Elder Tolen's Transfer History

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


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

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


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


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! 


Week 66 [75]: The Healing Clay

Monday, March 6, 2016


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


Elder Brown Eating Ramen

Fuchu District Meeting

Week 63 [72]: Hastening, Not Maintaining

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hey! So the server was down this last Monday, so we all obtained permission to resend our weekly emails! So here it is!

Well, this week has been filled with many different experiences! It's been great. This week I've experienced weather that freezes you in your tracks, and I've also experienced weather that deserves short-sleeves! It was quite interesting.

This week we have been teaching like crazy. Elder Brown had an investigator that lives in a different area, but he hasn't met with missionaries in over a year and a half, at least until last week! We were able to meet him, get some Ramen, and teach him the restoration! It was a fantastic lesson, and he said he wants to meet again soon. He is basically fluent in English! So that is always a lot of fun. He is very prepared, and I'm excited to see how he progresses.

In some other news, we had a lesson with one of our recent converts, and it was great. He really opened up to us, and gave us some of his thoughts and struggles, and we were able to help him find some peace in this turmoil.

This week, something I've really been trying to focus on is hastening, not maintaining, the work of Salvation. That was something President Whiting was really stressing at the conference, that as the Lord's servants, we should never settle for just maintaining the work in an area, but rather really strive to hasten it. As we demonstrate our faith to the Lord, He will provide more opportunities for us to serve His children, but in order for Him to do that, He needs to know that He can trust us with the prepared children. Why would the Lord trust us with the big things, if we aren't even taking care of the small things? My testimony of this has grown exponentially over the course of my mission. I have personally seen the difference it makes in someone's life.

This last week, I was studying in the book of Jonah. I have really grown to love the Old Testament. It is such a rich source of knowledge. But anyways, at the end of the book of Jonah, he leaves the belly of the great fish, and begins to preach unto the people, and he tells them that if they don't repent, money will be destroyed. The people, after hearing this, have their hearts softened, and the entire city begins to fast and repent, and the Lord forgives them of their iniquities. This upsets Jonah, because he just told them they would all be destroyed, so now he thinks God has made him look like a liar. So Jonah goes outside of town, and sets up a little place where he can rest for a bit. During the day, there is a large gourd above his head, blocking the sun, and he really appreciates the gourd, but that night, as he slept, a worm destroyed the gourd, so when Jonah awoke and saw the gourd, he became angry. Then, in Jonah 4:9-11 the Lord gives him this counsel:

9  And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

This story really helped me realize the importance of keeping things in perspective. Sometimes, I think I'm a lot like Jonah, because I have many times where I get frustrated, or I get down about something, but when we look at things from an eternal perspective, we begin to grasp why things happen. All things have meaning. There isn't anything in this life without it. Sometimes we just won't recognize it right away, and sometimes, we might not even recognize it in this life, but I can promise you that it does have meaning.

I love each and every on of you! Keep pressing forward, because the Lord is right there pushing with you! You're all amazing!

Elder Tolen

FHE in the Fuchu Single Adult Ward!

A Lesson at the Hasegawa Family's House!