Monday, December 29, 2014

Every Day is Christmas when you're Rollin with me

Hello Everybody!

First of all, Merry Christmas this week! (Even tho every day is Christmas when your Rollin with me.) 
I don't know how to tell you this but….we kind of have a thing for
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Dunkin Donuts
Christmas as a missionary is a blast! We have been doing a lot of really fun and exciting things lately like: 

All of the missionaries in our zone went to Monticello aka the western most point in our mission aka the middle of nowhere aka the place nobody wishes to serve... We helped them out with an activity they were doing. We did free gift wrapping. The missionaries over there are a part of an interfaith counsel that has 15 different churches in the community involved. They were able to get the interfaith counsel to get the word out about this activity. While we would wrap gifts, we had a tv to show the He Is The Gift video while they waited with missionaries to talk to. It was a swell time. 

On Sunday we had our ward Christmas program. They asked the missionaries to sing... :):):):) sooooooo that means that I sang...... We sang the primary children's song Samuel Tells Of The Baby Jesus. I felt like I was Clay Aiken up there on the stand in multiple different ways. The ward here goes hard in the paint with their music programs. Every Time they have a musical number I get excited. 

We went caroling! It was a fun experience. We would sing to people and then afterwards ask them if they wanted to watch a video about Christ (#HeIsTheGift obviously.) If they didn't want to watch a video we would just leave them with a card. Most people really liked the singing and the video. With some people it was ironic because we would ask them if they wanted to see a video and they would use the excuse that they don't have time to watch a video about CHRIST because they are too busy trying to get ready for CHRISTmas. I wanted to tell them that the video we had combats the very problem that they were dealing with. It was still a fun time tho.
An abandoned house in the middle of nowhere
Pics or it didn't happen right?
We had our weekly appointment this Monday at the monastery, and met with our cool investigator Alex. It was cool to go to the monastery around Christmas time. They had all their Christmas decorations up. They had lights on some of the cottages and decked out Christmas trees. These monks put more effort into Christmas decorations than most people I know. We had another fantastic lesson with Alex. We were able to sit cross legged on little pillows gathered around a small coffee table. He made us some herbal tea and we sipped it over good conversation. 

I found out he is a poet and does creative writing. I don't consider myself a poet or anything but I do enjoy it ever since I had Mr. Nelson for English my Sophomore and Senior year. Mr. Nelson did a good job of making poetry a lot more than old, dead, white guy stuff. I told Alex I enjoyed poetry as well. He read us some of his and I was pretty impressed. He gave me some good advice on how to become a better writer. I felt like such a hipster talking to this man in a shack in the "mountains" sipping herbal tea. So hipster I had a sudden hankering to go shop at urban outfitters, but I had to resist because we had Jesus to talk about. 

Our lesson went really well. He has been reading the Book of Mormon. He likes it but he doesn't like the violence in it so far. We have been trying to help him out with that. We had a really good lesson and then as we were leaving he invited us to stay for dinner at the monastery. Our dinner appointment canceled that night so we decided to stay. We had a few minutes before dinner so he took us on a tour of their HUGE meditation hall. It was a huge barn looking structure. You walk inside and they don't have any furniture in there. They just have meditation mats on the ground and a table up front with a gold Buddha. It was very peaceful. He said that we could come anytime we wanted to meditate. 

Then we went to dinner. Buddhists are typically vegetarian but at this particular monastery they are vegan. We ate a soup that had tofu, mushrooms and other stuff I didn't even know. Knowing how picky of an eater I am, I was scared. But I said a prayer, and it actually tasted pretty good! They had chimes go off every 15 minutes and you're supposed to stop what you're doing and focus on your "breathe" for 20 or so seconds. Alex forgot to tell us about that so the first time it happened, I was still talking while all the monks had gone silent. I was embarrassed. The monks there were all really nice and welcoming. 

It's been a good experience being able to interact with people from all different faiths and cultures since I've been here in New York. It's helped me to realize just how much I love who I am and how I was raised. 

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy animals.

Elder Tyler J Johanson

Who Does That?

How you doourn?

