Monday, December 30, 2013

Patience is my Middle Name

Whoa. What a Christmas to remember. I can't believe how emotional I got at the end of that phone call. Words cannot describe how awesome it was to be able to speak with all of you.
 Hurrah for another transfer here in Smyrna! I love it here. I really do. The ward is catching fire here. If we take it up a couple more notches as a "tripanionship," some incredible things are going to start happening. I'm antsy about the month of January. We're at about 210 degrees... Just 2 more and we'll start boiling here.
 We got the call today that we are all staying here in Smyrna. I'm not sure how to accurately express my feelings on Brazil, haha. I remember back to July while I was still in the MTC that I told myself that I would have a Brazilian accent when I talked to y'all on Christmas. Instead, I've just been picking up "southern." It's definitely been a journey here in Georgia. Being a "Visa Worker" is a little bit weird because there's no telling when you're going to get the call that your visa's in. I'm being patient though. I know The Lord still has some work for me to do. It's been a huge blessing as I explained at the beginning of our conversation on Christmas. I'm starting to learn what it means to be "Willing to Submit." And as I strive to "please the Father," I'm learning more about The Son. My testimony of the Savior has sky rocketed. It's incredible to be on His errand.
 So I've been thinking a little bit about WHY (gotta love the "why" questions) missionary work makes people so happy. I started to think about what happiness really is and the happiest moments that I've had in my life.
 For me, the happiest time of my life (if I were to limit it to a specific memory) would be when I went to the temple for the first time. More specifically, it was when I entered the Celestial Room and the first person I saw was mom. As I entered, I saw her with her arms out smiling. After giving her a hug and then turning around to meet dad right there in front of me, an indescribable feeling came over me. I then saw Ashley and Dustin walking over, then Grandma and Grandpa McFerson. They were all beginning to walk toward that same spot in the back corner where I first met mom. I looked at Ashley who smiled and then gave me a hug. I continued around the family giving everyone a hug (I may have even gave some non-family members hugs.) I was so happy. Why did I feel that way? Why was I so happy?
 I read a scripture in D&C 101 that stuck out to me. "... for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full." The first part of that kept me thinking all day. "My joy is not full, nor can it be in this world."
Alma 41:10 says that "Wickedness never was happiness." Because joy (at least to me) is "never-ending happiness," wickedness therefore will never bring joy. What causes "wickedness?" Satan. And Satan is the father of everything low, vicious, cheap, cruel, etc. Anytime we fail to follow Jesus Christ causes us to "sin," which will always lead us to unhappiness (and certainly never joy). Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that sin will always lead to unhappiness.
The happiest times in our life will always be because we followed Jesus Christ. It will be when we are cleansed of sin.  Why was the temple the happiest time in my life? Because I was in the temple, and in order to be in the temple, you must be clean. Why was the second happiest time in my life back when I received a witness that The Book of Mormon was true? Because I received and felt the Spirit in an amplified, intense manner. The Holy Ghost cleanses, and I was free from sin.
 Why does missionary work make someone so happy then? Elder M. Russell Ballard says, "Because living the gospel is essential to receiving a remission of sins, and because giving missionary service is essential to living the gospel... Missionary experiences can bring to every member of the Church the calm reassurance that his sins are in very deed being forgiven."
 Pretty interesting, huh? President Hinkley said that as we do missionary work, The Lord is more willing to forgive us of our sins. It makes sense. Even though we are guilty of so many sins, as we invite others to cleanse their sins, ours in a very real sense are forgiven.
 So, how can we be happy? Receive a remission of sins! Be baptized and confirmed by His restored Priesthood authority! Take the Sacrament worthily! Be a missionary! True happiness, and eventually Joy, will come as we stand face-to-face with the Savior and receive His mercy at the day of Judgement.
 I guess that's why I'm so happy. Despite all of my shortcomings and frustrations as a missionary, I'm so happy because I'm helping others receive lasting peace in this life through a remission of sins. It's what it's all about baby!
 This may explain it a little bit better. I love this. It comes from Elder Corbidge's talk in 2008 titled "The Way."
 "The Destination" - The greatest of all the gifts of God is eternal life. In this life, the greatest and most important blessing is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Every good thing depends on getting and keeping the power of the Holy Ghost in your life. God's destination for me and my awesome family is to receive these amazing gifts!
 "The Problem" - Sin. In the course of life we all make mistakes; we do not keep all of God's commandments; we sin. Our sins make us unworthy to either return to God's presence after this life or to have His presence, or power, that is the companionship of the Holy Ghost, while in this life. ("Spiritual Death")
 "The Solution" - Then Christ came. He did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He suffered the full penalty of our wrongs that we not suffer. Because of His atonement we may be forgioven of our sins, made clean and whole; we may begin again, that we may be endowed with His power, if we will only have faith in Him, repent, receive the ordinances of baptism, the sacrament and the temple, and then stay on course.
 "The GLORIOUS News" - The authority to baptize, administer the sacrament and the ordinances of the temple was lost from the earth after the crucifixion of the Savior. This priesthood authority has been restored again in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith. And the best part... You can know this is true by reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know for yourself if it is true. Love it!
What does this mean? ... We can be forgiven of all sin and receive the power of God in our life! We can be made clean, totally forgiven of all that has transpired in life. Everything depends on this. So, get on the path and endure to the end because it's the only thing that makes sense! In John 15 The Lord uses some awesome language. I love this imagery. I remember Karli once talking about the word "abide." I never took much thought in to it until now. Check out how awesome some of these verses are.
"I am the true vine... abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples... if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love... that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

This plan is simple. Get on the path and never give up. Abide on the path and invite others to do the same. EVERY good thing depeneds on it. God's greatest gifts ("The Destination") is for everyone - forever, only through His true church.

Continue to be awesome missionaries. I love you all so much. Being away from you and thinking about all of our Christmas traditions was pretty tough, but hey, we've got eternity for that. I'll just spend this year and next trying to invite more of the family to join the party - "Christmas Eve Amazing Race" and the "Christmas run down the hallway" would be pretty awesome with some of these investigators.

