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo Update

I promised last week that I would try to send a photo today, so here it is.  That's my companion, Elder Pappenfuss on the left, our newest member and her husband (who is already a Church member), and me.

Our mission scripture is 3 Nephi 5:13.  I have it memorized in Mongolian, Russian, and English.

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the son of God.  I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."

The Mongolian people are God's people, just like any other people on the earth, and it's a privilege to be here to help them find everlasting life.

Monday, April 21, 2014


My companion and I found a person in the local market that had imported a bunch of bacon from Hungary.  I told her that it was Americans' favorite meat!  I hope that didn't make her raise the price on it before we bought it, but I cooked up the bacon along with some eggs and toast one morning.  We had a real breakfast!  It was great.

We had a baptism this week, the wife of a returned missionary.  They asked me to perform the baptism, which was very nice. Our weather is nice and warm, despite some snow over the weekend.

Easter isn't really celebrated in Mongolia, but we did enjoy a nice meal at a member's home.  The celebrations don't matter as much as the reason for the day.  I am grateful for the Savior's Atonement and love to see people in Mongolia accept it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

General Conference

We have to wait a week to see General Conference until it can be translated from English into Mongolian, but we watched it this weekend.  I look forward to studying it out more, but I liked it.

I remember one talk about educating our desires.  I once saw a photo of some graffiti that declared "Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted."  But this assumes that wanting something somehow makes it okay or better than something else.  Yet as rational beings and as children of God, we have the ability to stop and think when we want something and, to the best of our ability, consider whether it will lead us ultimately to good or to bad.  And if we realize a desire or pattern of desires that does not agree with God's commandments or we can otherwise see it might bring us down a bad path, we can over time change and remove that desire.

It's a simple reminder to use the example of a donut.  If we see one and want to eat it, we can also take a moment to consider that tomorrow the "joy" of eating that donut will have gone away, but the poor nutrition of that donut will remain with us in negative ways.  Realizing that, we can also realize we don't really want it, and we can avoid eating it.  It's a good skill to develop.

I really liked President Eyring's talk about being a priesthood hero and Elder Oaks talk about the priesthood.  There were other talks I liked, of course, but I need to study them more.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Good Week

We had transfers this week, but I stayed in the Sansar Branch as zone leader with my companion, Elder Papenfuss.  He's been in this area since he came to Mongolia 7 months ago.

We taught a good number of quality lessons this week and were blessed to have 6 investigators come to Church Sunday!

The weather has been wonderful, and we have even been able to walk around in just suit coats sometimes.

When things go well, I think about how important it is to make sure I try as hard as when things don't go well.  The Nephites would always grow so much when they were humbled, and they would fall so much when they grew prideful.  Imagine if they had maintained their spiritual growth the whole time they were being prospered as well.

This week, I came across Ecclesiastes 12:8-13:
"Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

To me, this talks about the excessive words of the "wise," which I take as talking about unimportant little doctrines.  In response to endless analysis of doctrine, the preacher says we should remember the big picture, the only one that matters: Fear God and keep the commandments.  Fearing God is to respect, worship, honor, obey, trust...all of those things.  If we do these things, we will become more perfect and we will love God better.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Catching Up

Some weeks just aren't all that exciting to write about, and so why would I take your precious time?  But now it's time to catch up...

First if all, my family's Christmas box finally arrived!  Just in time for Easter, I guess.

Our stake had some boundaries re-aligned this month, with some branches made into wards and some wards into branches--all in order to help every unit grow stronger and larger. So, I'm still the zone leader and haven't moved but am now serving in another branch.  It's called Sansar.  So I left the smallest branch, which became the biggest, and went to the biggest ward, which became one of the smaller branches.

One of the changes for me is that we have been serving in areas where most people live in the ger (yurt) district, and this branch is more in the city.  Everyone lives in apartments.  No more slippery mountains for a while.

Anyway, we met one of the members who told us her conversion story.  She had been in some hard times and wanted some peace in her life, so she called the information hotline number and asked about nearby Christian churches.  They gave her two church locations near her house; one of them was ours.  When she came to our Church building, she thought it was so nice she decided that it must be the one.  And she joined the Church!  I've heard of member referral converts, tracting converts, converts who randomly walked into Church, but never conversion by operator!