We had our mission Christmas party. This is the only time that the whole entire mission comes together. We all met in the middle of the mission at the Ossining chapel. Elder Torgersen and I were asked to go pick missionaries from the city up at the train station to bring them to the chapel. I was able to drive with Elder Gleason and Elder Smith the two Spanish elders I lived with when I served in Scarsdale! The Christmas party was legit. We had a music program where missionaries sang songs and such. President and Sister Morgan spoke. It was a jolly holiday. Then we had lunch with the whole mission and they had a slideshow filled with pictures taken throughout the year by missionaries. It came and ended so quick. It was the cats pajamas to be able to see all of the friends that I have made within the past 11 months. I was able to see people I haven't seen since I came out. I saw old companions and old leaders. The only bad part was after we left, I got all depressed because some of the people there I may never see again because they will be going home soon. :(
Sweater Weather with Elder Torgersen
It's been really hard to meet with people lately. It seems like we have been doing a lot of errand running for ourselves and other missionaries and we haven't been able to teach much. The good news is that The He Is The Gift video is working like gold. Missionaries will go out and knock on people's doors and ask if they want to watch the video on our iPads and people love it! New investigators have always been a challenge for missionaries to get in our mission but this last week every companionship in the zone has been blessed with a new investigator. That never happens, it's pretty exciting! #HeIsTheGift if you don't know now you know. 

Fun fact: I need a Chiropractor now. 

We went and taught our homeboy Alex again. The guy who is in training to become a monk at the monastery. This time instead of teaching the lesson out in the woods we went into his little shack cabin thing. He offered us some tea but we politely declined because we ain't about that life. We sat down around this really short table and instead of sitting down on chairs he had little bean bag pillows. We sat cross legged on the pillow. Apparently there is a special way to sit on the chairs so your back supports itself and he tried to teach us buuuuuuuut I don't think I did it right because now my whole body is sore from sitting on that Buddhist pillow. The lesson was an hour and a half. Other than my body being in pain the lesson went great. He is a guy that has a lot of desire. He does a lot of pondering and meditation so he puts himself in a position to be able to feel the still small voice of the Spirit. He is progressing the only concerns he has are with the Book of Mormon when Nephi is commanded to slay Laban... He is a Buddhist so he is all about peace and harmony, guess that didn't sit well with him. He is an interesting guy to teach, I wish we could film the lessons with him and show you. It's an adventure. 

Today for P day we made the trek to the city. The city is legit this time of year! We went to Times Square and saw the He Is The Gift billboards.
District Photo with #HeIsTheGift
It was cool to see the church that I represent hit the big time. What church puts an ad up in Times Square?? Who does that?? We do ;)    

After checking out Times Square we went and checked out Rockefeller Center and saw a fatty Christmas tree.
Ooooooh look at the tree on that one
Then we hit up Steak n Shake and ate it in Central Park. Now as I type this email I'm sitting in my favorite place in NYC. I'm in the chapel at the temple. I sure love the city. I don't think I could ever live here long term but I would be so down to serve here for a couple months. Christmas is almost here and I'm freaking out! I love it. Have a good one.

Elder Tyler Johanson

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is God Real?

I'm guessing that you have all heard of the "He Is The Gift" initiative that the church is doing? If you haven't it's ok. I'm going to give you a second chance to crawl out of that cave. Last Friday the mission leadership met together in Scarsdale with Elder Perkins of the Seventy and 6 representatives from the mission department along with the head guys at Bonneville Communications (the guys that put together the He Is The Gift video). They had the New York South Mission leadership skype into the meeting and they talked about this initiative. They have made the New York area the focal point for the initiative. With all the money they have put into having ads in Time Square, they want to make sure us missionaries are involved as much as possible. As districts and a zone we have been coming up with ideas to spread this initiative as much as possible. They have asked that as a New York North and New York South Mission combined, we share the He Is The Gift video to 20 people a day. We have been going around showing the video on our iPads to every person we have an appointment with and even random people we talk to in between. 

"He is the Gift" in Times Square

The Church Leadership back in Salt Lake have a Christmas wish that by the end of the month, the missionaries in our two missions will have shared the video to 100,000 people. It's harder for us upstate to share the video with that many people a day because we aren't usually able to talk to that many people a day.  But I guess we need to show our faith. I think it's a fun thing to have us try to reach this goal but at the same time people are getting caught up in the numbers. After serving in Scarsdale aka one of richest zip codes in the world where there are many Jews that don't want to hear a message about Christ, I have learned that one way to get depressed quickly is to play the numbers game. Some missionaries get so caught up in teaching X amount of lessons that they forget to actually teach people. 