Gotta love the Gospel! It's true. It's so true.

I love you,
Elder Welch

Monday, December 23, 2013

White Christmas

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be a servant of The Lord. I feel awesome!
Two different families were baptized this week which was incredible. It was the best attended baptism since I've been here, even with all of the ward members being out of town. The ward is starting to catch this fire behind them. It's exciting to see. We had a lot of ward members talk to us after the confirmationson Sunday saying how excited they are. It's very fulfilling to see the fruits of so much labor in the past few months. When I got here with Elder Peery, we started a new area book with nothing inside of it. Most members hadn't been out with the missionaries and the Bishop didn't really trust us. Now everyone is just pumped. I've been reminding and reminding and reminding (I've learned on my mission how many times you need to follow up with people) our ward mission leader and bishop about calling more ward missionaries and these new members to callings. I think they appreciate all the reminders though. I just want to make sure these awesome people stay active and are "converted unto The Lord," not to my companions or me.

So Myisha is the one on the left in the dress and then Michele, Courtney, Jalen are the ones in the center/right. I realized I hadn't really talked much about Michele's family in my emails but we've been working with them for about six weeks. They've been incredible to work with and so much fun. It was a wrestle at some points but with help from Heavenly Father, the Spirit worked all of their concerns out.
The greatest feeling I think I've had on my mission was yesterday when someone asked Michele and Myisha's mom about Christmas and when/what was the most memorable Christmas for them. They had different responses but with tears in their eyes they both said, "This Christmas. It's going to be this Christmas because of the changes I've seen in my children. I'm so grateful for the Elders." I can't take any of the credit but it was awesome hearing that. It's incredible to see family's lives being touched and changed. There's no place I'd rather be than on a mission this Christmas.

With the unbelievable feelings I had this week came the opposite. I saw this quote in the MTC from President Brigham Young and it definitely rang true this week. "In everything the Saints may rejoice - I rejoice because I am afflicted. I rejoice because I am poor. I rejoice because I am cast down. Why? Because I shall be lifted up again. I rejoice that I am poor because I shall be made rich, that I am afflicted because I shall be comforted, and prepared to enjoy the felicity of perfect happiness,... it is impossible to properly appreciate happiness except by enduring the opposite."

I'm sure you heard on Wednesday night that I was taken to the ER. I lost at least 10 pounds in the first 20 hours of this sickness and continued to lose weight the following days. I became so dehydrated that I would wake up in the middle of the night because of cramps throughout my body, legs and feet causing me to pry my toes back to get the cramp out, my tongue turned WHITE, and I couldn't stand up straight - grandpa style (doubled over). I was in so much pain, it was unbelievable.
The funny thing throughout this is that I've been studying the Christlike attribute of "Patience" the past two weeks. I quickly learned that patience is much more than just not getting frustrated because of someone taking a long time to do something but enduring opposition without COMPLAINT or growing ANXIOUS. Man was this hard during this sickness. In order to grow in this attribute I had been setting daily goals every morning. At night I would follow-up in my journal and through prayer with how I did. After about 10 days I saw TREMENDOUS growth in myself and felt the assurance that Heavenly Father was pleased with my progress... Then came the ultimate trial. We left the house at about 8pm and didn't get home until 4 in the morning. The entire time I kept quoting scriptures on patience or saying prayers to not "complain" in my head or grow anxious every time the nurse would come in to the hall to call some one's name. It was SO hard, but I think I made some progress. As I'm at the end of the sickness now today, I am ultimately grateful for the sickness. I learned a lot about the enabling power of the atonement. It also highlighted some areas I still need to work on.

This work is INCREDIBLE!! I look forward to talking with y'all on Wednesday! (I only have 40 mins on the phone unfortunately)

Elder Welch


Pictures from Zone Conference this past week:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Enabling Power of the Atonement

Man... I have learned so much on my mission so far. It's the greatest decision I have ever made. I think I could live the rest of my life like this if I just had my family with me. It's the greatest feeling in the world to see people change their lives. I wish you all could meet Mildred. I wrote a little bit about her story about reading The Book of Mormon a couple weeks ago. She's incredible. Before I talk more about her baptism, let me fill you in on a little bit about this week.

I think I started off my mission a little "childish." I was pumped up, beating my chest every time I would look down and finally see a name tag on my lapel. I wanted to live every minute without a regret and just work, work, and work some more. I had a vision in my mind that at the end of these two years, I would sit across from Dad and look him in the eye, being able to tell him that I gave everything. That I held nothing back.
So I started and continued my mission like that. I would study, obey to the "T" and just work. I then had this thought hit me a week ago that was like a dark cloud over my head. The thought was, "If the Savior Himself appeared in the middle of Marietta right now, every person that wasn't prepared... Who's responsibility would that fall on?"
I was sitting at the time and sank in to my chair. The weight of that type of responsibility was overwhelming and I couldn't bear it anymore. I fell to my knees and prayed. The feeling of inadequacy was unbearable. I had thoughts, words I had said, and promptings I had ignored, come rushing back to my memory.
The reason I wanted to write about this is because of an aspect of the Atonement I had never really considered. I had committed sin growing up, bringing me to repentance, and then the incredible feeling of being forgiven. I had experienced all that, including the first few months of my mission, being so grateful for the Atonement. I could be clean! Repentance, when it was done properly, always felt awesome. Anyway, I was repenting of all of these thoughts that were coming back to my head. "I'm sorry for this... I can't believe I didn't go back and talk to this person... Sorry for not calling him... etc"
I continued doing this. It became frustrating though because I wasn't feeling anything. Where was that awesome feeling of forgiveness?
The thought came to read President Uchtdorf's Priesthood conference talk on "Rising Up." After reading it, I fell back to my knees and picked up where I left off on my repentance. Heavenly Father spared me with the answer.
"You can do it now!"
What I never realized until this week was the ENABLING power of the Atonement. To enable somebody to do something or become someone he couldn't do unless he received heavenly help. If I was asked to give a definition on the word/ phrase of "enabling power of the atonement," I would simply say, "to make one 'mighty.'"
Isn't that incredible though? Most of you probably understand that principal but I finally could understand it through experience. The atonement wasn't just suffered for our sins, or our pains and sicknesses, but to enable us to become something we could not otherwise become. To fulfill tasks that are much too large for a 19 year old.
"If the Savior Himself appeared in the middle of Marietta right now, every person who was not prepared to stand before Him, would look to me." Man, the thought still gives me chills. The "feeling" that I was looking for finally came, however. Alone, I can't do this. But "He who sent me is with me..." I can't fail! The final score is already posted on the scoreboard. I just need to invite people to look up, see the scoreboard, and put on the winning team's jersey. I can't begin to tell you the assurance I feel from the authority of my calling when I am out here. I'm not 'mighty' yet, but I'm striving. I like looking at this like a literal mission. A "Search and Rescue" mission. Because this is a matter between life and death- ETERNAL life or death... It makes it fun. I can get off my knees in the morning and jump out of the apartment with a sense of urgency.

