Elder Tolen's Transfer History

Elder Tolen's Transfer History
Elder Tolen's Transfer History

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Week 82 [91]: The Converting Power of Hope

Monday, June 26, 2016


Hey everyone! I don't have a ton of time to email this week; we have a concert we are going to in Tokyo today, and we have to leave by about 4 pm, so I'm going to make this as simple as I can, because we have a lot to do, and not too much time!

This week was packed. We have been traveling everywhere. There has been so much to do, and not much time to do it. President Wada leaves tomorrow, and so there has been a lot of bustling and hustling around the mission to make sure everything is prepped for our new Mission President, President Warnick.

This week we had zone meeting, and it was fantastic. I had my first opportunity to act as a translator, which was hard, but my testimony of the Gift of Tongues has increased ten-fold. The Spirit was so strong. So many great testimonies, and great examples. We received some very inspired trainings, and received a lot of revelation. Great experience. Immediately after that, we started our splits with the Zone leaders. I went with Elder Matsumoto. We had an amazing time together. We saw so many miracles. We were housing, and found about five people who because PIs in one small block. The Spirit was very strong, and helped lead us to those prepared children. Elder Matsumoto became one of my very good friends. We just clicked. It was a great experience.


After that, we headed back into our own area the very next day in order to hasten the work in the vineyard we have been asked to tend. We had a very powerful lesson with one of our "Eternal Investigators." He has been investigating the church for about five years now, and has said he will get baptized when his mother says it's okay, but his mother is very opposed. We really hit on why baptism is so important, and how it truly is a wonderful gift from God. The Spirit was so strong. We were able to see his countenance change, and the Spirit of the Lord burn within him. He looked me right in the eyes and said, "Elder Tolen, before this lesson, I did not have the courage to try and convince my mother to let me get baptized. But now, because of you two Elders, I know we can do it together." It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had on my mission. The Spirit was present, and hearts were changed. If there is one thing I have learned from my mission, it is that the Spirit is a real being. He exists, and is present in every single person's life. Every single person that has ever walked on the face of this Earth has felt the influence of him in their lives at one time or another.


My challenge to you: do not delay acting on a prompting. There is so much to be done, and so much joy to be had, and the Lord is ready to guide us there, but He can't steer a parked car! Put yourself in gear, and get driving. As long as you are doing your best to follow the promptings of the Spirit, you can never fail. Do not get me wrong, however. Mistakes will come by th truck-load. I can promise that from personal experience. You will mess up, and you will fall. And you know what? It will hurt. Sometimes more than others. But the key to success is standing up, and moving forward again. You only truly fail when you decide to give up. Until that moment, hope still can, and will be found.


I talk about hope a lot in all of my emails, and it's because throughout all of the trials, tribulation, mocking, embarrassment, and pain, that's the one thing I've been able to hold onto. The same goes for everyone. Hope is the power that propels you on your next step, and the step that proceeds that. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes the tunnel is long, and we can't see what's between us and the end, but the light will always be there, constant.


The church has released a new video based on the talk given by Elder Holland in October of 2013 entitled, "Like a Broken Vessel." It is a powerful talk, and an equally powerful video. I recommend it to all who feel like their burdens are too much to bear, or feel like giving up the race. I plead with you, don't give up the fight. Take one more hit, give it all you've got, and then hit the pavement running, and I can promise you, the Spirit will guide your every footstep.


"Press forward, Saints,
with stead-fast faith in Christ,
With hope's bright flame a-light
In heart and mind,
With love of God
And love of all man-kind.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"


Press forward my brothers and sisters. All things are possible. I now go to repent, and then invite others to do so.


I love you all,


Elder Tolen


希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Us at Game Night...We Played a Lot of Ping Pong!

Me and Elder Jenner

 

Week 81 [90]: Personal Refinement

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Hello my beloved friends and family! This week has been crazy! So much has happened! I don't have much time! We had to change our Preparation Day to a Wednesday this week for the temple because the temple is going to be closed next week, so I'm emailing on a weird day! The temple was such a fantastic experience. I love going to the temple. The Lord always helps me learn so much. I highly recommend going.

We have had quite a few adventures this week! We did a ramen eating challenge, and each of the Elders ate 7 bowls of Ramen, and we all got our names on the wall of he restaurant. Then we had an absolutely amazing lesson with our investigator. We were able to set a baptismal date with him for the 16th of July. We are very excited to see him continue to progress. There is nothing better than watching the influence of the Spirit change one's countinence. There really is nothing like it. I am so grateful for the Lord and the opportunity he has given me to labor in the land of my dreams. Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for that.


We also had the opportunity to go to a fireside hosted by President Wada. It was his last big fireside before he leaves the mission on the 28th. It was a very emotional time for me. President Wada has helped me in more ways than I can even comprehend. I will always be indebted to him for the skills and knowledge I have gained from him. He truly is a man who has magnified his calling. The Lord truly qualifies those whom he calls.


Recently I've been pondering a lot about why God allows trials to afflict his servants. I always used to think that God should shelter his servants. These are the very people hastening his work, and yet, I felt that they were the people experiencing the most tribulation. As I was pondering this, Nephi came to mind. I started thinking about 1 Nephi 17, when Nephi was asked to build a boat. The first thing he asked was where he could find the ore to forge the tools. Even Nephi couldn't work with unrefined materials. He needed to forge them so that they could be used in the construction of the ship that would eventually take them to the promised land. We are in the same situation as the tools. The Lord needs refined tools in order to construct the ships for his children embarking toward the promised land, and the only way to refine His tools is through the refiner's fire. The Lord is using us as His tools to construct ships for others to come to the promised land, and not just any tools will do. Only those of the finest quality can construct a ship capable of making it to the Promised Land. He is doing everything He can to ensure a safe journey home for everyone.


I am so grateful for the Lord. The testimony I have gained over the course of these almost two years is invaluable, and I will always be grateful for the Lord's blessed guidance.