We have been making quite a bit of sport here in Middletown. The ward has volleyball every Friday night for anybody that wants to come. We try to make it out to that if we can. I'm no Kizzy Willey but.... I'm getting better. We played basketball Saturday morning with a bunch of non-member guys. They were pretty good, better than I am. We got players that play for local high schools to come out. A kid that played with us was visiting from The Bronx. He played like he was from The Bronx…super flashy, a little cocky, but will break your ankles any chance he gets. It was a good time to play some basketball and talk a little bit about the church with guys that might not listen in a different situation. From what I've seen in NY other than The Spirit, sports converts more people than anything else. 

A wise man once told me to choose who my heroes are very carefully because we often emulate those people we watch the most closely. I have been trying to study the different attributes and leadership styles from some of my religious heroes. Obviously there is Jesus Christ who is my number one but I've been working on emulating him my whole life. I'm going to keep trying to be like Jesus but recently I've been studying another one of my heroes, Thomas S. Monson. With our iPads we have access to every general conference back to 1970. I have been reading every single conference talk he has given so I can come to know who he is, how he became that way, and how I can become that way.  While I was studying I came across a story that he shared in one of his talks that hit me very powerfully and reminded me that as Gods children, He is watching out for us and we have the ability to call upon the powers of heaven to help us. The story goes as follows.

"A few years ago, I was afforded the privilege to serve as a mission president and became intimately acquainted with more than four hundred missionaries. We had one young missionary who was very ill. After weeks of hospitalization, as the doctor prepared to undertake extremely serious and complicated surgery, he asked that we send for the missionary’s mother and father. He advised there was a possibility the patient would not survive the surgery.

The parents came. Late one evening, the father and I entered a hospital room in Toronto, Canada, placed our hands upon the head of the young missionary, and gave him a blessing. What happened following that blessing was a testimony to me.

The missionary was in a six-bed ward in the hospital. The other beds were occupied by five men with a variety of illnesses. The morning of his surgery, the missionary’s bed was empty. The nurse came into the room with the breakfast these men normally ate. She took a tray over to the patient in bed number one and said, “Fried eggs this morning, and I have an extra portion for you!”

The occupant of bed number one had suffered an accident with his lawnmower. Other than an injured toe, he was well physically. He said to the nurse, “I’ll not be eating this morning.”

“All right, we shall give your breakfast to your partner in bed number two.”

As she approached that patient, he said, “I think I’ll not eat this morning.”

Each of the five men declined breakfast. The young lady exclaimed, “Other mornings you eat us out of house and home, and today not one of you wants to eat! What is the reason?”

Then the man who occupied bed number six answered: “You see, bed number three is empty. Our friend is in the operating room under the surgeon’s hands. He needs all the help he can get. He is a missionary for his church, and while we have been patients in this ward, he has talked to us about the principles of his church--principles of prayer, of faith, of fasting wherein we call upon the Lord for blessings.” He continued, “We don’t know much about the Mormon Church, but we have learned a great deal about our friend; and we are fasting for him today.”

The operation was a success. When I attempted to pay the doctor, he countered, “Why, it would be dishonest for me to accept a fee. I have never before performed surgery when my hands seemed to be guided by a Power which was other than my own. No,” he said, “I wouldn’t take a fee for the surgery which Someone on high literally helped me to perform.”

So far on my mission I have seen a lot. I've seen a lot of people question if there's a God. Is there a God? Some people need evidence to believe. At this point I would need evidence to not believe. 


Elder Tyler J Johanson
Elder T. and I feeling pretty unified
when we went matching to our Ward Christmas Party
Me with my homeboy Ryan, looking fresh to death

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Sup cholos!

Last week was transfers so unfortunately I had to chuck up the deuce to Elder Judd and tell him it's just the mission life. He is a good guy. My new companion is Elder Torgerson, he is from Escalante, Utah. Ever heard of it?...its ok... Neither have they!!! He is a solid guy though. He likes to have fun but we still get a lot of good work in. 