I wish I could write more but I invite you to think about conversion at some point this week. Elder Bednar, who also coined the phrase "enable", made a comment that his mission president asked him. "If one of the apostles fell apostate, would that shake your testimony?"
Elder Bednar replied as a young missionary, "Well yeah. Of course. It would shake my testimony but it wouldn't change it."
I was reading in Alma this week about the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's and their conversion. The scriptures continually say, "converted unto the Lord." What makes someone have a testimony vs a conversion? And to take it one more step, "converted unto the Lord?"
The Anti-Nephi-Lehi's are the definitely the answer. To be able to just kneel down on the ground and let people kill you so you wouldn't break your covenant? Are you kidding me! Man. That stuff gets me FIRED UP!

I got to go unfortunately but Myisha is incredible. She sent us this text this week. "I believe I am ready as a daughter of our Heavenly Father. I am a witness, I come to accept these values and I am prepared to strengthen home and family and make sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple and enjoy His blessings."
Are you kidding me?? She's talking about serving a mission now and she's not even baptized yet! She received her witness of The Book of Mormon is true this week. She's another example of being converted unto the Lord. Not to a congregation, missionary or welfare... She's awesome. 
I'll close with a thought Mildred told me yesterday.
"How do you feel now!?"
"He (Christ) has brought me a long way in the last few months... (talking about the death of her husband) I am alone in time, but not in spirit. // I feel like a whole new person. I'm so happy."

I love you all! Y'all are incredible and I can't believe all of the love that I'm receiving from friends and family. I have never been so grateful for things in my life. Your letters, packages, and prayers mean everything to me.

Hope you all have a "White Christmas!" There's no snow here, but it sure will be white! 
Elder Welch

Here are some pictures of Mildred at her baptism: 

Monday, December 9, 2013

To all my friends and family... It's all about the DOCTRINE!

I want to write about probably the most important thing I have learned on my mission so far. I can already see how it will benefit the rest of my life. I'm going to write this kind of like I would in my journal. It will be most time effective.

While I was in the MTC, I saw a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar where he talked all about Doctrine, Principles, and Applications in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He laid the emphasis of his talk however on "Doctrine" and said this concerning it: "The answer is in the Doctrine. ALWAYS the Doctrine." He repeated himself after saying it to make sure everyone heard it. Anyway, I think about this a couple of times each week. The Spirit seems to be trying to tell me something.

Back in March while I was playing basketball in Italy, I had a little bit of a dilemma where I had to make a decision. We had two games on Sunday - the quarterfinals and the semifinals (if we won the first). It was Saturday afternoon when I found out about this news. We were getting ready to play Sweden in about an hour so I pushed the thought aside and started to get ready for the game. Two hours passed away and I found myself back in the locker room with my team again. Our coach was recapping the game and analyzing what we need to keep doing as well as start doing. We had just beat Sweden by twenty points, so everyone felt really good about the game - especially me. I had defended their point guard well and was "feeling it" from beyond the arc. I think I had four threes in the first half.  He then finished it up by telling us about a team dinner that evening and what time he would like us at the game tomorrow... The thought hit me, "No! Tomorrow's Sunday..." I immediately started to panic inside. "What do I do?"
We broke it out as a team and everyone started to walk back to their lockers. I stayed there, later calling every one's attention in the middle of the locker room. "I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Part of being a member includes 'Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy.' Coach, I won't be able to make it tomorrow to the shoot-around in the morning. I also will miss the first half. I will be there to watch the second half but I want to let you know that I won;t be playing tomorrow. Sorry if this may let anyone down but tit's something that feels right and a commitment I have made to always keep."
I got various responses out of different teammates, which opened up a lot of opportunities to share the truths I knew to be true. I found myself, along with four other teammates, still in the locker room about an hour after the game had already ended. Question after question was asked, as I prayed that I would be able to give an acceptable response. I definitely didn't feel comfortable, especially because I looked up to a lot of these guys. They were going to play Division one Big Ten basketball next year. However, the Spirit was with me. This decision just "felt right."
One question kind of stumped me, and not until today, can I finally give an answer that I feel comfortable with. "Why are you going to an Italian church tomorrow, where there will only be Italian people only being able to speak Italian? No one back home will know if you went or not, and besides, you won't even be able to understand anything that's said."
 President Boyd K. Packer once said (it's in PMG now), "True Doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."

So what is doctrine?
According to Elder Bednar's talk, Doctrine is "truth revealed from God to His children, that will benefit man's eternal progression..." It's never-changing. "It will always answer the "Why?" of the problem/question. I think that is very interesting. Understanding "True Doctrine" always answers the "Why?" and will improve attitudes and behaviors.
Elder Bednar goes on by emphasizing the word "understood." "'True doctrine UNDERSTOOD changes attitudes and behaviors' - but understanding comes through our hearts and minds."

