Elder Michael Thornton

Elder Michael Thornton
24 August 2011 to August 2013

Monday, January 30, 2012

Twenty-Third Letter Home 30 January 2012

Hey! I'm so excited to hear from all of you! Ha-ha, I'm gonna get a new little nephew! I'm stoked.

I'm having so much fun here in Fort Lewis. Today I saw three Green Berets at Subway. We have a bunch of people in the 160th SOAR in our Ward. They are the ones that infiltrate and ex-filtrate special ops; and we have a couple Army Rangers also. I feel like I'm in the movie “Black Hawk Down,” because I can always here M-16 fire and artillery in the back ground, and there are Black Hawk choppers flying around over head all the time.

Tracting here is so much fun. We taught 29 lessons last week; we gave out 9 Book of Mormons, and we have 7 people on date to be baptized in February! I love it.

The other day we showed up at the Church, and there were a bunch of non-member kids who got invited to the Church to play basketball by their friend who is investigating the gospel. Their friend is studying with the Lake City missionaries, and the Elders were taking their guy, the Kids’ friend, on a Church tour. I saw all these kids standing in the gym, so I was like, "hey, do you want to take a tour of the Church while you wait for your friend?" They said, “yeah.” So we took them on a tour and put them all on date. Two of them are looking like they’ll get baptized!

This is a super good area, but it is also a super easy area to be slothful. The members actually do invite us Missionaries over to watch movies and football games and stuff. My companion’s previous trainer (I'm his follow-up trainer) was a bit lax in following Mission rules. So I'm working on breaking some bad habits my companion inherited. He is a super good Missionary; he has a good attitude; he works hard, but he has gotten use to wasting time at members' houses and sleeping in and such. He's getting better though. It’s hard to be obedient and set good habits when your senior companion rented movies and stuff.

It all comes down to focus, and purpose. In this Mission you might think you can get away with breaking the rules and still get baptisms. A lot of Missionaries seem to do it. But obedience is about aligning your will with Heavenly Father's will. This is His work, and His glory.

"Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (3 Nephi 14: 21-23)  

Our eye must be single to the glory of God. We have to align our will with the Father's. This is the only way to truly be a successful Missionary, and to be truly successful in this life.

That's about all that is new with me. I'm doing fine. Our house only gets down to 40 degrees, and we do have a space heater, which we keep in our room, lol. We had a couple gangsters tell us they've got our backs if anyone messes with us. They call us Jesus people.

I love this place, my companion and I get along well, and we have fun. I’ll hit my six-month mark the 24th of February... Time flies when you're having fun.


Elder Thornton

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Twenty-Second Letter Home 23 January 2012

What's up guys?

This week has been crazy. We got about 10-inches of snow on Tuesday, and then we had an ice storm -- a Missouri-style ice storm. We lost power, which didn't really mean much since our house doesn't have heating anyway, and we got snowed in. We were freezing and super hungry. Microwaves don't work without power. The whole place went on "lock down." Not even the army did anything all week. A member family took us in, and we stayed the night with them in their home on the military base.

It was pretty fun though; before the ice storm hit we were able to go help some people out. We shoveled a drive way, built a snow man with some kids, and we were able to talk to a bunch of people because everyone was home. We found like three new investigators this week, which is unusual for me: I would go weeks without finding new people to teach in my last area.

I don't live on base, I live in a place called Tillicum, or Tilliancum, lol. Our house is tiny: you could fit the whole thing in my old apartment. We sleep in a bunk bed, and that's about it.

Tracting here is super fun though, people are either soldiers or local folks living in a poorer community. But the people are humble, and they have shown respect for us. They recognize us as "Jesus people." Even a gangster told us he had our backs if anyone messed with us, lol.

The soldiers are respectful, and most of them have served around LDS people. Those who haven't, have seen a lot of diversity throughout their service, so they are respectful of beliefs different than their own. I'm having a lot of fun here. Right now we are working on developing better Ward relations.