Since we had transfers last Wednesday I wasn't able to email much. I forgot to tell you a story about the adventure that Elder Judd and I had at the barbershop. What went down is both Elder Judd and I were looking like Zac Efron as Troy Bolton in High School Musical, all shaggy and stuff. We needed a haircut and we both wanted a good ole fashioned black man haircut. One of the black primary children in our ward named Justin showed up to church on Sunday with a tight fade so we asked him where he got his "do" at. He told us to "go to the place by Rite Aid" so when we had the chance on P day we went. 

This place was the cats pajamas. It's one of those places that everybody knows everybody. The kind of place that conversations of local sports occur. The place that cool cats talk about stories from their childhood and stories from their children's childhood over the all too familiar buzzing sound of the hair clippers. This is the kind of place that houses barbers of 25+ years, who have aspired to be a barber all their life not for the money but because they like making people look good. All of this taking place perfectly in sync with the rhythm of an LL Cool J album playing in the stereo. In other words, this was the place to be. We knew it was the second we walked in. Elder Judd and I felt foolish ordering our haircuts like a bunch of white boys, for we didn't know the barbershop lingo. The barbers were nice and put up with our rookie ways. The haircuts were great! They lined us up real well. I'm talking the back of our necks, sideburns, forehead, everything. Mine turned out pretty good because I asked them to leave mine longer on top. As for Elder Judd, he now looks like a white version of Usher.

The best part of this whole barbershop experience was that both of the men cutting our hair were interested in what we were doing as missionaries. We taught both of them lessons while we sat in the chair. We gave both of them a Book of Mormon. They even gave us their phone numbers. That is the first haircut I have paid for on my mission but if I would have known it was a finding opportunity I would have been getting fresh cuts months ago. 

I hope everybody's Thanksgiving was a good one. It seems like Thanksgiving never even happened. I ate the turkey and everything but it just didn't feel like Thanksgiving. It's not the poultry that makes the holiday, it's the family. The best/worst part of Thanksgiving was that all of the members like to give us the leftovers. We still have 5 pies and a big serving tray of turkey still in our apartment. It's ok though because it will be cold this winter and I need some extra fluff to keep me warm. Nah mean? 

If you don't know now you know.

Elder Tyler J Johanson
Middletown home of the fierce middie bears

Kony 2012

Howdy errybody,

On Saturday we had Shot Calls, where we find out what is happening with transfers. I was fully prepared to go another transfer with Elder Judd considering I had just gotten in Middletown and also, this area has a history of people coming here and staying for a while. However, life seems to have a funny way of flipping upside down just when you think everything is going Gucci. Elder Judd has been transferred to South Manhattan :( when I heard the news I wanted to weep. Elder Judd has become one of my best friends in the mission. These last seven weeks have been some of the best of my mission. He will do great in South Man, I'm jealous that he will be serving there during Christmas and New Years Eve. 

Today it has been snowing heaps on heaps on heaps. On the way to transfer meeting it was hilarious to see Elder Judd flipping out at how much snow there was (he's from Arizona). The roads are a mess but we made it safe. It's nothing compared to Buffalo. Have y’all heard about Buffalo??? Apparently they got 8 ft. of snow in just two days. Hopefully it won't be that bad. 

My new companion is named Elder Torgerson from Escalante, Utah. On the slow moving drive we had back from Ossining to Middletown we had some good conversation. He seems like the cats pajamas so far. We have been called to serve as duo District Leaders. Some missions might have two district leaders in a district but here in this mission we only have one. For whatever reason they have asked us to both be district leaders. It's an interesting change but I'm sure that it will be sick.

At the transfer meeting today President Morgan introduced a new initiative that the church is doing and specifically focusing on New York. The initiative is "He is The Gift" for Christmas. The video is legit! It's a “Because of Him” type video. The video is being fully dropped the day after Thanksgiving. The church has made a video, website, they have bought the main add on YouTube on December 7th and have purchased a spot for advertising on a screen in Times Square. It is going to be a great way to introduce/remind people about Jesus during the holidays. It's the equivalent of Kony 2012! Hold on to your britches folks!!