We are meeting new people and doing a lot of follow-up visits, but things still fall through sometimes.  We keep trying and hoping.  I realize all I can really do is focus on being the best missionary I can be.  The Lord knows how to save His children.  All I have to do is be suitable to help where needed.

We met a man from Poland recently.  Actually, he came to us, and so I think he has sincere desire to learn.  It's hard for him to keep appointments, and he has some opposition at home, but the man is a nice fellow and I hope we can help him.

So, that's missionary work in Mongolia for now.  The weather is getting a little warmer, and that makes us all happy.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stake Conference

Well, I got my voice back and am healthy again.

There were some changes in stake conference this week, where two branches were combined and one ward was made into two branches to better balance out the stake and the district.  The goal is to create three stakes and begin the work to qualify for a temple in Mongolia.  That is a great goal that would help so many people who otherwise have to make an expensive trip to Hong Kong to attend the temple.  It will take a lot of work, but it can happen!

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Still More Glorious Dawn

A Still More Glorious Dawn Awaits
By Joshua Sims

As I peer into the clear black sky,
The moon sits there ponderously--
A white crown perched on a black,
Profoundly black sea.
And I consider that mammoth globe,
Which circles us so endlessly,
Yet appears to be no more
Than a disk in the sky.
Imagine, then, all that lies beyond,
The hosts of stars countlessly
To light our night from the depths
Of infinite space.
There's so much more than we realize,
Waiting there beyond our reach.
Outside our familiar home,
Our terrestrial globe.
What glory, laud and honor lies here,
And gleams so bright--but temporally
Is naught but a spot in the scheme 
Of Infinite things.
"A still more glorious dawn awaits,
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise.
A Morning filled with
One thousand billion suns."*
When all there is to inherit comes
To those who served faithfully
That Lord who created our earth
And all that's beyond.
How many lives were spent and sold
For prizes that pass fleetingly
Enjoyed for but our life's day
And lost in the night.
It profiteth not to buy the world
And much less Wales for the price of the soul;
For what jewel can match in cost
Our infinite worth?
For should an empire span coast to coast
And even then beyond the sea,
It can't surpass the bounds
Of this Earth, its grave.
That joy and treasure that fills the soul
And quenches thirst eternally
Appears still at times to our earth
But a star in the deep.
How can that reward set aside for us
Outshining gold incomp'rably
Be valued but dross and exchanged
For pyrite of iron?
The pottage bought, the birthrights sold, 
The glee had so expensively,
The Empires of Dirt won and lost
Defy all recount.
And though when reckoned in such terms
The issue is mind-boggling,
How soon this perspective is lost 
For us on the earth!
Our world, in form, a bulging orb,
Is flat as far as we can see,
Not to mention the stars, 
Spots of white on a pitch black relief.
The sun has greeted every morn,
Yet man took ages to perceive
The sun's sheer magnitude and that earth turns
To show us each dawn.
"A still more glorious dawn awaits,
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise.
A Morning filled with
one thousand billion suns!"
And all that became of our mortal world,
The things we gained and gave up here,
Will be lost in the break of that great
Millennial day.
And how can we give mammon any care
When we see our Great Redeemer there,
Life restored, faith fulfilled,
And returned to Him Who gave life!
Then all the world's wrongs shall be cast away,
And we shall live Eternally,
Each new day of our life
A still more Glorious Dawn.

*Quote attributed to Carl Sagan. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Colder, if that's possible

It was a lot colder her this week than last, but we survived.  The -45°F wind chills aren't great. They say it will get warmer soon....

It was transfer week, but my companion and I stayed the same.  That's good because we have a nice area and work well together.  I'm still zone leader, and another zone leader is now also in the area.  He's Mongolian, from the first group of missionaries I trained.  

