Friday, January 1, 2016

The Finale

December 30, 2015


This week has been crazy. Crazy awesome. Crazy busy. Crazy. 

Christmas was amazing! It started with Christmas Eve. We went caroling with a family in the ward to some of their neighbors and friends. They were totally serious about it. They had us go over and practice with their family before hand so we could sound good. They were giving us a pitch at the beginning of every song like we were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or something. We weren't nearly as good of singers as I think they initially thought we were but it was still cool to be able to brighten people's Christmas. After that we went back to their house and they fed us dinner and we decorated Christmas cookies. 

Christmas Day was unreal. In the morning we woke up and had a conference call with President Smith where he talked about Jesus and stuff.... I realize I'm being super vague about it but I promise it was good. After that we opened up our packages that had been sent as we pretended it was Santa that shipped those bad boys to us through the U.S. Postal Service.  
Christmas Morning with the Crew
Then we headed over to a family in our ward named the Ailleries! The Ailleries are the sickest. They feed the missionaries a lot and it is their tradition of taking a picture every time. You might've seen them tag me in some stuff on Facebook. 

Then after that skype. Skype was trill. Always was. Always will be. 

Skyping the Fam Bam while nibbling on a Lunchable. Welcome to the good life!
Later in the evening a family in the ward had us over for Christmas dinner. They fed us filet mignon and lobster and a bunch of other stuff I can't pronounce. They went hard in the paint with Christmas dinner that's for sure. It was an amazing Christmas. 

On Monday Elder Casela and I were able to meet with a family in the ward. It was a pretty good lesson. The spirit was present. Nothing too out of the ordinary though. At the end of the lesson we asked the famous,"Is there anything we can do for you?" That question rarely if ever gets a response and sometimes I think we say it rarely ever thinking they will ask for help with anything. This time was different. The father told us that his only daughter who was 4 had been giving them a hard time lately. She wasn't in a good mood. She had been giving the parents a hard time. She was having a hard time herself. The father asked,"Could you give my daughter a blessing? I don't know how. I've been inactive for so many years and it hasn't been until recently that I have come back. I remember my dad doing it but I was never taught." 

Instead of us giving the blessing ourselves we offered to teach him. We pulled out our white handbook with the directions on how to give a blessing and went over it with him. We then held the white handbook out so he could look off of it if he needed while he layed his hands upon his daughters head and pronounced a simple, but beautiful blessing on his daughter. It was one of the more humbling experiences I've had being able to witness a father that we had just taught give his very first blessing to his troubled daughter. The spirit was strong. I could tell the father was feeling it. I could tell his wife and daughter were feeling it. It was a very neat experience that I'm grateful the Lord let me be a part of. 

With this being my final week in the mission I have been feeling an array of emotions. One moment I'm excited. The next moment I'm torn about leaving here, NY and Connecticut the place that has become my own personal "Waters of Mormon". I had my exit interview with President Smith this week. Before that interview I was feeling that array of emotions I mentioned. Being able to talk to President Smith about everything really calmed me. I was able to walk out of the interview with only the excited happy feelings of returning home. At the end of the interview he asked me if I would like a blessing. This was probably the best blessing I've ever received. So humbling. Exactly what I needed. The craziest part was as he was getting ready to close out the blessing he paused for a couple long seconds.... And then to finish he quoted a line almost word for word out of my patriarchal blessing. It was nuts. It caught me off guard and I realized then that the spirit really does play a huge role in priesthood blessings. 

Two of the most beautiful priesthood blessings I've ever witnessed were given in this last week. 

Well folks. I come home in two days on January 1st. I'm so excited. I can't wait to see you all in person. 

I could sit here and write my testimony on this iPad until my fingers would fall off. So I will keep it short. But just know that even though it is short I type with all the conviction that one can possibly type into a touch screen without cracking it. I know my Savior lives, He is closer to us than we realize. One of the reasons I came on this mission was so that I could in a sense pay the Lord back for all he had done for me. Over the course of these two years I have never been more aware of how indebted I am to my Savior. I will never be able to pay him back. The beautiful thing about it is that Christ never expected me to pay him back. He just wanted me to appreciate the gift he has given me. I'm eternally grateful for the things the mission has taught me. I'm coming home and big surprise..... I'm not perfect yet. I'm not. Just cuz I will be an "R.M." In two days doesn't mean I will be. But I now know how I can more fully keep my covenants. I love the Lord. He is my best friend. 