Sorry my email is short this week. With transfers/the snow delay we don't have much time to email. I love you and hope that you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Elder Tyler J Johanson

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wet Noodle


I love being a missionary right now! I just have to say I love my companion Elder Judd. It's so nice when you have a companion that's more than just a stranger that you're asked to work with. I consider Elder Judd not just a companion but a friend. I consider him a homie. 
Elder Judd and I steady mobbin on our Mormon Mobiles
Don't even think about stepping into the bowling rink
when we are in our matching bowling jersey hustle
Transfers are next week. This Saturday is when we get "Shot Calls" to find out who is going and staying. I'm expected to stay with Elder Judd, but you never know.

Sunday was the primary program. The kids of the ward did unreal! Since our ward is English/Spanish the kids would sing one verse in English and the next in Spanish. It takes skills to sing in different languages, just ask Josh Groban or Enrique Iglesias. If Randy Jackson from American Idol were in attendance he would say," S/O to all those primary kids steady mobbin in the Middletown Ward. That was the best program of ALL TIME! Yo, yo, yo, I say one billion quadrillion triceratoptillion percent YES. You dawgs are going to Hollywood!" Seriously tho, these primary kids are good.

Saturday was the ward temple trip and we got permission to go. Elder Judd and I rode down with a member named Brother Hearn. Once at the temple we got to feel of the peacefulness of The Lord’s House. It's been 6 months since I've been able to go (which is a decent amount in this mission). I was hoping to do an Endowment Session. Instead, we helped do confirmations which was a good experience too. Of all the things I've experienced in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the bums on the street... The temple is without a doubt my favorite thing about the city. Covenants >>>City Life

Zone conference was this last weekend. There was four zones that attended our conference. The whole conference was great. We started out talking about Jesus. Then President did a Q&A, oh my word he is going to be a general authority. I swear by it. President Morgan was able to give some of the most Spirit inducing answers I've ever heard. The bad news is during the zone conference he switched the rule for music, now we can only listen to EFY and Motab.... :( it's going to be so hard. I thought the rule before was already hard enough. It will be ok tho because EFY has been stepping up its music game the last couple of years.

In the afternoon part of conference we were split up into 10 groups. They gave each group the assignment to create a 5 minute video on the IPads about why we believe in Christ. We were given 2 hours to create the video. Most of them turned out pretty good. It was an innovative way to declare why we believe in Christ. Zone conferences are always the cat’s pajamas. 

Elder Judd and I teach a member in the ward that has been inactive for many many years. Missionaries have gone over there for months and will share with him a quick message about Jesus, or a rundown of what they talked about in church. He has appreciated it but more than anything I think he has just liked the company and the missionaries have liked his company so he doesn't really progress. We love the guy but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. We decided to start teaching him the lessons like he was a new investigator that new nothing about the church. We taught him about The Restoration. The spirit was strong as we testified. We asked if he remembered praying about Joseph smith when he met with missionaries 15 or so years ago and he said he hadn't. This man was baptized and never had a testimony of Joseph Smith! No wonder he is inactive. We invited him to pray about Joseph Smith and last night we met with him again. He explained how he felt so good and peaceful when he prayed. We explained that the feelings he had were The Spirit. He said that he had never felt anything like it. It was awesome to help this guy who we love meeting with feel the spirit for the first time. Btw, he offered us coffee and we had to tell him that it was against the word of wisdom. He had never felt the spirit, didn't know if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and thought it wasn't against God’s commandments to drink coffee. I wanna slap whatever missionaries baptized him with a wet noodle. Anyway, next lesson we are going to give it on the Book of Mormon. I will keep you updated. 

Remember how I told you we were meeting with a Buddhist guy that is in training to become a monk? Yeah? Well we went back there to the monastery again and we had another good lesson with him. The first time we met with him we went on a walk through the woods and had one of the deepest discussions about faith. This time when we met with him we talked about how to get in tune spiritually. Our conversations are interesting.  He will explain how he gets in tune spiritually. He said that it is through meditation then he proceeded to teach us how to meditate. Then we taught him about how we pray, which is a practice he was somewhat familiar with because he grew up in a Christian household. Whenever we talk, we have the coolest conversations. It always gets really deep. I'm not talking that we get deep into doctrine or anything like that but we get deep in the basic doctrine like faith, or prayer. We taught him about the Book of Mormon, gave him a copy, and invited him to read it. We are pretty confident that he will because finding out the way of life is basically his only way of life at the monastery. Haha. When we were conversing he said something that I thought was sick/poetic, he said," God isn't something to be believed in or not believed in. God is something to be experienced." I will end my letter right now and let that one bake your noodle.