My brother is doing a report on Mongolia in school, so he asked me to tell him about life in the city.  Here are some tidbits:

Ulaanbaatar has about 1,000,000 inhabitants. The center of the city is Sukhbaatar Square (now Chinggis Khaan square), an old communist-style public square with a big memorial to Chinggis Khaan. (It looks like the 
Lincoln memorial but bigger and with Chinggis Khaan instead of Abe.) The center of the town has lots of big buildings and malls and stores, and many hundreds of thousands of people lives in appartments in the city. Surrounding the city are miles and miles of Ger Horoolols where people live in smaller houses and also traditional Ger (yurt) dwellings. These Ger Horoolols have unpaved roads and simple fences. Lots of people live in these places, and in the far reaches of them some people build pretty nice houses even. 
Around the city and to major points in the Ger Horoolol you can take busses. A ticket is 500 tugriks, about 35 cents. 

In the Ger Horoolols and outer parts of the big city you can also ride a Miker, which is a big 12-person van that sits 20 and will give you a ride for 500 or 600 tugriks. The miker drivers pull up at the busstop and just shout their stops out loud and wait for people to get on, then go. You can also take a taxi; hold out your hand on the side of the road and anyone who wants money can give you a ride. The price is 800 tugriks for a kilometer--so less than a dollar a mile.

Mongolia likes corner stores, just small local foods stores that sell bread, milk, eggs, candy, ice cream, all kinds of things. You just walk down the street to the corner store and can get plenty of stuff, also meat and potatoes to make your food. People that live in the middle of the city tend to be more Westernized, the ger horoolols are sometimes more traditional, but traditional Mongolian culture remains the most in the khuduu or countryside. 
Half of the stores in the city have their names and signs in English; it's funny. Mongolians have started to like Western food, and you can find Western pizza and KFC in the city. But they still prefer Mongolian food; most homes eat potato and meat soup for food most nights, even in the city, really. They also still like Mongolian traditional dairy products, made from various stages of curdled milk. You can even get butter-flavored ice cream here.

It's really smoggy here, and we wear masks some days. Other days it clears up, though, but only when it gets really cold or snows!  There aren't very many foreigners at all here. There are more in the summer, but in the winter you only see a few who are teachers or mining executives. 

I teach right next to the biggest school, MUIS - Mongol Ulsiin Ikh Surguul, Mongolian National University. It is a school with a lot of students. In Mongolian you don't say acronyms letter by letter, you pronounce it like it looks, so MUIS is said like "moise."

Monday, February 10, 2014

One morning I felt like writing a hymn. This can be sung the tune of As Now We Take The Sacrament. It is based on the parable of the unforgiving servant (who owed talents and wouldn't forgive pence):

Lord, Though I strive to follow thee
I fumble on the way,
The sum I owe to grace eternal,
I cannot repay!
If not for thy Son's Sacrifice,
I could not reach to thee,
And so I ask in humbleness,
Lord, ever Pardon me!
I kneel before the throne of grace and
ask that I might live,
But then recall a child of God
whom I could not forgive!
How could my vision be so blind?
How could my human heart
Ask from my God the mercy sweet
that I would not impart?
Because Thou hast forgiven much
I owe an awesome debt
Thy mercy for my sins so many
I cannot forget!
I can however set him free
who owes some debt to me,
And wish eternal life for him
together Lord with thee!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tsagaan Sar

Happy Lunar New Year!

This weekend was Tsagaan sar, the traditional Mongolian (and Chinese and elsewhere) Lunar New Year.  There are a lot of traditions in Mongolia.

This Heviin Boov (pastry castle) isn't eaten until the 5th or 6th day of the lunar new year, so it is more for display on the first few days.  If you visit a family, the host shares some of the cooked mutton.  Don't worry, we didn't share in any of the drinks on the table....We did eat the traditional buuz I have written about before.  They are meat dumplings.

We also were allowed to wear traditional deel (pronounced daylth) on the New Year.  When you visit a home, you walk over to the eldest man and greet him traditionally by putting your arms under his arms and then putting your head to the right and left side of his head and saying traditional greetings.  