See you in a quick minute! 

Love you. 

-Elder Tyler J Johanson

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animals

December 23, 2015         


Merry Christmas this week everybody! Hope it is everything you want it to be and more with some snow on it.

Oh yeah, it still hasn't snowed yet. Elder Casela still thinks it's not real. I'm debating spreading rice all over our small patch of grass in the front of our house and pretending it's snow for Christmas... I don't know I'm still trying to convince Elder Casela to do it.

This week we had our mission devotional! We were able to get together as a whole mission which hardly ever happens. We got to listen to the sweet sweet music from the soul of ex drama kids in the New York, New York North Mission. They did great. President and Sister Smith spoke. They basically brought everybody to tears. Then we had a lunch. Since I go home mid transfer this was my last time to say goodbye to all my mission friends that I have come to love. It was super tough. I would say the thing that I most underestimated about my mission before my mission, was how close I would get to the other missionaries that I've served around. The people I've been surrounded with have been the biggest blessing.

We recently just finished a 100 day Book of Mormon challenge as a mission. It was a party being able to do it. At the end, President Smith had each of us pen our testimony of The Book of Mormon. I could send you the whole testimony that I wrote out but that would probably bore you to death and I am far to lazy. I just wanted to include a couple of snippets from what I wrote.

Out of every doctrine or topic pertaining to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints there is none for which I have a stronger belief than I do for The Book of Mormon. When it comes to The Book of Mormon it is the sharpest "arrow in my quiver" so to speak. I began reading the Book of Mormon consistently when I was 13 years old and since then it has become more than a book. It has become something that I find refuge in. I have turned to it for peace when my soul has needed solace. It was something I could turn to for protection. There was many times when I was faced with a decision, a temptation of some sort and I would tell myself, "I am going to go and read my Book of Mormon until the desire to do or make a decision I will regret is completely gone." Sometimes I would read a couple verses until I no longer felt the temptation. Other times I would sit there and blaze through chapters at a time until I was ok. There is no other thing that has blessed my life quite like the testimony of the Book of Mormon has, for without it I would not have a basic testimony of any part of this church.

I've seen some people refuse to accept the Book of Mormon as true until God comes down in a lightning bolt, or a clash of fire and tells them so.... They are still waiting on their answer. But at this point it has helped me feel too much good in my life. I would almost need God to come down in a lightning bolt, or a clash of fire and tell me that it wasn't true before I would recall my testimony of it.

Every time I come to the end of the Book of Mormon and I read Moroni's promise, which is to read it and to pray to God and ask if it is true, I have done it. It's at the point now where after I pray to God and ask him if it is true God responds with something like,"Tyler, you already know that it is true. There is really no need to ask me. I have already answered you haven't I? But, because you asked here you go...." And then I usually receive a confirmation of it in some shape or form.

If you ever have any questions or doubts turn to the Book of Mormon. The words in the book might not straight up answer your question but because reading the scriptures is a "best practice" it is an activity that allows the spirit to enter our lives and give us revelation if we are willing.

So in short I guess I could say that I love the Book of Mormon. Go read it. It's pretty great.

As great as it's been emailing you these last two years and everything..... I can't wait to see you guys in person this next week. Hopefully you guys haven't been Catfishing me these last two years.

(I will still shoot you an email next Wednesday tho but like.... It might be pretty skimpy cuz I am gonna do most of my packing next pday.)

Merry Christmas ya filthy animals!

Elder Tyler J Johanson

Photo from our Christmas party. #ASaviorWasBorn
CHALLENGE THIS WEEK: Discover why Jesus Christ came. I'm not talking about discovering why he came for everybody. That answer is too easy. He came to live and die for us. Boom roasted. No, I want you to discover why you needed a Savior. Why in your life did you NEED Jesus Christ to come for?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It Works for You Too

December 16, 2015

Helllllllo Everybody,

It's been a balmy 60 degrees and sunny here all week long. It's super strange for the Northeast this time of year buuuuuut it don't bother me! Elder Casela is still convinced that snow is still the equivalent of imitation cheese and Michael Jackson’s nose. #FAKE

If you are ever around a person that is fresh off the boat and learning English be careful what you say because they just might pick it up. The other day after Elder Casela asked me to do something, I said,"You got it baby daddy." Now he has been saying that after almost everything I say haha. What have I done?

