Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Benvenuti in Italia!

Whew. First week flew by!! There's enough to tell you that I could type all night...but, instead I'm just going to run down the list of things I wrote to tell you guys about. haha.

Okay, so basically the people here are amazing. We have some serious characters. One is the guy down on the corner. He's this bald old man who is a little bit dirty if you chat with him too much, but every day we say "Buon Giorno" to him, and never know what he'll respond with. My first day he responded with the same, but then another day he busted out the Bon Jour, and another time Buenos Dias. haha. So who knows. He's a funny dude.

I have a lot of other favorite people. Like the guy who owns the coffee shop down the road. I love everyone who works there, but the guy is the funniest. He always says, in English, that he's "keepin it gangster" hahaha.

Check this out: What do you think of when you think of Italy? Pasta. Random people playing the accordion.
And it's true!! Every day for lunch we eat pasta! haha. My companion is a way legit cook, and so he's been teaching me. Pasta's cheap, it's good, and it's totally Italian! haha. (By the way, my companion is half Italian) And random people playing accordion? In this last week I've seen four or five different people just walking around playing the accordion. hahaha. It's pretty crazy.

Our branch. So we have a pretty small branch. There are around 20 active members. I think in total there are around 40 or 50 members in the city. There will be a lot more pretty soon!! haha. We're so busy. We have tons of potential investigators, which will turn into progressing investigators, and then baptisms!!

But anyway, we also teach an English class two times a week that has about 60 people!! It's a great source of investigators. And I love our students. My companion speaks with an Australian accent, so at the classes we've had they always want to me to pronounce everything. hahaha. And then after I read something they all cheer! hahaha. I'm like a pronunciation hero. haha. I love it.

We taught one lady a private lesson the other day, and I thought that was weird, but then I realized why we did it. At the end of the lesson (like normal) my companion shared a spiritual thought. And then he started asking her about her relationship with God and she started to cry a little talking about how she used to believe in God, and now I think she's going to take the lessons!! It was pretty awesome.

We also had a powerful lesson with Gina the other day. She's been feeling far away from God, and my companion promised that if she reads the Book of Mormon every day she won't have that feeling any more, and then yesterday she said she's ready to be baptized soon, and now we have a lesson with her tonight!! I'm pretty sure she'll be my first baptism!

Anziano Connell has been here for four transfers already, so he basically knows the entire town, so we're pretty popular. haha. It's way sweet because most everyone actually likes us a lot.

Hey, so I remember a trick that Dad used to do where he'd ring the bells to get let into a building and then go door to door. Well, we basically did that, and it was way sweet. Because it's ridiculously cold here, and we have to go inside to get warm! We haven't had any success doing houses yet, but I enjoy it because it's easier than doing street because you don't have to chase people down so much. But we do a ton more street, and I'm starting to talk more. But it's hard to understand people sometimes.

We get around by walking, and then on occasion taking the bus. I'm definitely not going to be putting on weight here, that's for sure! The other day we did take the bus and went down around the mall, and then we went to catch some lunch. Check this out: My companion got a Big Mac, and I got pizza!! haha. I never thought anything like that would ever happen. I'm still pretty stoked on the food here.

Nutella. So good.

I learned a lot spiritually this week. It's a lot easier to recieve revelation when you really need it. Like to help an investigator. haha. So I gained some insight on following the Spirit that I'd like to share. Basically, it's how to follow the spirit.

Here's what I've found. First, of course, you have to be being obedient. Then you'll have an idea, and if it's a good thing, you should do it, and it may be the Spirit. Because we know that all good things come from God. If it's something that the choice doesn't matter (like it's not being disobedient, but it's not something you would normally do, or it seems like a random thought), then you should do it, cause it might be the Spirit. And of course if it's something bad then it's not the Spirit. And then as we all know, hindsight is 20/20, so then when you look back on the decision and it turns out it saved your life or something, then I'm sure it was the spirit. haha. So to help you trust the Spirit, you also need to trust yourself, and try not to get stuck into a routine.

Well, it's about time for me to go.

I'll just tell you one last thing. The coats that I wear aren't even mine! Instead of the trenchcoat I've been wearing dead missionary closet coats. haha. It's so awesome.

ciao ciao.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks!

p.s. This is a picture of me and my companion and a pandoro. It doesn't taste that awesome, but it's a traditional Christmas thing here. It is a sweet yeast bread dusted with vanilla scented icing sugar and is supposed to resemble a snowy mountain peak.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sono in Italia!

It's awesome. The weather in Catania was incredible. The mission home is sweet, and I'm now in my area, and have a new companion!!