Abinidi in Mosiah ch. 12 preaches to King Noah and his priests that they do not understand The Law of Moses because they "have not applied their hearts to understanding." They could recite off to Abinidi what the Law said, thus understanding in their "mind", but they didn't yet understand it in their "heart." Understanding through you "heart" comes by the Holy Ghost. He will confirm those thoughts that you understand in your head (mind) by the feelings you receive in your heart. The Lord taught this same thing to Oliver Cowdery. See D&C 8:2.

So this makes sense, right? Once we figured out what the "doctrine" is, and after we study it out in our minds, we come before the Lord and ask if it be right. If we feel the Holy Ghost, it's true (Moroni 10:5). If we do not, we've got some more studying to do.

Because I've been thinking and studying this, I decided to apply it to a couple of investigators. I thought, "If they understood what was at stake, they would do these commitments. It they truly understood the "doctrine' of reading the scriptures (WHY we are commanded to study the scriptures), their behavior would change and they would study The Book of Mormon everyday. They would be keeping these commitments."

Jessica would drive me crazy. She would ask us to keep coming back over to teach her or to come to our scripture study every Thursday night, but she wouldn't come to church. She would read and pray when we were with her, but she wouldn't when she was alone. I grew so frustrated with her and felt that it was just a waste of time, that I tried "dropping" her.
Every person we teach, we fill out what is a called a "Teaching Record" which tracks basic personal information, lessons you have taught and how they received those lessons. At the bottom of the piece of paper on the back side is space for you to "drop" an investigator - in other words, stop teaching them. I never enjoy doing this but it needs to be done in order to stay focused and use your time most effective.
I met Jessica back in the first week of September with Elder Peery, tracting. We began teaching her and things were okay. I didn't know exactly what to expect, I was brand new. Anyway, we would invite her to do something (like read the BoM) every lesson and then find out that she didn't do it in our next visit. It was heart-breaking! I would show different emotions in response to her not keeping commitments, to try to "motivate" her in some way. I would pray with her and for her to remember things. We would send her reminders over text or call her at nights.  It got to the point when I felt that she was "wasting" our time. We met her back in September and it was now November. She had read I think two chapters total from The Book of Mormon in two months. We would line up rides everySunday for members to pick her up for church, but she wouldn't wake up. She even would schedule appointments on her own and then cancel when we would finally get to her house on bikes. So, I pulled out her "teaching record" and "tried" dropping her.
To make a long story short, the Spirit wouldn't let me. I seriously couldn't "drop" her. The Spirit hit me after the third time I tried with Elder Bednar's words: "The answer is in the doctrine. Always the Doctrine."
I got ready for bed this third time of a failed attempt of dropping a non-progressing investigator, thinking about Myisha. Why she was progressing so well. She was the same age as Jessica, lived at home with a single mom, had little brothers, graduated high school last year but wasn't starting college until January. I realized how similar they were to each other and then thought how strikingly different their behaviors were to our teaching. Myisha was on FIRE! It hit me again. Jessica doesn't understand the doctrine. She doesn't understand the "why?" where Myisha does.
It became evident the next day when we saw both of them. I asked Myisha why she would read and pray about the BoM (she was almost in Mosiah in 6 days). She said, "If I come to know this book is true, then I know what y'all taught me about Joseph Smith is true. If Joseph Smith was a Prophet, then the Priesthood really was restored. If the Priesthood was restored, I can finally be baptized by the proper authority. And if I'm baptized by that authority, I can live with my family forever. So, I read because I want to live with my family forever."
Talk about music to your ears... Wow.

I wish I could write more about this but I'll close with these thoughts.
Motivational speeches are only effective temporarily because it's only one part of the two parts of understanding. If we understood, truly (mind and heart), our behaviors and attitudes would change. If we understood the "why" behind a principal of the Gospel, our entire character would begin to change.

Well, you know the story - Jessica was later baptized last week. She finally caught a grasp on the doctrine of baptism and confirmation. Myisha, along with her two younger brothers, are also on date now to be baptized in two weeks.

At the time I was in Italy and was faced with this dilemma between going to church or playing in the game, I didn't know what to do. I didn't understand the "why" I should attend an Italian speaking ward on Sunday or "why" I should keep the Sabbath Day holy. All I knew was that it "felt right." I failed to truly understand the doctrine behind these things (Sacrament and Sabbath Day). This time, I understood in my heart, but not my mind. Luckily, for me, I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gift I am incredibly grateful for.

I love this gospel. I love my Savior. I know that He lives and that He understands fully what we are going through. He understood the doctrine of The Plan of Salvation, giving Him with the determined resolution to suffer every pain, to endure every sin, and to literally descend below ALL that is crude and filthy in this world. He knew who He was.  He knew that every living creature depended on His perfect performance. He truly understood that He was the Savior - that He was the ONLY way.

I want to invite all who read this email, to seek to understand the doctrine behind every principle and application of the Gospel. To ask the question, "why?" - Why home home and visit teach? Why should I attend all three hours of church? Why break the bread during the song and not before the meeting? or kneel as you offer the blessing on the Sacrament? Your mind will be opened and enlightened as you seek to understand these eternal truths. Mothers could even apply this to their children.  Instead of saying "because I said so" when a child asks why he should clean his room, or wash the dishes, teach them the doctrine - "Well, it's because it's a commandment of God to honor me, your parent." You may have to go deeper depending on their age and conversion, haha.

It's true. It's so true. Everything in this amazing restored gospel is sound doctrine. It's pure and never-changing. President Monson is the Lord's Prophet. He has called me to serve here and I am beginning to truly understand who I am as a full-time missionary. It's a heavy responsibility, but I have He who is the Greatest of All with me.
I'm Livin' the Dream! And my dream is to baptize the entire world... (after they understand the doctrine...)

I love you family!