I love each and every one of you. I hope you have a fantastic week. I now go to repent, and invite others to do the same. Keeps striving, and never give up.


Elder Tolen


希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Elder Tolen and Elder Languido at the Temple
Tokorozawa District at the Temple

Elder Tolen and Elder Palomino (He's like a Brother to Me!)
At a Fireside
At a District Meeting Where We Made a Cake for a Recent Convert's Birthday

Visiting a Less-Active Family
 

Week 80 [89]: Oh, the Places You'll Go

Monday, June 13, 2016


My beloved friends and family! We don't have too much times is week either. I'm currently waiting for my last interview with President Wada, so I have to make this quick, but I just to let you all know that I'm doing great, and I'm loving every second of this work.

I just want to share a quick story, and it's a story I hold very dear to my heart. I might have already shared it here, but I'm going to share it again! It has helped me so much over the course of my mission, and it has really helped me keep a good perspective on life.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!  by  Dr. Seuss

Congratulations!  Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you'll head straight out of town.
It's opener there, in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do,
to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew.
Just go right along. You'll start happening too.
OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up! You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't. Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true,
that bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...or
right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused that you'll start to race down long wiggled
roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place......for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a better break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls,
or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't Because, sometimes they won't.
I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.
All Alone! Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.
But on you will go though the weather be foul.
On you will go though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up manya frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike, And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems whatever they are.
You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
So...be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Brayor
Mordecai, Ali, Van, Allen, O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!


Our mountains are waiting, and more joy than we can imagine is just around the corner. If we remember the counsel the Lord gave to Joseph Smith in the midst of his afflictions, anything can be kept in the right perspective: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." If we really think about it, a perspective is what defines a reality to an individual. And if we remember our eternal goals, the trials we face here can easily be overcome. As long as we remember our purpose, and that is to return to our Father. I know this is true. I wouldn't take two years of my life to teach it if I didn't.

I love each and every one of you. I hope you all have fantastic weeks.

Elder Tolen

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。
We found a cool hat in the church...

Visiting a Referral with the Sisters

Week 79 [88]: Riku!

Monday, June 5, 2016

Hello everyone! This week is going to be pretty short because we are going to be going to Costco later today, and it is pretty far away so we won't get too much to email today, but I'm way excited because we are going with my good friend, Elder Palomino. It will be legendary.

As for an update, I transferred! It's crazy. The new area I'm in is really rural! I haven't been in a place this rural for a long time! I missed it! My new companion is great! His name is Elder Languido, and he's from West Valley, Utah! He is way cool! I think this is going to be a great transfer. We have already seen so many miracles together.

As for miracles, I will share two huge miracles I was able to see this week! The first one actually begins eight months ago, while I was living in Takao. We were out proselyting with a newly returned missionary, and we stopped this Chinese man. He told us his name, and about who he was! Turns out he was Protestant, and had joined that church about three years before, so he wasn't interested in joining another church, but we testified as much as we could, and we actually were able to get his contact information and give him a Book of Mormon, but after that, I was never actually able to meet him again. He stopped answering our calls, and we weren't ever able to get in contact with him again. And then, I left. I transferred out to Fuchu, and forgot about the whole experience, that is until last Monday. I got a call from another missionary in an area called Hachioji who tells me a Chinese guy that knows me got baptized. I had no idea who he was! I had forgotten the entire experience, that is until I saw a picture of him! The second I saw the picture of him, the memories came flooding back, and I remembered the entire encounter. It was an amazing experience. I even had the opportunity to call him and talk to him. That was such an amazing experience! He even remembered who I was. He's actually registering for BYU as we speak, so maybe some of you will see him around.

Then, just when you would think that things couldn't get any better, I had the opportunity to meet with Riku, a young man who did an exchange program at my house in Utah, and his father! They were both such wonderful people! We were able to go out to eat and have a great experience. I'm so very thankful that we live in a day and age where miracles not only occur, but a day and age where miracles can be expected. The Lord is pouring out his blessings upon each and every single one of us, and we just have to do our part and not get in the way of it. I have a very strong testimony of that.

I love you all, and hope you have a fantastic week! I love each of you!

Elder Tolen

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください
Riku and His Dad


Elders in the District

The Chinese Man Elders Tolen and Burton Found in Takao

Week 78 [87]: A New Land of Promise

Monday, May 30, 2016

Well! I don't have too much time this week, but I would just like to share a few updates, and a spiritual thought!

I'll just cut right to the chase. We got transfer calls! I will be transferring to a new area called Tokorozawa. It is the northern most area in the mission! My new companion will be a missionary named Elder Languido. He's from Salt Lake City, and he has been in Japan for about a month-and-a-half. I'm really excited to work with him and do follow-up training with him!

So this last week I had the amazing opportunity to go on exchanges with the wonderful missionaries of Yokota, Elder Palomino and Elder Gutierez. They are wonderful people! I had a great time with them, and we were able to see a ton of miracles. Elder Palomino is a great friend of mine! Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures with them!

So as for a spiritual thought, I just want to keep it pretty simple. This week, we had a baptism in the ward for one of my favorite kids on the planet, Zen. He is a hoot. I love him. Anyways, as a congregation, we sang "I Am a Child of God." As we were singing, I started looking around at all of the little children who had the song memorized, and they were giving it their all to sing this song. As I was watching them, I pondered about Christ. Out of all of the people Christ could have chosen to spend His time with, He often spent time among children. Why would He do that? We are talking about a literal deity, who has all of the power of all of Heaven and Earth, power over life and death, and He was often found among children. What does that say to us? For us to truly grow closer unto Christ, we must become as the children.

Now I'm not saying we need to act as children would act, but we need that purity. There is nothing on this earth more pure than a child, and in order for us to be accepted in the presence of Christ, that same level of purity will be required. But nothing is impossible.