First let me tell you about my first day. Nella bellisima città di Catania. We started by getting gelato and going for a walk alongside the sea. Then we went to the mission home. We were allowed to take a nap, but me and my collega weren't about to do that! We changed and juggled a soccer ball for about an hour and went exploring a little bit. Unfortunately there weren't any people to talk to in the area around the mission home.

Then that night is when we met our companions and got our areas. I of course wanted to stay in Sicily in the beautiful warm sole. And my old companion said he'd be fine with going more north because he likes the of course he got called down to the bottom of Sicily, and I was called here to the city of Cosenza. Of course, nothing like Anziano Kramer, Marzolla, and Rowland who were all called all the way to the Bari area.

Cosenza is actually pretty awesome. It's my understanding that it's a city of about 150K, and there are only us two, and then a senior couple. It's a little chilly, but not horrible. It gives me a good chance to sport the trenchcoat.

My companion. He's from Melbourne and has been here for...I think a year and half. He's pretty awesome. His Italian is amazing, so I'm very excited to learn from him. He's also very outgoing and loves street contacting.
He's the Zone Leader, and he may also be the district leader. haha.

Our apartment is very comfortable. There were originally four missionaries here, but now there are just two. I'll probably end up staying here for about three transfers or something. So it's pretty cool.

More about the city. Apparently there is a very small branch here of about 20. But check this out: We have three progressing investigators that are basically ready for baptism, and we also have 6 people that we need to teach the first lesson to!! haha.

My companion said I was born into a great city because the work goes well here. I'm stoked about it.

As far as my Italian thank goodness I'm not in Rome because I'd freeze. But there is one reason why it would be good. Because in Rome they speak really clear Italian. I spoke with a lady on the flight and let me say first, the Italian language really sounds so beautiful, but she also spoke very clearly. Since coming down here I've found that people are quite difficult to understand. But, I am able to pick up some things. I'll let you know how it's going next week. We spoke to a couple girls from Romania and I could hardly tell what they were saying (but their Italian wasn't very good), and we also spoke to an old man on the train who was hard to understand, but I guess all the old people tend to speak in dialect.

Italy really is beautiful. I wanted to jump into the Sea as we crossed it from Sicily to the mainland.

I'm gonna go ahead and say it. I've said it before. I'm livin the dream. Most of us in our district can't believe that we're really here. I've also figured out what to say to get a response from people "Buon Giorno", because Salve sure as heck didn't work, and Ciao doesn't work all that well.

Okay, as for the Chinese. I need to review my Chinese Gospel words because it looks like I'm going to be able to use it!! Yeah, there's not a ton of chinese, but yeah, they also all own chinese stores that stand out and we're going to go to all the ones in the city, and I guess there's actually quite a few. They have chinese materials in the mission home, and they even had the Chinese missionary phrasebook. haha. Which I went to quite a bit of trouble to get ahold of while I was in the MTC.

I think we're going to get Kebabs tomorrow. Which is my favorite that's awesome.

Other than that...I don't know too much else to tell you. This place doesn't seem too ridiculously foreign. There are a lot of things that are just the same as other islands and places by the sea, and a lot of things remind me of Taiwan.

The computer keyboard has a couple things weird about it. But it's not too bad. I think maybe I should just write these letters in Italian because that would be easier. : ) sto scherzando!

Ma, seriamente, lo sarò più facile.


Okay, well let me know if there's anything else you want to know.

Here's the address to use here (This is for my apartment in Cosenza, I'll let you know when I transfer, but even then the missionaries would still get it to me, so this will be fine for awhile)

66 Via D. Frugiuele
87100 Cosenza

Hey, one other cool thing. They have these things called dead missionary closets and there's tons of free stuff there. I found two suits that fit me! One olive colored one, and one black. But in the end I decided not to take them just because I already have two, you know? But I have mission coference in a couple weeks so maybe I'll trade a suit depending on how I feel then. I just didn't feel like carrying another. I scored a new coat. It's pretty sweet. I also got a couple new long-sleeve shirts and one short sleeve. (I needed them because my neck size changed in the MTC). There are also a lot of extra coats in our apartment so I can mix it up sometimes. You know, stile. Btw, my neck size changed because I got in really good shape in the MTC. I can seriously almost do a hand-stand push-up! And as it turns out, missionaries don't even put on weight here because we're always walking around!!

Hey, and check this out: All our assumptions about Italy couldn't be further from the truth! Not only do we have those people that will be baptized, but we always get meal appointments all the time. My companion just had a week where he had one every day! It helps that he lots of relatives here. His mom is from Cosenza, and so all his aunts and uncles are here. He always shares a spiritual thought with them, and they enjoy the visits, but they don't have much interest in the church.