Our Mission plan and the Ward's don't coincide at all. We operate without the Ward, which makes retention of converts difficult, which thing really ticks the Ward members off. We are going to change that. Our job is to find, teach, and baptize, and the Ward's is to fellowship, nurture, and help people go to the Temple. If we aren't coordinated, the converts' progression will stop once they receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We had a super good Ward Council meeting. Missionaries hadn't attended Ward Council here for a long time, and I suggested that we schedule a weekly meeting between us, the big three, and the Bishop. The Ward members were excited about that. Anyways, this week was a little slow because of the weather, while at the same time we got a ton accomplished. In our District, we have two Elders on bikes and two Sister Missionaries. I'm way stoked for coming here this transfer.

Missionary disobedience is an issue here, however, and it is even harder to deal with when the members invite the Elders over to watch movies, watch the super bowl, and let them hang out at their houses. It has caused some problems for many Elders to focus on their Missionary commitment and responsibility.

My companion, Elder Bailey, is a brand new Elder. This is his second transfer, so I'm essentially his follow-up trainer. He is a good Elder. He works hard, and he is nice. He has a few bad habits that he inherited from his "semi-apostate" trainer, but he knows that I'm obedient, and he is willing to be obedient also.

That's about it, I love all of you. Have an awesome week. I'll give you my address once I know it; lol.


Elder Thornton

Monday, January 16, 2012

Twenty-First Letter Home 16 January 2012

Hey, How is everybody? 

I got my transfer call on Saturday night. Transfers are tomorrow at 2:00pm in Tacoma. They changed it to Tuesday, because that's when the missionaries enter the mission field now, as opposed to Monday. 

I'm getting transferred; I knew I would be. President Weaver told me I would be in the interview I had with him on Thursday. Ha-ha! He thought this was my second area. He forgot I've been here for four and a half months now. I'm a little nervous for my new assignment, I'm going to Fort Lewis, which is in Lakewood. The reason I'm nervous though is because I'm going in as the new District Leader. Anyways, my new companion will be Elder Bailey, and I believe he is one or two transfers younger than me. I'm excited for the new area. 

I can't wait to find the people that Heavenly Father has been preparing for us to teach. Missionary work is like a treasure hunt: you know there are people that are ready to hear the Gospel; you've just gotta find them. I've really enjoyed working in this area. I love the people, I love the members, and I especially love our recent converts. The Wards liked me here. A lot of people said I could come back and visit, and the bishop gave me a hug and thanked me for what I did for his Ward. Ha-ha, I didn't do anything; the Lord did. I've just been along for the ride. I'm gonna miss this place, but I know I'm gonna love Fort Lewis. 

I'll be able to work with a lot of soldiers. They need the Gospel — especially with all the ones that will be coming home from Iraq who have PTSD. The Love that Jesus Christ has for us is the only thing that can heal the emotional and physical trauma those men and women have been through. I pray that I can be an instrument in the Lords hands in bringing many people unto Him while I'm in Fort Lewis. 

I heard a really cool story today about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the second person in the history of the church was baptized there last Sunday. The Gospel is being spread by LDS service men there. In Iraq, when we first invaded, my Ward Mission Leader's son was in the initial invasion force. His group was halted in there advance by a huge sand storm in which the visibility was less than two feet in front of them. His group had to hunker down and wait out the storm. In the morning, after the storm blew over, the soldiers looked out and they saw that 100 feet in front of them was a huge mine field. The storm had blown all the sand away, and exposed the mines. If the sand storm hadn't hit, his entire unit would have been annihilated.  Cool huh? The Lord protected those soldiers. 