People are so rich here. It's like, disgusting. We were driving around Greenwich the other day going to look up a media referral and the house we went to looked like the mansion off of The Bachelor or something crazy like that! As we drove through the neighborhood our car was filled with staccato yells every time we passed another mansion. Most of the houses were behind gates so we couldn't even see that well but you could still tell that they were Great Gatsby status. How in the world do you do missionary work if you can't even walk up to these people’s door and talk to them? I don't even know.

This last week has been kind of tough. I feel like my big brother Satan has been laying it on thick. He's been bullying me. He has been throwing a couple sucker punches my way, like he usually does when something good is about to happen. I felt it when I was preparing for my mission and I felt it when I got my call. I feel it now as I am trying to finish off my mission in a worthy way. For whatever reason he was digging up my past, trying to make me remember the wrong things I've done whether on or off my mission. He has been trying to make me feel unworthy, inadequate, feel like I haven't accomplished anything. Yesterday was crucial for me as I went to a meeting at the mission home with the other returning missionaries. President and Sister Smith talked a lot about our missions and life in general. He asked if we could be placed back in 10th grade knowing what we know now if we would do things differently. He asked if we were to start our missions over again knowing what we know now if we would do anything differently as well. Of course I felt like I would do things differently. All the other missionaries in attendance did as well. 

Then he talked about how that is ok. It's good that we would do things differently because if we wouldn't want to do things any differently than that it means that we didn't change at all. Change is good. The atonement is real. The spirit has been coming to my mind reminding me, "Tyler, for two years you have gone around New York and Connecticut teaching about the goodness and glory of the Atonement of Christ and how it changes lives. Do you really think that it wouldn't work for you too?" 

I am so grateful for the Atonement of Christ. Yes, it's true, I haven't been perfect. I haven't really even been close to it. That's why I am grateful for the chance to repent. Because a Savior was born, the things that I have done wrong in the past that I have no power to change now, can be forgiven, can be done away with. It doesn't matter so much if you were unworthy yesterday as it matters if you are worthy today. I just really love my other, more powerful brother Jesus Christ.

Love you guys!

-Elder Tyler J Johanson

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Silver Lining

December 9, 2015 


It's December 9th and we haven't gotten remotely close to having it snow. Elder Casela had never left the Philippines before the mission and he has been waiting for snow. He has only seen it in the movies. He keeps telling me that his life is a lie and that snow doesn't really exist. Hopefully soon he will be able to witness this so called "snow" people keep telling him about.

We met a Jehovas Witness while tracting. She was a nice lady. She hooked me up with a nice copy of The New Translation of the scriptures. She was saying something about how my soul needed saving or something..... I don't even know, it was a nice gift though. I should have got my New World Translation autographed by a real Jehovas Witness but I totally spaced it in the moment.

I don't know if you remember the story I wrote to you about last week where Elder Casela and I miraculously showed up on complete "accident" (there are no such thing as accidents) to a member’s house at the perfect timing. They found out that Sister Jenson was going to be giving birth within the next 24 hours and that their child would most likely pass away within a few hours. They were having a really tough time emotionally and spiritually and Elder Casela and I were able to go and give them a spiritual thought focused on Christ and how having a Savior can bring peace into our lives.

On Sunday Brother Jenson got up and shared his testimony. (Their baby is still alive by the way but has some major health issues.) As he stood and shared his feeling about the Savior and what had happened the last few days you could tell that he was a man that was humbled before God. He wept as he began to tell the congregation that Elder Casela and I showed up in the exact moment that they needed us. What we thought was a pretty cool miracle last week turned into an even more powerful experience being able to hear just how much it meant to this young family. God works miracles. It's incredible. The mission is incredible. I love my mission (most cliche saying ever but it's so true.)

We have been going hard in the paint trying to show everybody that will let us "A Savior is Born". At the end of the video it leaves a two word invitation, "discover why". Because that has been the topic of focus for us with our missionary work I have been spending my personal study reading about the purpose of a Savior and why we need one. I came across a cool quote by Boyd K. Packer that says:

"Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ."