Elder Welch

Update from back home in Ohio:
This is Marshall Davis.  He is a senior from Olentangy Liberty who goes to school and played football with Tyler and Matt.  Matt attended the missionary discussions with Marshall who became interested in learning more about the church after attending Tyler's mission farewell.  He was baptized last Saturday (December 7). So awesome!!

Monday, December 2, 2013


This week really testified of 2 Nephi 2:11 - opposition in all things. Holy cow being on a mission is like a roller coaster of emotions... I sometimes have to slap myself to remind me to "Man up!" Haha I've never been so happy in my life. And along with that, I don't think I've ever been so down in my life.

But to start -- Karli's going to HONG KONG!? Haha are you KIDDING ME?? Aghhh man, that's crazy! I totally did call that back in May. It feels good to "brag" right now because I was really drowning in the depths of humility this week. But seriously, that's incredible. Seeing and reading about family and friends doing missionary work and going on missions gets me FIRED UP! I can't believe she's learning Cantonese though. I remember talking to some mandarin missionaries back in the MTC and the only positive thing they could say was, "At least I'm not learning Cantonese..." Yikes! Haha I think there's nine different tones in that language? It's a good thing she can sing. Whoooo, that puts learning Portuguese with the wall every morning to shame.

Anyway, I was thinking a lot about missionaries this morning as we opened up Companion(s)ship Study with the hymn, "In Our Lovely Deseret." So much gratitude came over me for both you mom and dad, all the aunts and uncles, and then Grandma and Grandpa McFerson. I seriously am so thankful to have had the opportunity to have grown up with all of the cousins so close by. My favorite line of the song is, "They are generous and brave, they have many SOULS TO SAVE!" You've got to sing it to the tune. Whooo man, it gets me pumped up and thinking about Jd, Blake, David, and soon Matt (even though he's already killing it with missionary work in Powell right now) out in the field. I was so happy to hear about Blake's call last week.

Anyway, on to this week:  JESSICA GOT BAPTIZED!
So let me write down two things she wrote on a piece of paper to our mission president.
"I testify He's true because before I met the missionaries, I was on the wrong path doing the wrong things. But Jesus Christ sent me the Elders which changed me completely. I know through reading your scriptures and attending church, He will always be there for you and forgive and love you. No matter what."

"I was sitting at the bus stop one day with my friend and two elders approached us (Elder Welch and Elder Peery). They gave us a card and invited us to church. At first, I didn't take it serious because I guess I wasn't ready to change but as I saw the motivation of the missionaries and their continuous effort to not give up on me. I realized it was really time for me to take that step and listen to them and change... I knew that Jesus Christ sent the Elders to me... Months later, I have changed... I got baptized and it was a wonderful feeling being closer to God! I had many feelings of nervousness and happiness, but at the end I am happy with my decision and I know God is too! :)"

Man... No joy matches that of bringing a soul unto Him. This work is His work. I am so happy. Thank you all for your continuous support.  

Elder Welch

Monday, November 25, 2013

Willing to Submit

Tyler's letter for this week.  His cousin Blake just received his mission call and is going to the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa mission and will be learning French.  Also, since he indicated in his last letter that he was so cold, my parents (grandma and grandpa Welch to him), who live in an Atlanta suburb, purchased him some sweaters and a coat and dropped them off.  They also were able to take him and his companions to lunch.  They reported that he is doing great and really focused on the work.  Sounds like he is getting attached to the Atlanta mission.  Enjoy!

Richard (Tyler's dad)

Lot's of lessons learned this week, one of which I will forever be grateful for.
However, before I forget... Blake Thomas Simmons... YYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Agghhh Yeahhh! I loved getting his email. I haven't been able to read it all yet but Africa?? French speaking?? Haha agh man, I'm so pumped for him. I seriously can't wait to see him, David, JD, and Matt again. Every time I read Alma 17 when the sons of Mosiah reunite, I think of seeing them all again after our missions. Man. That day will be awesome

So this week: Jessica was all lined up and looking awesome for her baptism this Saturday. We pretty much had everything lined up with the program, speakers, etc. she just had to have her interview. The zone leaders made the trip down from downtown Atlanta, about an hour drive, to interview her on Friday at 3:00. We met them at the church and then gave her a call. TEN MINUTES before her interview she was rushed to the ER at the hospital! Are you kidding me? We spent the next hour in a half praying and discussing what the best thing to do would be. Her phone actually died when I was on the phone with her, leaving us in the dark. Haha we had no idea what was going on, just praying for the best.
Well, Saturday evening, we finally got a hold of her and it turns out she was okay. She had to receive some shots and other things for something "personal." Not sure what it was but I left it at that. She said she would feel more comfortable if we pushed it back to next weekend. I was happy to hear she was okay and then we called everyone that night and rescheduled it to this coming weekend.
Pretty disappointing, right? Yeah. But it's understandable. It was just crazy because it literally happened ten minutes before her interview. So, I said a prayer to thank Heavenly Father for taking care of her and then hopped in the car to see the Johnson family.
The office elders scared me to death because they showed up on our way to the appointment to have me sign some more papers for my visa... I thought I was leaving! Luckily, it was just some more paper work I had to fill out. So, again, my heart was beating about 100x a minute from all of this happening within ten minutes of each other. (From Jessica asking to push her baptism back a week and the office elders calling and showing up to have me sign papers for my visa).
All right, so I said another prayer just to kind of "cool down" as we showed up to the Johnson's home. This appointment was big time as we were making the final preparations for their baptism this Saturday.
"Knock, knock, knock"
In we walked to an empty house with suitcase after suitcase after suitcase lined up.
"What's going on? Are you guys moving?"
I knew they had talked about moving back down to Florida some time before the end of Winter, so I asked timidly.
Man... Words cannot describe what that felt like. They were quiet and sad. Their grandfather is not doing well so they decided it would be best to go down now and be around their family for the holidays. They pulled their kids out of school here and sold everything online that they couldn't take with them. They were moving the next night (Saturday).
Haha I don't think I've ever felt like that in my entire life. It was painful/sad/any "bad" feeling you could ever have all slammed on me at once! I was crushed beyond words could describe.
They took a picture with my new companions and I and then we said our goodbyes. I gave hugs/knuckle bumps to everyone and then looked up to leave. Their mom was standing against the wall by herself when I lifted my head up. She reached her hands out and gave me a hug as she had tears coming down her face. They talked about how happy they were and how much we meant to them. They talked about how excited they are for still getting baptized and then being sealed in the temple as a family in a year from now.