I am a child of God. And he has sent me here. Never have I heard more true doctrine in my entire life. Wherever we are called to serve, or no matter where we find ourselves, we are here to help us learn what it means to be children of God. And in the end, that's all that matters.

I love you all, and hope you have a great week!

Elder Tolen

 希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。
Me with my Japanese Parents

Me and My Main Man Osamu

Week 77 [86]: The Price to Pay

Monday, May 23, 2016

My beloved family, hard to believe another weeks has already passed. This week was full of miracles, and some trials of faith, but that's to be expected in the service of the Lord.

Our friend who was on his way to get baptized decided to stop contacting us, so that has been pretty hard. It's always hard to watch someone walk away from something you know to be so good. We found a new person who we will hopefully start teaching soon. He is a 17-year-old surfer, and has a lot of interest in learning about and coming to church. The only problem is his parents are very much opposed, and with him being 17, he doesn't have the ability to join without his parents' consent. So we will see what happens. There is a time and a season for everything in the garden of the Lord.

Today I was studying in the first book of Kings in the Old Testament. I was reading about the prophet Elijah. To be specific, I was reading about the occasion where Elijah was contending with the priest of Baal. The goal was simple; each would call upon the power of their own God, and whichever God sent down fire to burn up the offering was the true and only God. So Elijah gives the priest of Baal the opportunity to go first. I always thought it was weird why Elijah didn't go first. Wouldn't it have been so much easier to just cast fire down, and be done with it? Elijah knew he had the power to do so. So why did he wait? I feel like this is where the mantle of his true priesthood begins to show. The patience and faith exercised by Elijah is almost beyond comprehension. He knew everything would work out the way the Lord needed it to, so, without a trace of doubt or fear in his heart, he endured, and waited while the priests began what became a day long attempt of accessing the powers of a non-existent God. And when the time came, Elijah stepped up to the plate, and demonstrated what it truly meant to wear the mantle of the prophet. With complete access to all the powers heaven had to offer, it was a simple task for Elijah to prove to the nation who the one true God of Israel was.

That's quite an accomplishment, demonstrating complete dominion over all things natural and consistent. But this is the power that God holds. And we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have complete, unrestricted access to all of it. The requirement? Faith. That's all the Lord asks of us. The capacity to perform miracles as did Elijah and many other prophets of old is within each and every worthy priesthood holder. Think about that for a second. If any of you are like me, that's almost more incomprehensible. But nevertheless, it is truth. An unshakable testimony, with faith rooted firmly in the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to move mountains, separate oceans, and change human nature. The question then becomes,"How does one obtain faith of that magnitude?"

Faith like unto Elijah is not obtained easily. There is a price for everything. "If you don't not pay the price of success, you will pay the price of failure." Success, spiritual light and knowledge, joy, happiness, none of these come with out a price. What are we willing to pay? What are we willing to sacrifice? Probably one of my favorite quotes right now comes from the prophet Joseph Smith, and he says, "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of everything, can in no way produce the faith necessary unto eternal life and salvation." That's a pretty hefty price to pay, don't you think? Everything? That's a lot! But then I read this quote that helped me see this in a different light. "

"Sacrifice is not just about giving things up. The roots of the English verb sacrifice mean 'to make something holy.' Sacrifice includes taking something that is precious to us and offering it to God, making it holy because we give it to the Holy One." - Voices of Hope by Wendy Ulrich

So in reality, the act of sacrifice is actually the act of sanctification, or consecration. That's is a little bit easier for me to understand. So how do you gain the faith and knowledge of Elijah? By paying the price of faith.

Now beloved friends and family, I don't want you to get the wrong idea here. It sounds hard, yes, but is it impossible? No! Far from it! But, it will take time. For example, if you want to go from Utah to Disneyland, it doesn't matter how much you want to be in Disneyland, you have to get in the car and drive! And you have to drive for a while! Faith is based upon the same principle. If you want faith, you have to start driving. You have to keep the commandments, get the knowledge, and keep going! A testimony is not forged in the company of frivolity, but in the deepest recesses of trial and struggle. The Lord expects diamonds, so let's not settle for coal.

I love each of you. Just keep going! Everything will work out. Just remember who you are, and what you stand for. Face forward, and press forward. The light and knowledge you seek will come, just like it came to Elijah. I can promise that.

I love you all! I hope you have a great week

Elder Tolen

 希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。
Our District at Suzuki兄弟s!

Out for okonomiyaki with a member!

Week 76 [85]: Back to Back Splits

Monday, May 16, 2016

This week I don't have too much time! Again! We went and hiked Mt. Takao, again! But it took a lot longer than we thought, so this week's email will be pretty short as well! Sorry! I promise next time I'll write a nice long email!

To summarize, I had the opportunity to go on splits twice this week! I didn't get to spend too much time in my own area! It was an interesting experience!

For the first exchange, I went to an area called Yakota! It's a military base, and that was an interesting experience! We did everything in English--a pretty stark contrast to my current area! But we saw some great miracles. I have two that I would really like to share. The first one actually occurred right after we arrived in the area. We started walking by this school for Chinese people, and started talking to this group of guys, and one of them says he was born in California near L.A., but after saying that, he started to walk away, but I said, "Hey! I was born around there too!" I have never seen somebody so excited to hear that! He was ecstatic! We taught him a lesson right there, he took a Book of Mormon, and agreed to meet again! What a great way to start an exchange!

Then later that night, we had a lesson with one of their investigators who has really been struggling lately, but during that lesson, the Spirit was so strong, and she actually accepted the invitation to be baptized! It was an absolutely amazing experience!

After that, we had district meeting, and then I went over to Kunitachi for exchanges with the zone leaders! That was also a great experience. We were able to see a lot of tender mercies there as well. The Lord is truly hastening this work, and I am so thankful for the small role that the Lord has given me to play. I know that we each have individual roles, and different parts to play, but there isn't a single part that is more important that any of the others. I know that's true!

I hope you all have an absolutely fantastic week! I love you all!