We have English classes every Tuesday and Thursday, and attendance is great. We give people the option to stay for the spiritual thought, and most do. I'm really excited for those.

I think we also play calcio with locals every week. And we're going to try and set up a zone soccer match.

Basically everything is just about as close to perfect as it can be.

We also have a cell phone!

Hope all is well with you. I don't have too much jetlag because I did everything I could to adjust.

Sorry I don't have any pictures to send, but I lost my camera at first. Don't worry though, I found it, and I'll be sure to send some photos in the next e-mail. Of course, that's if I can find the card reader.

My companion is on his fifth transfer here, so he knows everyone who lives around us in all the stores, et cetera, so it's pretty awesome. I lead a charmed life. I really can't think of any way my mission could be better. I guess it kind of stinks making the bed and whatnot.

I enjoyed my stay in the MTC, but I'm so glad to be out in the field. SYL with a fluent speaker is so nice. I'm excited to do that. We did it for a little while today and it was sweet.

One thing I've noticed here is that they speak very..idk, casually. Like they'll leave off the ends of words and such.
You know how Italian has extra letters on all their words? Well it seems like here they like to just drop the last letter. haha. It's pretty good.

Anyway, until next week! Things are great for me. And they say that whatever the blessings the Lord doesn't give you on you mission are either saved for after your mission or they're going to your family! Allora, penso tutto ben.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Off to Italia!

I'm finally in Italia! We left the MTC at 4am on Monday and got through security at about 6:30. And Lia was there. But, it was all good because I was way hungry on the flight so all those snacks were awesome. Plus, no one really cared, they were just jealous their family didn't have a way to go through security and wait at the gate with them.

The flights were good. Btw, I think I illegally smuggled fruit and meat into the country. They have really lax customs here.

More later. Ciao!

Anziano Banks

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Travel Plans!

Last P-day in the MTC!!! (Ottimo)

First let me hit you with the flight plans. Here's the date: Monday, the 7th of December. We leave the MTC at 4 in the morning!!! As far as flight plans go: I'm going to be flying out of SLC something like 7 in the morning, then I'll go to Altanta Georgia. Chill there for 3 or 4 hours, call home, pass out some pamphlets, maybe a Book of Mormon, who knows :). That'll be from 12:41 PM to 3:35 PM in Georgia, after which we'll fly to Rome, arrive at 7 in the morning, and then we'll fly down to Catania at 9, get there around 10.
Long travel day!

Now let me tell you about the week, because it was quite eventful.

First off, we had two Apostles come talk to us. Elder Oaks and Elder Holland. It was pretty awesome. They both had a lot of good things to say. I don't know if there are any quotes from them that will help you out too much though. Mostly missionary directed. One cool one that Elder Holland said was that Foreknowledge is not predestination. It's like if you saw a car accident, that doesn't mean that you caused it. And God with all his power may warn one of the drivers, but the driver still has to choose to listen. Anyway, I thought that was cool.

Okay, now for one of my highlights: Anziano Rowland got put in quarantine!!! hahaha. He doesn't have swine flu, just the normal flu, but they still put him in for five days. We skype him into our classes. It's pretty funny.

The real highlight of this week though must be when me and my companion got to teach an actual investigator!! It was awesome. We taught Fratello Auna's friend Josh. The Spirit was really strong and we bore testimony a lot, and he's going to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. (And he really is too. He's been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but he's going to read the Book of Mormon now) It was AMAZING. I can't wait to go teach more real investigators in person. It was really cool.

I also had the opportunity to speak in church this week. That went really well. I guess my talk was pretty funny, and my Italian flowed really smooth. I wish I could just record myself talking because I'm pretty sure it would sound sweet if you don't understand it.

Speaking of the language, it's going really well. Just like how I said missionaries need to not try and fight the system, the same goes for learning a language! Some missionaries always question why they say it that way, or how is that right, but the thing is that it's a different language and they talk with different rules, and so instead of questioning all the rules, you should just learn them.

So the secret of learning a language? Well, you just need to use it, and not try and form it into English. Something really cool happened to me the other day (btw, we've been doing all SYL now), I decided to try and think in Italian, and I totally did!!! It was sweet. I can't express myself as much as I'd like, but I can go pretty well. We had our last TRC lesson yesterday and there was a couple spouts where I was able to say exactly what I wanted just fine.

Another cool thing is me and Anziano Garcia translated "Is this love" by Bob Marley on the spot. I know, i know, it's not a church song, but it was way sweet because we translated it while we sang!! It was cool. Translating songs is really cool.