When things happen in life and it seems out of your hands to control that is precisely the moment when Christ can help. Obviously he can help us all the time, but he didn't necessarily come and live on the earth and die for us to help us with the things that we can already do on our own. He came to fix the things that are broken and are out of our hands. The purpose of a Savior is to help us find peace in the silver lining of chaos.

-Elder Tyler J Johanson

Saying goodbye to one of my best friends, Elder Torgersen. He's going back home to Escalante, Utah. If you don't know where that is, it's ok because neither do they!

Wicked OZsome

December 2, 2015

Good morning everybody. For those who don't know me, my name is Elder Tyler Johanson. I guess I will give you a little introduction of who I am. I have been in the Stamford Connecticut ward for almost 5 weeks now. My companion Elder Casela and I first met on transfers 5 weeks ago when President Smith assigned us to be together. I am really nervous to be up here in front of all of you and email you this morning so I hope you will bear with me. The topic I have been asked to email on is missionary work..... ok I am done with that haha.

Sorry I didn't email last week. In the last six weeks of our mission, we have the opportunity to go see an approved Broadway play. Last week I went and saw "Wicked" on Broadway. It was "OZsome". Ok but seriously I don't even normally like musicals really but this one blew my mind, and I don't just think it was because I haven't indulged in gentile entertainment for the last two years. I went on a split with AP Elder Gore and the mission President’s son William! President and Sister Smith have three kids and they love to hang out with the missionaries. President and Sister Smith somehow allowed their 12 year old son to come and hang out with Elder Gore and I, despite all of our shenanigans. It was a party.

Elder Gore, William and I before we embarked to Wicked. We made a legendary trio!
Outside the Gershwin Theatre with the boyz after the show lolz!
Thanksgiving was a good time. A member had us over. We ate turkey. It was fun. Before Thanksgiving dinner we volunteered at a church that was giving a Thanksgiving dinner for less fortunate members of the community. They got to sit down to a nice dinner and we basically played waiter. Every week on Tuesday we offer service for a few hours at another church’s food pantry. Some weeks it gets out of hand there. Like last week the homeless people were getting into fights so they had to call the Po Po to be crowd control. Despite the couple arguments and tussles that occurred it was mostly a good experience. We were able to give out over 300 thanksgiving meals that day at the food pantry. Good times. 

At church on Sunday we had a family named the Jensen's invite us over ‪for lunch on Tuesday. The funny thing is that there are three families with the last name Jensen in our ward. When we showed up ‪for lunch on Tuesday to what we thought was the Jensen's that had invited us over we quickly realized that we had entered the wrong "Jensen’s" address into our GPS. We were at the wrong house. It was too late now though, what were we going to tell them? "Oh, hey Brother and Sister Jenson we had no intention of stopping by your house whatsoever! We meant to visit somebody else, thanks for letting us into your home we are just going to leave now." Haha we couldn't have done that. So even though in our minds we were embarrassed about our foolish "mistake" we just started to talk to them for a minute about how life has been for them, trying not to mention that we weren't planning on being there.

They told us first of all that it was a miracle that we had come by at that moment because Brother Jenson had come home from work for an hour for lunch and he doesn't usually do that. Because he was home, we were able to go in because otherwise it would have just been Sister Jenson home and that is not kosher. Then they told us that the child that Sister Jenson is pregnant with has a very rare health condition that will make it so the baby will only live for just a few hours after birth. She had just gotten back from a checkup and the doctor told her that they wanted to put her on some medication that would speed up the birthing process which means that this young family would be witnessing the birth and most likely the death of their child within the next 24 hours. They told us that this was a hard time for them. They weren't expecting it to happen this quickly.

Elder Casela and I were able to share "A Savior is Born" video and testify of the goodness and hope that Christ can bring. We discussed the reason why Christ came for us individually. It wasn't a long message we shared, but it was just enough to supply the Spirit in their home. We prayed with them, and they were touched in this moment of trial by the Spirit. They continued to thank us for coming by and kept telling us how perfect the timing was that we came by at this time. After we left their house we ran to our car and hustled on over to the Jensen's house that we were originally supposed to be going over to. 