Elder Tolen

Teaching the Gospel to All Creatures...
Ward Conference

Hiking Mt. Takao
Hiking Mt. Takao

Hiking Mt. Takao

Hiking Mt. Takao

Week 75 [84]: Skype Call!

Monday, May 9, 2016

So! I Skyped today, so I'm not going to write a long email, but I just wanted to let you know that I love all of you, and that you all mean a lot to me, I hope you have a fantastic week! If you all have time, I would challenge you all to read 1 Samuel 17! It's a great read! I love you all!

Elder Tolen

My brother Joey, and myself, captured on the Skype call!

Week 74 [83]: Be a Champion!

Monday, May 2

This week's email will be very short. I will be Skyping you next week, so don't worry!

We played a ton of ping pong today, so we don't have much time, but this week has been fantastic! We saw a ton of miracles. I would like to share a quick miracle we saw this week. We were out handing out English class flyers, and I was tired. We had been going hard all day, and just been rejected at every turn. I was beat. I was about to head over and tell my companions that we should pack up and hit somewhere else, but right as I was about to start walking over, I remembered a quote: "Suffer now, and live the rest of your life a champion."

I didn't really know why I remembered this quote, but in hindsight it was obviously the Spirit, but at the time it didn't make too much sense, but it gave me just enough energy to keep going. So as I continued to hand out these flyers, this man came up to me, and we started talking, and the conversation started turning over to gospel. Long story short, I was able to teach this man about the restoration of the Gospel, and he even said he would get baptized someday. We exchanged contact information, and then we began home. I realized how important it is to follow the will of the Lord.

When you think about it, there isn't a single person you meet in day that is just chance. Not a single soul. Every person you meet has purpose. And the Lord needs you to be ready to help them. When the time to act comes, the time to prepare has long passed. We need to make sure we are always prepared to participate in the work of the Lord!

Sorry it was so short, but I love each and every one of you! Keep pressing forward!

Elder Tolen
A guy we met on the street--he plays football!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Week 73 [82]: Be a Hero!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hello everyone! His week was busy! We had to go to Kichijoji to pick up our new companion! His name is Elder Abe! He is the best! He is from the northern portion of Japan, but he is definitely one of my favorite companions by far! He has so much energy! He's great. It will be a great transfer.

So I would just like to share a super awesome miracle that happened last Preparation Day! So, I don't know if you all remember or not, but we went and hiked up Mt. Takao last week! I don't know if I mentioned this, but on the way down, Elder Laird, a missionary I happened to be talking to, sees a guy who didn't look too Japanese, so he said, "Excuse me, do you speak Portuguese?" Turns out the man was completely Japanese, and spoke no Portuguese, but we were able to have a nice conversation with him, but then we had to continue our descent. Now you are probably all wondering why I am sharing this! I'll tell you! That night, we went home, and started proselyting, and Elder Ishikawa and I felt a very distinct impression to turn down a road. So we did, and as we were walking I saw someone that looked a little familiar. This is a pretty common thing for me, especially when I've lived in an area for about three months, and I walk down the same streets almost every day, so I greeted the man, and tried to talk to him, but he just ignored us and kept walking. As I started to walk away I felt like there was something else that I needed to do. So I turned around, and opened my mouth, and said the first thing that came to my mind, "Wait! Do you speak Portuguese?" I have never seen a man pull a 180degree turn so fast in my life. Before I knew it, he was right there talking to us. And you want to know who it was? The very same guy we met on a side of a mountain earlier that afternoon in a completely different city about an hour away from the mountain. He was very surprised, and all I could say was," You and I both know that this is destiny. There is no other explanation. So, because this is destiny, and God wanted us to meet again, will you come to church and see what a weird American like me is doing all the way over here in Japan?" And even more to my surprise, he said yes! So I hope there is even more to add on to this miracle next week! But it was an overall amazing experience.

I would also like to share a short spiritual thought. I would just like to share two scriptures. They come from Luke 1:37, and then Moroni 7:33. They say,

"For with God nothing shall be impossible"

"And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me."

These are the two verses I decided to use for the district theme this transfer. As I was reading this, I started thinking about what these scriptures meant, and what they could be related to. And, as I thought about it, the only thing that came into my mind was Super Heroes. Now, bear with me, I know it sounds pretty cheesy, and it kind of is, but it gets better, I promise. A super hero is someone who has exceptional power, might, wit, and tenacity. Someone who is willing to throw their life on the line for the gain of others, and do whatever it takes to help those around them find peace. That's why the theme I decided to go with for the transfer was "Be a Hero."  Excel in your talent, put it all on the line, and go out and save your brothers and sisters. I hope that we can all "Be a Hero" in our own stories, and overcome the powers of the adversary, and truly help bring those prepared souls home. The Lord has truly given us control over our own destinies. We decide how it ends. Now, the real question is, who are you? That's what it all comes down to. What kind of hero will you decide to become? What epic adventures does life have in store for you yet? Only God knows, but with Him on our side, boundaries, barriers, and limits are nonexistent. We may not get to decided what happened in our adventure, but we all get to decide how it ends. So get out there, and find your destiny, and then, make your dreams a reality. Be a Hero.

I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week! I hope it is full of love, adventure, peace, and joy! You are all amazing!

Elder Tolen

Elder Tolen and Elder Ishikawe with Elder Abe

New Missionaries at the Mission Home

Week 72 [81]: My Firstborn in the Wilderness

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hello everyone! It's been a pretty good week! My companion was down with a fever for a good chunk of the week, though, so that was interesting! It gave me lots of study/pondering/ area book finding time! It was very good! I learned a lot. This week was a lot of fun, and we even went to hike Mt. Takao with a bunch of other missionaries today! I even got to see Elder Hunsaker again! He is one of my best friends out here. We were able to talk a lot, and have a good time. He actually goes home this week, so that's a pretty weird thought! It's interesting seeing all of these missionaries who aren't that much older than me going home. It's quite a strange feeling! Pretty scary!