Well, I left their apartment and after planning just kind of looked at the ceiling before going to bed. "What in the world just happened?" I thought. All of that happened within 30 minutes of each other. It was madness.
I woke up yesterday morning trying to figure out if that really happened or if I just had a nightmare.

Well, to wrap everything together, I've recently been thinking a lot about this Christlike characteristic of being "submissive". Mosiah 3:19 is starting to be one of my favorite scriptures now as I try more and more each day to "put off the natural man". It was so selfish of me to "want" these things for myself.

All is well in Zion however! Jessica is getting baptized this coming Saturday and the Johnson's gave our ward mission leader a call last night saying they went to church and are still planning on getting baptized. He, along with a few others, might drive down and surprise them for their baptism. That would be really cool. Haha, I keep thinking about how those missionaries must have felt when they got our referral text about this awesome family.

I'm willing to trust in the Lord with all my heart. To not lean unto my own understanding but just trust Him in all I do (D&C 6:36). I'm having a blast out here.
And yes, I am so happy. Especially because I'm warm now bc of gma and gpa Welch. They. are. the. best.

Elder Welch

Monday, November 18, 2013

Letter from Tyler to his family last week [11/11/13]

Dear Family,

Reading mom’s letter this week made me start tearing up.  I’ve always been a “cry-baby”, but surprisingly I haven’t cried much on my mission.  I guess tears don’t come out very easily when you’re smiling so big that your cheeks close your eyes up.  Anyway, I had an impression to write ya’ll a letter this week while I was reading mom’s letter.  Who can deny a prompting from God?

First things first - Matt… I’m so proud of you.  I seriously can’t find the words to tell you how proud you make me.  Your letter made me want to do the “double dream hands” dance with my mouth opened (like we would while watching YouTube).  Hearing that news was the best thing that’s happened on my mission.  I love you.  I keep being reminded of deciding not to play baseball senior year to lift and hang out with you more.  That was probably the best decision I have ever made in my life.  I am so grateful for those last 4 months that we had to hang out.  I look up to you, BIG time!  Keep spending time on your knees talking WITH Heavenly Father (not “at”).  Keep me updated on how things are going with you and Big Marsh – let me know if you need help with anything, even if it’s something small like bearing my testimony on a certain principle. 

I’m so happy to hear that you have “Risen from the Dust” and taken on this challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year!  It’s a lot more than we’re used to reading, but I promise your testimony will grow to be like Nephi’s – UNSHAKEABLE.  This gospel is true; it’s so true.  And the Book of Mormon is literally the Words of Christ.  Treat them like that.  I can never put them down on the ground now.  That book changed my life before my mission and is now shaping my life as a missionary.  It’s literally “DA BOM!”

I got your awesome package, mom!  Holy cow, you’re so awesome!  My companion started laughing when he saw some of your writing, “Who loves you? Your mama ‘wuvvvvs’ you!”  Haha, and thank you so much for the healthy food.  My companion and I have a “cheat night” every Monday night now after planning.  I proposed the idea to him by calling it “Treat yo’self night” as part of our “Family Home Evening”.  Haha, he’s getting really healthy now too, and asks me “Elder, what are we going to ‘treat’ ourselves to on family night?” Its usually ice cream with some sort of topping on it. We usually buy something on P-Day for later that night.  Sounds lame, but it’s a fun tradition.

Mom… my arm is reached out right now to “nail it!”  Seriously though, you skipping make-up to take the sacrament made me so happy!  I wish I would’ve taken the sacrament more seriously when I was blessing, preparing and passing it while in High School.  I start looking forward to it as soon as Wednesday nights now as I try to realign my will with the Savior’s.  If we prepare ourselves each week to take it, repenting of those sins of commission and even omission, taking the sacrament can be the most spiritual experience of our weeks.  I invite everyone in the family to spiritually prepare themselves Saturday afternoon/evening (in between football games) to partake of the sacrament worthily this Sunday.  I promise that you will feel the spirit more abundantly not only during that meeting, but as well as throughout the week.  It will be unlike anything you’ve ever really experienced. 

The Primary Program was yesterday and made me think of Boston and Reese.  Man do I miss them!  They’re the first pictures in my photo album mom sent me and I love showing them off to investigators.

I think about all of you individually, at different points throughout the weeks and months, depending on whose face I decide to sleep on at night.  It’s kind of weird how I realize that I love you more, being away from you.  I’m so blessed to be apart of this awesome family.  I love my nametag because it has Christ’s name on it, but also I love it because it has “Welch” on it.  I’m proud to be a Welch!

Stay faithful family!  I love you all so much!

Elder Welch

P.S. Instead of writing me at Thanksgiving about how “grateful you are for me”, think of someone else that could use it, and write them a letter.  Handwrite it, make it short, and then feel good about it.  I have too many blessings right now – give some to other people who don’t have the same assurance of hope that we do, that we can be a family forever.

"Mom… Dad… I'm Pregnant"

Haha I remember Dustin's letter heading on his mission when he wrote that and had no idea what he meant by that. But, I do now... Unfortunately Elder Evans is leaving me here in Marietta/Smyrna but I have two new companions on the way. Tri-companionship for the third time on my mission. I guess that's the life as a "Visa Worker". I could go any minute but to be honest, I really don't want to go until AT LEAST after Christmas. There are some pretty exciting things happening in the next couple weeks. Here's a few of them:

-Jessica Robertson, who I'll write about if I have time at the end, is getting baptized THIS weekend! Yeeeee! Man, I'm so happy for her. She was one of Elder Peery and my first investigators. She's got a rad story.