Have a good week.

Elder Tyler J Johanson

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Dead Cat's Pajamas

Hey Guys, 

Finna jump into this email. 

I had the opportunity to go on a split with my zone leader, Elder Neuerberg, in his area. The zone leader’s area just so happens to be West Point. As in THE West Point Military Academy. It was a really cool experience to be able to go on post as a missionary. Missionaries aren't allowed to proselyte on campus so it is hard for them to find work. They can't even wear their name tags on post unless they are at a members house or attending church. We had the opportunity to go eat dinner at the house of a member in their branch who currently serves as a Sergeant. It was mostly dark when we were driving around so it was hard to see stuff but it was cool to see the buildings, the history, and the football stadium (even if their team is terrible). It was a great split, a unique opportunity. Now I can say that I shared The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ at West Point Military Academy. 
West Point Military Academy
Wanna know the best part about doing service as a missionary? You get to wear normal people clothes. We have been doing soooo much raking here for service. We rake for somebody different almost every single day. My arms are dead as I'm typing this. We have raked about as many leaves as there are Rocky Movies.

One of my favorite families in this area, the Lennons, had us come over to their house and help them out with some stuff. One of the things we did was shuck walnuts. You heard that right, we shucked a walnut. Who does that??? At least in Highland, Utah nobody does. It was the cats pajamas tho. They come in a tough outer skin, like an avocado. We had to slice em open and get them walnuts out. It was kinda therapeutic. Shucking walnuts is definitely my favorite chore now. Mom: anytime you need some walnuts to be shucked, I am your man!
Working hard shucking walnuts
One day this last week, early in the morning after we had just woken up, Elder Judd and I got a phone call. It was a woman that the sisters work with. Turns out her precious cat had died earlier in the night. She was obviously pretty shaken from this event. She was calling because she wanted us to come and bury her dead cat in her backyard. We agreed not because burying dead animals is our favorite activity, but because that's probably what Christ would do. 

When we got to the house, she had fled. But her husband was there. The cat was laying in the front room stiff as a board in a cardboard box. Upon the wife's request we clipped five whiskers off the cats face so she could save them for remembrance. (A custom that she does with all of the cats she has had that have perished.) Then we proceeded to put the stiff cat in a pillow case and take it out to the backyard where we started to dig a hole. They are a pet loving family and have had many animals over the years. The problem with keeping things in your house that live is that they eventually stop kickin' and they die on you. That is the case with this family. They had a cemetery for all the animals that they have owned that have come and gone.

 Elder Judd and I dug a hole right next to their last cat that died. When we dug the whole approximately three feet deep (so the birds wouldn't get to it) the husband picked up the dead cat and walked over to the opening of the grave. He said a prayer over the cat then asked us if we could say some things. Elder Judd and I looked at each other. We had no clue what to do, for this was a unique opportunity that had been presented. Neither one of us had had a cat funeral before but apparently this is how they go. So, I said a prayer over the cat and the family to be comforted in this harsh time for them. We then covered the cat up and placed rocks over the grave to mark the spot. It was a good experience. It was definitely the best cat burial I've ever been apart of, hands down, no questions asked, nothing even compares.
This cat needed 10 lives. #RIP
Lately I have been gaining a testimony of how God prepares us for things. On Monday during district meeting the training was on receiving revelation through prayer. The whole week before I had been studying in preparation. Later Monday night when I was on the split at West Point with Elder Neuerberg, we taught their investigator and she was having problems with building her testimony. Every need she had related back to the training earlier that day that Elder Neuerberg attended as well. We were able to teach her the same exact thing we discussed earlier that morning. On my mission, I have been finding that stuff like that happens pretty frequently. God works in mysterious ways and prepares you for things in the future. Not that I like trials and adversity, but I've been learning that they teach me the things that help me to handle experiences that come in the future that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to handle had I not learned earlier. Everything happens for a reason! God has something in store for you.

Smell Ya later!

Elder Tyler Johanson