So we got transfer emails this last week, and I will be staying with Elder Ishikawa! But, there's more! We are having a son! We will be training a new missionary together! I'm so excited for this. I have always wanted to train, and I'm so grateful that I will be getting this wonderful opportunity to help a new missionary adjust to life in Japan. He will probably be American, but he might also be Japanese as well, so we will see! It would be interesting to live an apartment of more then two people, but still only be able to speak Japanese. We'll see what happens!

As for a spiritual thought for today, I would like to kind of continue my thoughts that I shared recently about the Sakura trees! Recently, as you know, all of the Sakuras are gone! I was so sad. I was very sad because this was the last 桜季節 that I would get in Japan. But as I was walking down the road with Elder Ishikawa the other day, I saw some Sakura flowers blowing around in the street. It actually looked like a Sakura tornado! I was very impressed! But upon seeing it, my mind was brought back to some revelation I received a couple of weeks before pertaining to Sakura trees blooming, and spiritual light and knowledge. I think I might have already shared those thoughts with you, but anyways, I saw these Sakura blossoms swirling around, and I started thinking about how Sakura blossoms are only on the trees for like a week! That's it! Then they fall off! For good, that's it, bye-bye, see you next year. I thought about how our spiritual experiences are like that! They come in just a fleeting moment! We have to be ready to see them, or we miss them. But I started thinking about this Sakura tornado that I was witnessing! I thought about all of the different trees these Sakuras could have originated from. I doubt they all came from the same tree! Then I thought about how, in our lives, we will probably have lots of Spiritual experiences, or in other words, lots of different trees! But eventually, the leaves from the trees will fall, but that doesn't mean it's done! What I was witnessing right now was all of those Spiritual experiences, being controlled by an unseen force, wind, or at least in this たとえ話, God, swirling together to create something beautiful! All of the knowledge and spiritual light we were able to gain from the trees wasn't lost when  our "霊的な桜季節" ended! It was all there, so that when then time came, the Lord could use it to influence others! So we need to make sure that we get everything out of our それぞれ霊的な桜季節! That way, when the time comes, the Lord can make a beautiful "Sakura Tornado" and use us and our experiences to impact others, and help them see what the Gospel can really do!

I really do love his gospel. There really is a such thing as a second chance. As I have served as a missionary, I have truly come to understand what the Lord means when He says He is full of mercy and grace, because I have seen so much of it out here! Everything in this life is a blessing from the Lord! Every trial, and hardship was made to make the small things easier. We have big challenges occasionally so we can tackle our daily battles with ease. The Lord truly does love each and every one of us, and everything he does is for our benefit!

I love you guys, and I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Tolen

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Ran into a Friend at the Temple Last Week!
A Friend at the Temple Last Week!

Pictures from the Hike!


Pictures from the Hike!

Week 71 [80]: Casting Lots

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hey everyone! I'm short on time, and very tired, so I figured I would just share a little spiritual message his week! I hope that's alright!

So this week, I was reading in the book of Jonah, again! I really love Jonah; there is so much we can learn from this section of the bible. But anyways, we all know the story of Jonah! Jonah gets called upon by the Lord to teach the people in Nineveh, but Jonah gets scared and flees to a boat as its departing from shore, and gets on, and begins journeying on the sea. On the boat, the crew encounters a huge storm, and they know that it is not a natural storm, but rather from God. In order to find out who is causing God's wrath to fall upon them, the crew, along with Jonah, all gather to cast lots, and then, as we know the lot fell on Jonah.

I read this and I thought to myself, "Now why on Earth did they decide to cast lots? There were probably much more effective ways to find the truth! Interrogation, and things of that such could have also led to them discovering that the source of the trouble was Jonah, so why do they play a game of chance?" 

But as I was pondering this, I started thinking about what casting lots really means. You put your faith in something completely out of control.  Now before I continue here, I want everyone to know that I do not condone gambling, or anything of that sort!  

Alright, so to continue, casting a lot meant putting everything in the hand of chance. You take the human influence out of it, and put in the will of the Lord. Casting lots was not taking a chance, it was a show of complete faith. Faith the the Lord would accomplish what He needed to accomplish. So, when Jonah and the crew cast lots, it was them showing their faith unto the Lord that everything would work out in the way it needed to. They took themselves out of the picture, or in other words, they took their own personal opinions out of the equation, and left the rest to God. I thought that was really interesting! Now I'm not telling everyone to start casting lots to make decisions! That's not what I'm trying to say at all. What I'm trying to say is put your faith in God, and His plan! Everything will work out in the way it needs to! Don't let the little things bring you down, just go out, and work hard, do everything you can, and then leave the rest up to the Lord, because He will never, never let you down. I know this is true. I have seen it in my own life. I know this Gospel is true, and I love each and every one of you! Keep fighting, because you are fighting the good fight.

Love you!

Elder Tolen
Fuchu District with President Wada at the Tokyo Temple

Elder Tolen and Elder King at the Tokyo Temple

Elder Tolen with a Member's Wallet?

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Week 70 [79]: Sakura Trees

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hello everyone!

I'm really tired this today! I woke up at 5:00am to go to seminary, so I'm going to keep this short just because I have no energy! But I want you to know that I still love each and every one of you!

This week was good. We had a lot of finding time, and I tried to make the most of it! We worked extraordinarily hard! It was fantastic. We also had a stake blitz, and I had the opportunity to go on splits with two really young missionaries! One has been out for 4 weeks, and the other 4 months. It was very interesting to work with them, and it got me thinking to where I was at that time, and what kind of missionary I used to be. It was interesting. They were both fantastic missionaries! Both were great at Japanese! Probably going to be much when they are my age.