We felt a little bad we were late to the lunch appointment, but not really at the same time because we were able to be tools in the Lord’s hands. He had a greater purpose for us than we had for ourselves. We reflected about how what originally seemed to be a stupid mistake turned out to be a great miracle that Elder Casela and I were able to bring to pass. It might have appeared to be a coincidence that we just so happened to go over to the wrong household and the perfect time but I know that God’s hand is in those miracles. He is aware of each and every one of his children's situations even if the people he is having perform his miracles are not. 

Peace in the middle east,

-Elder Tyler J Johanson

Restoring Humanity One Leaf at a Time

November 18, 2015

Kamusta (that means hello in Tagalog),

We were going on an epic shopping trip to the local Goodwill today, the aisles were skinnier than a pair of Clay Aiken’s jeans. I was in the middle of an aisle looking at Scotch stains Grandpa ties that had the scent of cigarette smoke woven into the tie with the polyester fabric it was made from, when a woman (large, African American woman... Not that it matters or anything) was trying to get by me. Instead of asking me to move or anything she just stopped, looked up at me, and uttered the hilarious but slightly degrading remark,"Oh look. It's Bigfoot." Hahaha I was dying. I love people sometimes. I wasn’t even mad, I was just impressed at how funny it was. 

Fun fact: My area is home to Jerry Springer and a bunch of those other trashy t.v. Shows that I've never had a desire to watch. I thought it was pretty cool too.
Elder Casela and I have been brainstorming things we can do to get this area popping. There's a ton of potential for work here in this area but coming into this area with next to nothing we have to work to find work. At zone conference, President Smith shared a story about how his nephew served in a tiny tiny town in Georgia. His mission president came to him and his companion and said,"Absolutely no proselyting for the time being. All I want you to do is go around and serve the people. No teaching, no passing out pamphlets, just serve until I tell you that you can proselyte." So for the next 6 weeks all they did was go around the small community and serve. They mowed lawns, they helped the small business, they sorted books at the library. Everybody in town knew them because of the service they were doing. At the beginning of the next transfer, their mission president came to them and said, "Ok. You can start teaching now. Go for it." They went out and in a matter of a few short weeks they were bringing 50 investigators showing up to a small branch of 30 people.  The point President Smith was trying to make was that service changes people's hearts. 

This week Elder Casela and I tried to put that into action a little bit. Since it is fall, and since it is Connecticut, and since it is Connecticut in the fall there is close to infinity leaves everywhere. We borrowed some rakes from some members and hit the streets. We went around knocking on people's doors but instead of trying to teach them, we just offered to rake their leaves.

One house we went to was an older man that let us rake his leaves. We spent the next hour or so raking all his leaves off his front yard. At the end he came out and expressed how grateful he was that we had come by. He said that earlier that week he had paid a kid to come and rake his leaves but the kid took the money and ran off without finishing the job. He told us, "You two have restored my faith in the humanity of young people." He was sincerely grateful and it was an amazing feeling that came from service. The little we talked to this man about religion he shut us down pretty quick. If we were to right off the bat start trying to preach to him he wouldn't have listened but because we went about it in a different way we were able to impact him in a unique way. Service rocks. 

Today I had the sickest study on the family unit! I was reading in the good ole Preach My Gospel when I came across the line, "Families are ordained of God." At first I was like, "Cool. Sick. I've heard that and even said that around 1,000 times. That just means God really really likes families." Then I just had a hunch, prolly a nudge from the spirit if anything to study the word "ordain". I looked more into what the word "ordain" really means. To "ordain" means to appoint or decree. I looked up what "appoint" and "decree" mean. Basically 
-Appoint = assign a job/role to someone.
-Decree = An official order issued by an authority

Sooo basically our Heavenly Father has officially ordered and assigned us to our roles in our family. That sounds a lot like a calling to me. To be in a specific family, with a certain responsibility is a calling from God. Then I was thinking about how with every calling that we hold in the church we will need to give an account of our stewardship to God. With the ultimate calling of being a member of a family it will be no different. 

One day I will have to stand before God the Author of the Universe and tell him about what I have done in the calling that he has given me. We will have to explain things like why we ignored our parents’ righteous council in high school because we thought we knew everything. We will have to explain things like the reason that we made our wife cry, or why we didn't give our children the time they needed. Families are the most important unit. Being a member of your family is the most important calling you will ever receive. 

Have a Gucci week. 

-Elder Tyler Johanson