As we visited the homes where we were invited, we couldn't do a lot of missionary work because people were too involved in the holiday.  But a man on the bus was impressed with my deel and spoke to me in Russian.  I understood him but responded in Mongolian.  He asked us to call him.  We will see if he is interested in the Gospel.  Do I look Russian?  

Elder Sims and Elder Hill on the bus in Ulaanbaatar.  With a photo-bombing Mongolian.

Out in the cold in a deel.
At one point, we were invited over by a man one of my old companions had contacted, and he invited us over for tsagaan sar.  It turns out he was a retired Buddhist monk.  He was very polite and I learned a bit about Buddhism.  He had a very nice family. It would be wonderful to teach them, but he didn't seem very interested in Christianity.  He said he doesn't oppose it at least.  

I gave a talk about tsagaan sar in Sacrament Meeting and compared the New Year celebration to renewing baptismal covenants with the sacrament.  Just as it is a cultural duty on tsagaan sar for people to visit all parents and older siblings and traditionally greet them, and people are saddened if someone doesn't come, I mentioned people who had been baptized and weren't coming back to renew their covenants.  I encouraged everyone to reach out and invite back people they know.  

So, happy new year.  We will be glad to get back to our regular schedule of teaching and working with members later in the week.  

Monday, January 27, 2014


We've just had two weeks of good work.  We had successes and frustrations both.  Last week we taught 18 lessons, a personal record for me.  And this week we taught 22!  That feels great, but we wish our investigators were progressing more steadily.  Still, we keep working and hoping.  We went to one investigator's house whom we are trying to help quit alcohol.  He was busy and couldn't meet with us, but outside we met his son who had come to help his father prepare for Tsagaan sar (New Year).  We told him we were meeting with his father to help him quit drinking.  The guy was impressed with our Mongolian and our goal, so he invited us to his house.  We hope to still meet with him this week.  Another good thing was our work with a family we are helping to return to regular Church attendance.

I bought a cool leather belt to go with my traditional Deel that I got to wear for the New Year celebration.  The belt will remind me of the Lord's blessings to us missionaries because I bought it during this week of good things.  That's good, because things don't always go well.  I thought about this last week while hiking a mountain in search of a house.  It was frustrating, but then I remembered that it has been like this before and then it has gotten better.  What is necessary is to build resilience to know that life will sometimes be easy and sometimes hard.

My companion and I continue to work on our cooking skills.  We bought 2 kg of frozen yak milk for about $2.50 recently.  We melted it and it tasted kind of like cheese.  It was okay when we mixed it with hot chocolate mix.  Then we used the leftovers to make yak pancakes, or as I call them, pancyaks.  Last week I made bread from my mom's recipe.  I had to keep punching it down because we would leave for hours before I could get back to bake it, but it turned out okay.

During the holiday, we will be visiting as many people as possible, and we will be expected to eat the feast everyone prepares for visitors.  Traditionally, one visits parents, older siblings and other older acquaintances.  These families will have prepared thousands of buuz (meat dumplings) and other traditional foods.  They also cook an entire sheep whole, oh, and potato salad.  It's going to be a cultural experience.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Doing Well

All in all, we are doing well.  Elder Hill and I are enjoying cooking some good food together.  It's getting colder, but at least the days are getting a little longer and that makes the work go better.

The work can be disappointing at times, especially when people aren't willing or able to follow through on their commitments.  We feel it is good fortune to start teaching a new investigator, and then they stop meeting with us or have to move or something.  I think I need to evaluate  my missionary skills to see where I can improve my work.  

We are looking forward to the Mongolian New Year (tsagaan sar) at the end of the month.  All the missionaries will be allowed to dress in traditional clothing as part of the holiday.  I bought a deel and can't wait to wear it.  I hope to send a picture if I can.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Same area, new companion

I got a new companion to train this transfer, but I'm still zone leader in the Khailaast area.  Elder Hill is my new companion. He's great and we're looking forward to some good work.  He's also a good cook, and so we are hoping to get some ingredients this week to help us have some great meals together.

Not much else to report this week.  The Mongolian New Year is coming up at the end of January, and people are beginning to make preparations for that.