This week's message is short, and I'm sure everyone had a great time watching the apostles of the Lord speak this week at General Conference, so I'll keep this one a little bit shorter, but I just want to share a quick thought I had while riding my bike the other day. We down a street that was just full of Cherry Blossom trees. I don't know if any of you have seen Cheery Blossoms before, but they are beautiful! There is only one problem! They are only beautiful one time a year, for about a week. I started thinking about how interesting it is that God, our Father, created something with such exquisite beauty, but only let them last for such a short season. I also started thinking about all of the people that probably won't be able to see Sakura Blossoms in their lifetime, just because their situations, job, or just life keep them from being able to take the time to go out and see Sakura trees during the only week of the year when they are blooming.

And then I started thinking about how this actually applies to us. The Spirit is such a wonderful and beautiful gift. We all have the ability to feel the influence of the Spirit in our lives. But sometimes those experiences or prompting only last for a short period of time. We have to choose to act or ignore. The Spirit, like these Sakura trees will occasionally bloom for us, and will be there to give us guidance and council, but it won't last forever! These promptings fade faster then we realize! Like the Sakura, the season will come and go without us even realizing it if we aren't prepared to see it. We all have a very special opportunity to be guided by the Spirit during this conference, but we need to make sure that we are ready so that when the Spirit blooms, we will be able to capture its full beauty.

I want you all to know that I love each and every one of you! I hope you all have fantastic weeks! Keep striving! Don't give up hope, and have the patience to dream on! Have a fantastic week!

Elder Tolen

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。
Sakura Trees in Blossom

Elder Lunt and Elder Tolen on Splits

Monday, April 4, 2016

Week 69 [78]: Falling into the Furnace

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hello my family! How are you! I just want to express my love and gratitude for each and everyone of you. You all mean so much to me, and you have all helped me through some remarkably rough times.

This week has been crazy! We have been so busy! We had interviews with President Wada, Zone Meeting, English Class, Game Night, and it was Easter! There was so much to be done!

President Wada and I had a great discussion during my interview, and we talked about how I'm in the last stretch of my mission. He said, "Leave behind a Legacy. Leave something behind for those who are going to follow you." And as I was pondering his thoughts during my personal study the next day, I was reading in the book of Daniel. Daniel 3 to be exact. In these chapters, we learn a little bit more about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Now, we all already know their story: they refused to worship the Golden Idol, this made the king mad, and so he cast them into a furnace, but, lo and behold, they were not burned up in the flames. Now, what does this have to with leaving behind a legacy? Let's dive a little bit deeper.

Let's put ourselves in the shoes of Shadrach and his bretheren. We have just disobeyed the king, and broken the rules that society says exist. Now, we are standing over a furnace, a furnace that's is so hot that you literally just watched the guards next to you die because of the heat. So now, you are alone. What do you think is going through your head right now? You can't go back anymore. Well, we all know what Shadrach and his friends did. As the scriptures say, "And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace."

Alright, pause.

Now I'm sure you're still wondering how this all relates. Just bear with me. Now, let's take a look at this from King Nebuchadnezzar's point of view. To quote the scriptures, it says, "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

Inside the furnace, there was a fourth figure. A fourth person. Someone who didn't enter in at the same time as the others. If we refer back to the other scripture, only three fell in. And the king noticed this immediately after they fell in. There wasn't time for someone else to fall in. Which means, if we use our skills of deduction, that someone was in there before they even fell in. That person? The son of God. Our Savior and our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Christ was in the inferno waiting for them to fall in, so that he could release them from the ties which held them bound, and also protect them from the flames.

I'm running out of time, so I have to pick up the tempo of things but, we are all standing on the edge of our individual furnaces. We all have to decided if we are willing to take that step into the fire. It definitely doesn't look pleasant, or comfortable. And, sometimes, you won't be able to see any source of hope. But we all have one hope. And that hope is Christ. He is already in the inferno of our pains and struggles. He's ready to loose our bands when we choose to be His followers. So, bringing this back full circle, we all have the option as missionaries, or even as members of the church, if we will dedicate ourselves to this belief. I hope we can all decide to leave behind a legacy that doesn't end. I hope we will all choose to leave behind a legacy that is more than something temporal, but something eternal, because that's the kind of legacy we get from following Christ. Now, as the Lord taught, let's all pick up our crosses, and continue on his eternal journey! There is so much left to be lived! So much more to be discovered, and so much more to learn. This Easter season, I hope we can all come to a better understanding of the reality of Christ's Atonement, and what it really means.

I love you all, and I hope you all have fantastic weeks.

Elder Tolen

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Dinner at the Bishop's House

Meeting up with Elder Livingston!

Week 68 [77]: Fight Like Dragons!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hello! This email will have to be pretty short! I have a lot to say, and not much time!

This week has been fantastic. We have been doing a lot of finding, and seeing a lot of success. It's unbelievable how many prepared people the Lord has placed in this area. It's always amazing to get the opportunity to see people find joy in living he Gospel! There is no greater feeling on this earth!

A couple weeks ago, we started this new transfer, and with it, we chose a new theme. This theme comes from Mosiah 20:11:

11 And it came to pass that the people of Limhi began to drive the Lamanites before them; yet they were not half so numerous as the Lamanites. But they fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight.

The theme, as you can already tell by the title, is, "Fight Like Dragons!" In this section of canon, we learn that exerting yourself, or fighting with the utmost of ferocity to defend your beliefs, your lives, your loved ones, etc, is how a dragon would fight. A dragon puts everything on the line to protect everything that he has already gained. So as a district, we are working on "Fighting Like Dragons," giving everything we have to protect those that need protection, and help those that need help, and giving everything we've got to uphold the promise we made when we were baptized, as referenced in Mosiah 18:9:

"...and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in..."

But I also believe that this lesson is not only for the benefit of the missionaries. I believe that any one can "Fight Like Dragons" and stand up for what you believe, and if there is one thing I believe in, it's happiness. And, if we put it very simply, that's what the Gospel is. That is the purpose of the Gospel. It is the Plan of Happiness. Now, I'm sure we are all willing to "Fight Like Dragons" in order to defend our happiness. That's the entire reason we were sent here to this earth, to give it all we got, leave it all on the field of life, and then, when our time comes, return home with honor. I know this Gospel is true! I know that it is the true source of all joy. I love you all. And hope you have a fantastic week, and,

Fight Like Dragons!