-The Johnsons, yep, all 6 of them, are getting baptized on November 30th! Man. The sisters in our ward also found an awesome couple who are going to get baptized and confirmed the same day... That's NINE of my brothers and sisters who are joining my eternal family in the next two weeks; eight in one weekend. Sacrament mtg is going to be taken up by confirmations here in the next couple of weeks... The ward seems pretty pumped right now. No need to prepare talks... It was pretty funny yesterday at church. Elder Evans and I were stopped by our Ward Mission Leader in the hallway at church and he said that he needs to sit down and get a list of all of the investigators at church. "There's too many to keep track of now." He said. Man, I know this is the Lord's work. 

-This ain't no "reassignment" that I'm on in Georgia. I've had multiple experiences so far that have confirmed that The Lord needs me here. My joy is through the roof right now. I'm seriously on happy medicine all day. I'm talking about having to use chap stick because I'm smiling too much... I can't say it enough how great this work is. Granted, talking to a wall for an hour+ everyday in Portuguese is getting pretty old, but other than that, every day rocks. It's actually pretty funny because it's starting to get pretty cold here (not like Ohio but still pretty cold, especially at night) and I don't have any warm clothes. I have no sweatshirt, sweatpants, long sleeve vests, etc. I wake up cold because all I sleep with is a blanket that covers my chest down to my ankles. (I like it though. It's motivation to get out of bed and start working out quickly.) Oh and I really only have short sleeve shirts with one suit (which I have to wear everyday by the way. Don't worry though, it doesn't smell too bad... Haha someone in the ward just gave me another one though, so don't worry about it.) It's also extra motivation to always seek to have the Spirit with me. I'm never cold when I'm feeling the spirit. *MOM-please don't send me anything. I know you are probably worried but I'm really fine. It doesn't bother me. I don't want all of that winter stuff anyway because I won't need it for Brazzzzzzzzil.

So let me tell y'all about Mildred (she's on date now to get baptized on the seventh!)
Elder Evans and I went to go see Carol on Wednesday with a member. Turns out, she wasn't home. (She actually was home, we saw her through the peep hole... Haha) Anyway, we just decided to go to our back-up plan. The thought popped in my head, "As you walk by Mildred's door, just knock on it..." I didn't think anything of it but as we were on our way out of the apartment building, I knocked on her door. (Elder Peery and I met her way back in September but she left a note on the door saying she doesn't want to meet with us anymore.) Well... She opened it and.... let me back up a bit.
We taught her about The Book of Mormon and how it's evidence that Christ's church has been restored again back in September (late). She had no furniture in her apartment, (we taught her as we sat down in an empty family room floor), and her husband who had recently died left her a pretty nice chunk of change behind. Turns out, when he died, different complications happened, not allowing her to have all of that money, leaving her with nothing. All she pretty much had was an air mattress I think to sleep on... Anyway, the lesson wasn't going great and the Spirit prompted us to leave her a promise. "Mildred... I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ, that if you read this Book everyday, you will be blessed financially, more than you could ever imagine."
A couple months past (until Wednesday), where she opened the door with the biggest smile on her face. In we walked in to her apartment to see three tables, one with a lamp on it, a couch, a love seat for two, and a stand to put a tv... (my jaw dropped). "Oh... I'm going to court in the next two weeks to get all of my husband's money back..."
She smiled again, ear to ear. "You wouldn't BELIEVE what's been happening to me since I last met with you guys. Something even told me to stay home today from choir practice and here you came knocking on my door... I'm so glad you came 'Brother Welch.'"
I asked her if she had been reading the Book of Mormon.
"Everyday. Yes... Once a day."

I bowed my head and thanked Heavenly Father.
"Oh by the way," she said, "My old preacher is going to be out of town this weekend so the church won't be open... Can I come with you guys?"
I put my arm around Elder Evans and just said, "Is this really happening right now? Of course you can come Mildred!" We set up a ride to come get her later last week... She absolutely loved it and wants to get baptized now.

Why in the WORLD do I see so many miracles? Seriously. I ask this every night before going to bed.
The only answer I can give is that what Sister Nelson talked about so much in Seminary (man I can't thank her enough for her example and lessons) - Tender mercies... Heavenly Father seriously has been too good to me while on my mission. I don't deserve all of these blessings.
1 Nephi 1:20 - "...But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom He hath chosen..."
Have I not been called of God to serve in Georgia? Man, I love Him.

Well family, I love you all. Instead of writing me a thank you letter this upcoming/next week, thank our Heavenly Father for Jesus Christ. Thank Him in your prayers for allowing us to have this restored Priesthood to bind us together as a family forever. "God be thanked for the matchless Gift of His Son."

I've decided on my missionary plaque scripture. John 8:29
My only desire now is to "please the Father." He Lives!
Elder Welch

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ay yi yi

All right, well I really don't know what to say. There's a quote in Preach My Gospel by Elder Oaks that says something like, "We don't preach and teach to increase membership in our church... We preach and teach to open the gate to the Celestial Kingdom and on to Eternal Life. No other person can do this." I'm obviously paraphrasing but Yeah BABY! Haha "No Empty Chairs" is no longer just applying to the family now, but all of my friends back in Ohio and here in Georgia. I'm FIRED UP!

Man, I've got to calm down and fill you in on this week. I'm seriously so blessed. I told Elder Evans this week that the "windows of heaven are opened right now and there's just too many blessings for me to even receive." Seriously, I pray like 50 times a day just thanking Heavenly Father for the miracles and blessings that are literally down pouring on me right now. "Blessings raining down like cats and dogs..." And the cool thing is, I don't even pay tithing! Haha... Oh man, how much I wish I could just fill you in on half of the miracles that I have seen this week. I'll just bear my testimony.