Anyways, this week has been kind of slow. We got cussed out while tracting the other day by a super rude dude. He had a fence around his yard, like everyone here, and he didn't have any posted signs. We went through the gate and knocked on his door, and he came to the window. He motioned for us to wait a minute. So we did, thinking he wanted to talk to us. He came out onto the porch very calmly, and then exploded. "Get the (%@!) off my porch you (%@!)-ing Mormons, (%@!)-you.... and on and on." Dude we would have left if you would have just shook your head "no" from the window. That's what everyone else does. Ha-ha, it was ridiculous! He was super angry. Elder Fosburgh wanted to dust his feet off, lol. He's been reading the D&C, and it says to do that if people don't receive you. I explained to him that you don't do that. Ammonihah stuff happens when you dust your feet off. So, he didn't dust his feet off, and that guy's house isn't a smoldering heap, lol. He'll get another chance to hear the Gospel in a few months. 

Anyways, the next time I right I'll have my new address and stuff. Have an awesome week, good job on reading the Book of Mormon.

Elder Thornton

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Twentieth Letter Home 09 January 2012

Hey guys, hows it going? This last week has been fun, but it has also been a little stressful, as always.

We had a baptism on Saturday, and a confirmation on Sunday! Sister J got baptized! I met her the last week of my first transfer, and I've been working with her since that time. She is an awesome lady, and she has a ton of faith. She would have gotten baptized last transfer, but she had to work on quiting smoking and drinking a little more.

She isn't completely over her addictions, but she is sincerely trying, and President said if she had a desire to be baptized, we should baptize her. She had a great desire, so we baptized her. She has made some very significant changes in her life, and her countenance is so much brighter now than it was when I first met her.

She'd had a rough life, and because of things that had happened to her, she didn't trust anyone. When I first met her, she was worried about her daughter who was addicted to meth, and living on the streets. We were teaching her about prayer, and the spirit told me to promise her that if she prayed for her daughter, that God would help her.

That Sunday was Fast Sunday, and she bore her testimony about how she had prayed for her daughter, and how the next day she got a call from the Sheriff telling her that they had arrested her daughter, and that she was going to be in jail for a while. Sister J realized that it was an answer to her prayer, because now she knew where her daughter was, and she knew she wouldn't be able to get drugs for awhile.

While Sister J's daughter was in jail, I arranged for the missionaries in that area to go and teach her. J's daughter is out now, and is thinking about baptism. She will have to do some work before she can do that, but you can see how the Lord answers sincere prayers, and how He works to bring his children back into His fold.

J says she doesn't trust anyone 100%, she is wary of everyone. But, she says she trusts me 100%, because when I make her promises they happen. I am so grateful that the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to work with her. I believe she is one of the people the Lord promised me were waiting to hear the Gospel from me. I am really excited for her, and for the leaps of progress she has made.

I am almost 100% sure that I'm getting transferred next Tuesday. Elder Fosburgh called the President the other day, and their conversation went like this:

President,"Who are you with in Port Townsend?" (He forgot about me)
Fosburgh, "Thornton."
President, "Oh, how long has he been there?"
Fosburgh, "He's been here his whole mission so far, its been like four and a half months."
President, "Oh... well, its probably time for him to move huh?"

So yeah, my guess is Gig Harbor on bike lol. It will be fun, I'm ready to go find the rest of the people I'm supposed to teach.

So, some of the missionaries in this Mission do things really against the Mission Rules like buy IPADs so they can get on the Internet. Now we aren't allowed to have IPODs any more. The Mission President cannot allow missionaries to use their IPODs to listen to inappropriate music, look at inappropriate things, and so on. So everyone has to send their IPODs home, or they will be sent home with their IPOD, and if their companion knows about it and doesn't report it, he too will be sent home with his companion and his companion's IPOD. You should be getting a package in the mail soon, lol. It really irritates me when people do dumb, selfish things that ruin it for everyone else.

Transfer day is on Tuesdays now, and I'll get my phone call this Saturday. I'll be able to Email you next Monday and tell you where I will be going next.

I'm really going to miss this place, I've fallen in love with this area, my investigators, the members of the Ward and especially our recent converts. But, I'm excited to go to the next place Heavenly Father wants to send me.

I hope all of you have a wonderful week; I love you.


Elder Thornton

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ninteenth Letter Home 03 January 2012

Hey, Its so good to hear from everybody. 