Elder Tolen

 希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Fuchu District Wearing Their Dragon Banners

Week 67 [76]: Hallelujah

Monday, March 13, 2016

Hello my friends. I hear there are a lot of changes happening. It's interesting to hear about these things as a missionary, because you know they are happening, but you aren't there to experience it.

This week has been fantastic. I have my new companion, Elder Ishikawa, and he is great! We get along really well. Not being able to use English has started taking a toll on me, but it's all for the best! I love every second of it! 

Other than that, we don't have much to report on this week, just had a lot of time to go out and find the Lord's elect, and let me tell you, there are quite a few prepared people out here in this portion of the vineyard. We've been able to find a lot of Potential Investigators, and teach quite a bit. 

This week, I would like to share a spiritual thought about Easter. As we all know, Easter is approaching. I love Easter. It is the one holiday of the year that we get to focus on all that Christ did for us. Christ did more for us than we can even comprehend. The Atonement is the ultimate sacrifice, but I know personally, I sometimes forget all of the sacrifices He made for us up until the Atonement. Christ was a man despised and rejected of men. A man who was well acquainted with grief. Can you imagine what it would be like to spend a week being despised of men? Everywhere you turn, people cast you out? Now could you imagine living for 33 years like this? Yet, despite how others acted around Him, He knew his purpose. He didn't allow his circumstances to run His life. He showed us that our surroundings do not define who we are. We define who we are, no matter what the world is telling us.

Christ showed us what it truly means to hope. Over my mission, I have had a lot of different themes, and a lot of different quotes that I have shared, but that the one that means the most to me is the one I put at the end of every single on of my emails. In English it's, "Hope on. Journey on." Christ lived this. Everything He did, He did because He knew what it meant to have hope. Hope is a choice. We choose to hope. Hope doesn't come on its own. Hope isn't something you gain without action. Hope is something that we demonstrate. We gain hope by demonstrating hope, and, if put very simply, there is only one thing we need to hope for. We need to have hope that God will fulfill His promises to us.

I don't know if you have seen the new Easter video or not, but let me tell you, it is fantastic. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself so that you could have eternal joy. Because of Christ "... The grave hath no victory..." The grave cannot win. Because of Christ, that battle has already been decided. This life is not the end, and Christ is the reason. I have never been able to find more joy in something until this point in my life. I know that Christ lives, and to that, I raise my voice in praise. Hallelujah. Praise ye the Lord. Because of Christ we need not fear. We need not doubt. Just hope on, and then keep pressing forward. I love you all! Thank you all so much for all that you do!

Elder Tolen

Sorry! No pictures this week! 

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Week 66 [75]: The Healing Clay

Monday, March 6, 2016

Hello!

This week we got transfer emails!

I'm going to be staying in Fuchu! I'll be getting a new companion. His name is Elder Ishikawa. He has been out in the field for about 10 months, and he is Japanese, and actually, I've lived with Elder Ishikawa before! We lived together in Takao, so I already know him! It should be great! But, the only problem is he speaks Japanese, and we live in a two man apartment. So I won't be speaking any English this transfer! That's going to be a lot of fun, but the grammar in my emails home will probably start to deteriorate... Sorry Mom!

Other than that this week we have been super busy! We had a music night here on Saturday, and I got to play the drum set with a little band we created, and make some really cool renditions of primary songs! It was a ton of fun, but we were also singing in about 6 other songs, so we have been rehearsing all week. It's been busy! But the music night turned out to be a success! A ton of people came, and a couple of our investigators came and were able to take some big steps in their progression towards Christ! I know that the Holy Ghost works through the power of music. Music really has an influence with your sensitivity to the Spirit.

We've been able to see a lot of miracles this week, and accomplish a lot! This week, I would like to share a short spiritual thought from the New Testament. It comes from John 9. In John chapter 9 we learn of Jesus healing a man who was born blind. His apostles asked Jesus why this man was blind. They wondered if it was because of his own sins, or possibly the sins of his parents. Christ answered them and said, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

We can learn a lot from that line right there: "But that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

I think we can kind of change the wording here a little bit and liken it to ourselves: "But that the works of God should be made manifest unto him."

In every single one of our lives, we have times where we may feel "blind"--times when our trials seem to have no cause, and no visible end. It's in these time we have to remember that all trials have one general purpose, and that's to make the works of God visible unto us. Now, we have to ask ourselves, "How?"

The blind man didn't get his sight back just because he wanted to see again. And he definitely did not get his sight back through his own power. Now, let's read a little further:

"When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing."

First Jesus had to anoint his eyes with clay. Now if you think about it, clay isn't the cleanest of things, and I'm sure it wasn't comfortable to the blind man to have that put on his face. But because of it, he was able to overcome his trial.

Sometimes, in our trials, we encounter times when we think things can't get any worse, and then sometimes, they still do get worse. Sometimes, putting the clay on our eyes will make things worse. It will make things harder, and it will definitely make you feel a little uncomfortable. The clay that I am referring to is the power of the Atonement. Something I didn't recognize from this story is that before Jesus put the clay of the blind man/s face, he had to touch it. He had to experience it. He literally had to feel it. And in case you didn't catch the change, I'm not just talking about clay anymore. He has to feel every piece of "clay" he gives us. He knows what it takes to overcome our challenges in this life, and sometimes, it just takes a different kind of challenge. I know that this is true.

I would just like to add my testimony to the countless others that have gone before me. I know Christ lives, and He loves each of us. He cares about us, and only wants what's best for us. This life has been created so that each one of us can reach our highest potential. I know this is true. Keep pressing forward, and keep daring to dream. I'm a firm believer that God doesn't give us desires and dreams that we can't aspire to. We can obtain anything the Lord needs us to. Keep persevering. Christ will always be there with you. I know that this is true!