-I know that the Priesthood was restored. Holy cow, how firm my testimony has grown in this. I've seen miracles, and I'm talking about things you wouldn't even believe me, type miracles happen right before my eyes. In the matter of seconds after a Priesthood blessing I've witnessed some unbelievable things.
-President Monson is a Prophet of God and he is the Lord's mouthpiece. How key is home teaching? If "numbers" mattered, I would send you some awesome stats here in my area of us going out with home teachers and reactivating less-actives.
-The Book of Mormon is the Word of God. It's now a mission rule to carry a copy in your hand every where you go. Phew baby, I feel like Ammon chopping people's unbelief away with my sword. It's so powerful. Even if you already know it's true, pray to know if it is true again. There's no limitations on how many times you can ask. I have mine confirmed over and over (and over...) again.
-LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT! Holy cow, I think that's the thing I'm learning the most on my mission. I've seen people's jaws, heads, and tears just drop/fall just from heeding a small prompting from the Spirit
I've got to get a picture with the Johnson family and send it over to you all. They're the greatest thing (minus my own family) that's ever happened to me. Haha that doesn't even make sense but I can't wait for November 30th. All six of them are getting baptized.
Whoo baby am I so grateful to be on a mission. Tis the season...

Thank you all for your letters. I love you all
Elder Welch

"And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; ... and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth..." - Moses 7:62
A picture from when Elder Dallin H. Oaks (Quorum of the 12 Apostles) came to speak to the missionaries in the Georgia Atlanta Mission a couple weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"No, I told you three cards..."

First, thanks big time Mom for the shirts. I love you. You're so on top of things. Those shirts came a lot faster than I thought they would come. Thank you for being so awesome. I thank Heavenly Father all of the time for you.

Man oh man oh man... Leslie Williams was baptized this week! YEEEEEEEE! Haha we've been working with her for almost two months now and she was baptized this past weekend. Holy cow, you have no idea how happy moments like this make you. Elder Evans baptized her on Saturday and she asked me to confirm her on Sunday (yesterday). (Elder Ross got his Visa so he's no longer with us, just in case you were wondering...)

I really don't know what to say about this picture. Haha the feelings are just indescribable. If there was a way that I could send my feelings to you through this monitor, I would. I think the best way to think about it is a glimpse of what Eternal Life is going to be like; living in a state of "Never-ending happiness." I guess y'all have to get used to seeing me smile nonstop when it comes time for that because there'll be "No Empty Chairs!"
 Saturday was awesome and a lot of support came from the ward. It was kind of funny though because she called us 15 minutes before her baptism was supposed to happen and said that she's going to be a little late... Haha we didn't start the baptismal service until 45 minutes after it was supposed to start. Talk about some serious prelude music. It was basically a piano solo for the pianist for an hour...
Sunday was "Rad-dunk-ular." I don't even know what that is but it's supposed to let you know how awesome yesterday was. The miracle with yesterday was definitely her being confirmed and receiving the greatest gift that we can receive in this life - the gift of the Holy Ghost - but it also came with the Johnson family.
So to back up a little bit, Elder Evans and I were teaching the "Butterworth" family who has 10 people in their family! Yes... they have eight kids... Haha anyway, the past two weeks has been awesome with them. Well, until Saturday. They called us and said that they don't ever want to see us again, that they're baptist for life and don't want anything else to do with us. The mom was in the background of the phone call telling her son what to say to us. We tried understanding them and then the mom started yelling that her husband has been yelling at her and the children to stop talking to us. That his family is baptist and they will stay baptist. Anyway, super disappointing because Elder Evan's and I were way pumped about them.
 Soooo, we had a huge goal for the week with investigators to attend sacrament meeting. It quickly was cut in half as the Butterworth's called us Saturday afternoon and let us know not to come by and pick them up in the morning (we were lining about three sets of members to go pick up their entire family... haha). We didn't think we would reach the goal we felt confident in. We continued to go about the rest of the day Saturday trying to contact some referrals and do what the Spirit prompted us. To make a long story short, the Johnson family gave us a call... We knocked on their door and the 11 yr old daughter answered. She told us her parents weren't home so we left her a card and told her to have her dad give us a call when he got home. Well... Who would've known that they had six kids? Eight total with the Mom and Dad. AND they called usSaturday night saying they wanted to come to church on Sunday... Are you kidding me?? As we saw them at church on Sunday, and saw them walk in as a train, I immediately bowed my head and asked Heavenly Father why? I definitely am not worthy of a blessing like that. The lesson I learned was as you continue to do the little things, following the TINY, tiny promptings from the Spirit, you will be blessed. Alma 37:6-7. It's the small and simple things that bring miracles in your life.
An example of this would actually be this morning. We left the apartment really early this morning to go on a run for some exercise. When we were outside about to start, I noticed that neither of us had our nametags on. I told Elder Evans that we should go inside to put them on even though it's dark out and no one will even see us. (You have no idea how much I love wearing this... haha). As we were leaving the apartment for the second time the thought came to me, "grab three pass-along cards." I was just about at the door frame and thought, "no one's going to even be out here this morning. The moon is still going up..." Nevertheless, I turned around and grabbed two of them and started walking out. I felt two in my hand as I reached the door and was beginning to put them in my pocket. "No. I told you to grab three of them." I was like, "c'mon seriously? Nobody is even out here!" I couldn't do it though. I turned around and grabbed one more card and ran out the door.
Well, guess who saw three people this morning on the jog? It was incredible. Small and simple acts bring about miracles. I see them everyday.

The church is true.  I don't know why my Heavenly Father is so good to me, but He is. He lives. I know He does. And I know His Only Begotten Son lives.

I absolutely love it here. I'm so happy.
Elder Welch

Elder Welch's Mission President has created a calendar for the missionaries to follow to read through the entire Book of Mormon by the end of the year.  Tyler has extended this challenge to all friends and family who would like to follow along.  He said he would love to hear of your personal experiences and testimony as you read through the same scripture passages together.

Please leave a comment on this blog with your email address if you would like me to send you the calendar.