New Years for me was funny. I went to bed at 9pm, and then I was awaken at midnight by people yelling outside of my window. I was like super annoyed, and then I remembered it was New Years, so I smiled and went back to bed. 

On P-Day we went to Forks and Lapush as a zone. It was super fun. Lapush (the indian reservations) has beautiful beaches. It was pouring rain, but it was awesome. We should do a family vacation in Washington, and I'll show you guys these places. Gorgeous. 

Elder Fosburgh and I met Stephanie Meyers at church. I didn't know who she was, but I saw a new family so I went up and started talking to them. I introduced myself, and they introduced themselves as the Meyers. I didn't think anything of it, but Fosburgh is a bit of a "Twilight" nerd, so he got excited, lol. She seems a nice lady — kind of introverted. She lives in a super nice house on Marrowstone Island. We wanted to go teach her family our "rat-trap" object lesson, but she had already gone back to Arizona by the time we found her house. 

We have a baptism this Saturday: an investigator who I've been working with since transfer one is now getting baptized. I am so excited; I can't wait. 

This last transfer period hasn't been as fruitful as far as baptisms because of the holidays. No one wanted to meet until after New Years. We have a 10-person teaching pool, but we've been able to meet with hardly any lately. I believe after the next transfer will be very fruitful though, and I'll probably get transferred. The problem with staying in one area so long is that it is easy to get tied working with the same people, doing the same things, and it becomes difficult to not allow preconceived ideas about the investigators and the members to get in the way of the work. I'm working really hard not to allow that to happen to me. I'd kind of like to stay here, but at the same time I'm kind of ready to experience some other areas. Either way, I'll be happy. I really love my investigators, and the members of these Wards. The Port Townsend Ward has three kids leaving on Missions this year: one is going to Atlanta Georgia, another to Ireland and Scotland, and the third to the Philippines. I am super excited for them, there is nothing better than serving a mission. 

Our Tacoma Mission is a really young mission. Almost two-thirds of the missionaries are younger than six months out. One of the problems that the mission is facing is that many of the young missionaries feel as though making it to go on a mission was good enough, and that they can just endure these two years and then go home as "successful" missionaries. This is wrong, and it hinders the work because this kind of apathy takes away their excitement to share the gospel. They aren't as excited to find and teach people to baptize. 

Baptism is the difference between the Celestial kingdom and the Terrestrial and Telestrial kingdoms. If someone isn't baptized, they cannot live with God again. Our Mission President has told us that if someone has the desire to get baptized, we need to baptize them.  Even if the person goes in-active, their name will be on the records of the Church. They can be reached out to, and fellowshipped in the future. Our job as missionaries is to find, teach, and baptize. Its the members' job to fellowship the people we bring into the fold.  

I love being a missionary. I get to go out everyday, and point people in the direction of eternal happiness. Baptism is the first step on the only path to Heavenly Father. Missions aren't to be endured, they are to be enjoyed. There is so much to enjoy about being a missionary, and if you are constantly looking back, wishing you could watch movies, listen to your music, and date girls, you will miss out on a lot. These two years are the only time we have to give everything we have to God. When its over, we don't get to do this anymore. Its all about attitude, and living life in the moment. 

I'm glad that all of you have made a commitment to read the Book of Mormon. There is a lesson to be learned in every group of four verses. When you apply the teachings of the Book of Mormon to your own life, the book comes alive. It becomes as a "voice speaking from the dust..." just as Nephi says. I can testify to you that I've seen the Book of Mormon change lives. There is power in this book. If you read it and apply it, the devil will not have power over you. The Book of Mormon gives you a firm testimony of Jesus Christ, the rock upon which if we stand, we cannot fall (Helaman 5:12) And, the Book of Mormon gives us the tools we need to deflect the fiery darts of the adversary. You can't stand still and deflect darts, you'll get hit. Christ gives you the foundation and strength, tand His words in the Book of Mormon give you the skills you need to be victorious. 

I love you guys. I'm out of time. I've received all of the packages, I really appreciate them. I'll write more next week.


Elder Thornton