I hope you all have a great week! I love each and every one of you! Keep flying, and dare to dream on!

Elder Tolen
Photo after Music Night

The Most Vacant Place I Have Ever Seen in Tokyo!

 

Week 65 [74]: Bye Bye, Sister Samurai!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

This week, as you can see, Sister Samurai left! If you didn't know her, she was one of the sisters in my district, but her real mission call was to California, so she was just here waiting for her Visa, but she got it, and she left today after going to the temple! She is going to be a fantastic missionary in California. I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to learn for her this last transfer. In her place a new sister, Sister Neff, will be joining the district for the last week and a half before transfer day! That's insane! It's already transfer day! I can't believe it. I swear we just had transfers.

This week was pretty intense. We were running all over the place! There was so many things to do! The sisters had another baptism, so there was preparations made for that, and then we have a music night this Saturday that we are preparing for that I have to play the drum set for, so that will be exciting as well! There is a ton of preparation going into this music night, so I think it will turn out fantastic.

This week I also had the opportunity to go on splits with our Zone Leaders, so that was a lot of fun. Those two are fantastic missionaries. I respect each of them so much. They do so much for this zone, it's incredible. We had to end our splits a little bit early though, because we had zone meeting that day, and Elder Brown and I were giving a training.

Recently, I have been studying the books of Samuel in the Old Testament. I have learned quite a bit from it. Recently I read the story of David and Goliath. There is so much in that story that I had never recognized before. I really tried to make myself David. I tried to feel as he would feel, and think like he would think in thi situation. And I was terrified. Goliath comes in and demands a duel, because in ancient times, in order to avoid a gratuitous amount of casualties, opposing forces would pick champions, someone to represent their side, and they would pit their champions against each other, and whichever team's champion came out victorious was declared the winner.

So the Philistines chose Goliath and demanded a duel, and so for four days Israel searched for a champion, but to no avail. They couldn't find a single man who would be able to give Goliath a run for his money. King Saul was stuck. Around this time, David's mother sent him off to the war camp to give his brothers some food. David, upon seeing the situation decided to fight Goliath. Saul, who by this point was out of options, decided that there is no other way. He chose David as his champion.

He starts to place armor upon David, but David says that since the armor has not yet been proved, he cannot wear it. This was really interesting to me. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that maybe the armor had not been approved. God had not approved the armor. Sometimes, God asks us to do things that seem ridiculous, or maybe even impossible, like to take the 10ft tall Goliath on in hand-to-hand combat alone, with no visible means of protection, and in David's case, a weapon that seems pretty ill-fitted for the task at hand. So David, with a sling in one hand, and a staff in the other, accepts the challenge laid by Goliath. Now we have to realize that if he loses, that it doesn't only affect him, but his entire country looses their freedom. So David, with this burden on his shoulders, approaches Goliath. And we all know how the story ends.

I'm out of time, but what I'm trying to say is that no matter how impossible a situation may seem, or no matter how unprepared you may feel, the Lord will always be there with you. The Lord will prepare you. He will qualify you for his work.

I love you. Keep pressing forward. Don't be afraid of failure, because you will miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Keep living, and journey on.

Elder Tolen
Cleaning the Baptism Font

On Splits with Elder Christensen at a Member's House

Week 64 [73]: Onward, Ever Onward!

Monday, February 21, 2016

This week was fantastic! I'll summarize some of the highlights here pretty fast.

First! We had district meeting, and on the way back to the church to prepare district meeting Elder Brown and I both felt like we needed to go down a different road, so we started, and almost made it to the church, and we were wondering why the Spirit had led us down this road. And right as I was thinking that, I said hello to a man with headphones in. I guess he didn't hear me, because he didn't react, but in Japan it isn't too uncommon for people to ignore your existence in order to avoid you, so I thought he might be doing that. But as we kept walking, Elder a Brown tried once more, and got his attention, and it turns out, he has interest! We walked with him to the church and gave him a quick tour, and we were able to exchange contact information. It was a great faith-building experience for me.

Another experience we had was we were finally able to get an investigator we have been working with for a long time now to come to church! And! He had a great experience. He is literally a genius, and he is working for the Japanese equivalent to NASA, so it was great to work with him. We extended a baptismal date to him, but he doesn't think he's ready quite yet, so we will continue to work with him and help him increase his faith.

In today's letter, I would like to share a story that I received from a fellow servant in the Lord's vineyard. I think it's fiction, but it gets the point across nonetheless:

Does evil exist?

The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists? A student bravely replied, "Yes, he did!"


"God created everything? The professor asked.


"Yes sir," the student replied.


The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are then God is evil." The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.


Another student raised his hand and said, "Can I ask you a question professor?"


"Of course," replied the professor.


The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"


"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?" The students snickered at the young man's question.


The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."


The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"


The professor responded, "Of course it does."


The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."


Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"


Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."


To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."


The professor sat down.


The young man's name — Albert Einstein


God is always with us. He loves us and supports us. Evil is made by man. Evil is a choice. And every man has a choice. Like it says, "Evil is simply the absence of God." God did not create evil. We are all here for a purpose, and Lord has given us our agency as a tool that we can use to find it. Agency isn't inherently evil, but it can be used in the wrong way. We always need to make sure that we stay focused on what matters most in the eternal perspective of things. Always remember who we are, and what we stand for, so that when the time comes, we too can "return with honor."

This Gospel is true. And I know it is with all of my heart. Every single one of you is an inspiration to me. I am so grateful for all of your wonderful examples to me, especially when my faith was lacking, and wasn't enough to support its own weight. I hope all of you have a fantastic week. You mean more to me than you can imagine. Keep pressing forward. Go to the edge, because that's where the miracles are waiting.

I love you all,

Elder Tolen

希望を持ち続けてください。旅を続けてください。

Elder Brown Eating Ramen

Fuchu District Meeting