Hey, one thing I just remembered. So there's that scripture in D&C 131 or something about reproving betimes with sharpness. Well, Brother West used the analogy of an HDTV for sharpness, and I totally couldn't relate at all!! So I'm pretty sure what we can take from that is that we need an HDTV before I come home. hahaha. (seriously though, we should get one, that would be sweet)

My life is awesome!

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ciao, Ciao, Ciao!


So I'll work on getting more interesting with my titles, but we really just say Ciao all the time.

Like always, I've been keeping very busy. This last we we got the 36 new portuguese Elders+Sisters, along with one Italian Elder, and one Italian Sister. That was pretty crazy. Whereas before our sacrament was empty except a few rows (we had maybe ..20 Italians), now the whole congregation is filled (We now have the extra 60-70 Portuguese).

One thing we do each week is write a talk in our mission language. So this week we actually had talks given in portuguese. hahaha. It's about the funniest language on the planet. Per esempio, instead of saying "molto bene", they say "muito Beam" Or something like that. It sounds hilarious. Instead of "Ottimo" they say "Oigimo" And instead of "Calcio" they say "Foogie Ball" hahaha. So it's all just pretty hilarious.

It was very hard to focus while they were giving their talks.

I'm starting to get extremely comfortable with everything we do here. Whether it be teaching lessons, practicing street contacting, or just whatever. I know it will be different in the field, but the fact that I've gotten comfortable with it all here makes me feel good about everything, and I know I'll get comfortable in Italy quickly.

One funny thing that happened this week: Me and my companion were going to teach the second lesson in ENGLISH because we were going to teach my teacher's friend, but then, about 15 minutes before the lesson we found out that the friend didn't make it, and then we had to teach in Italian!! We hadn't prepared a lesson at all. We hadn't studied for it this week. haha. So we prayed, and then we had a sweet lesson. The investigators we taught were really funny. He asked if I was Indian, then when I told him I was Chinese he was like, you know noodles actually came from the Chinese and stuff. haha.

My Italian is coming along great. From now on we do SYL everyday. So..we don't really speak in English. Not everyone in our district is the best about following it, but I think we do alright. I'm getting better at expressing myself in Italian, and the other day I talked to an RM from Catania that's only been home for 1 1/2 weeks and I could understand everything he said way clearly! And that's the mission I'm going to so....questo è otttimo.

Apparently we'll be receiving our flight plans in three days. So that's pretty awesome.

So a few more things about this week. I don't have a thesaurus, so I can't look up the antonym of "highlight," but whatever it is...the opposite of highlight this last week is that Sorella Prina went home. She'll be back, but she went home to recover because she can't eat anything. It stinks cause she was supposed to go to Italy two weeks ago!

One thing that was a highlight was that we learned some Italian sign language. So that's pretty cool. I actually really hope I meet a deaf person in Italy, cause I'll totally ask them how they're doing...and that's about all I can do. I can also say hello to about anyone I meet. So far me and Anziano Rowland are up to 24 languages. Including quite a few I had never heard of, like Kurdish and some Filipino one besides Tagalog. I've also started reading Siate Fedeli, or True to the Faith in Italian. It's awesome. I can understand most of it.

Sorry if my e-mails seem cut off sometimes but we run out of time and I have to just send it.
Okay, I really must go.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Pictures!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Zone Life


So I'm keeping really busy nowadays. There are a ridiculous amount of Portuguese missionaries that can't get to Brazil. So we just had 38 join our Branch this last week, and we're going to be having another 30-something coming in tomorrow. And...of course I have to talk to them for a couple hours, tell them about the MTC, give them a tour and the like.

So keeping busy.

This last week flew by. The highlight though is for mom. Guess who I saw here!!! Do you remember those Elders we took to McDonalds when we were in Taiwan with Clark?? Well now they're both Chinese teachers here at the MTC. haha. So one of them recognized me last week and it was really cool. We also got in 30 new missionaries that are going to Taiwan this last week. A couple have taken Chinese, but they were still blown away when I went and chatted with them. I realized I can bear my testimony in Chinese pretty well actually. I would really like to have a Chinese Book of Mormon, just in case I meet any Chinese people while I'm in Italy. Cause I'm sure I could place it.

Really exciting news? I believe I'm going to receive my flight plans this week! So that will be awesome.

I've received some awesome packages and letters lately, which I very much appreciate!! Such a nice surprise. I got cookies from Grandma, a couple weeks ago I got cookies from Sister Buss, and I also got candy from the Gillette family. It's pretty sweet.

I've been trying to decide when I should break this news to you...but...okay. hahaha. So I've been working out a lot lately (every morning, plus an hour every day of soccer, basketball, or more working out). And I didn't realize something until it was too late! I want to be able to do a hand stand push up before I get out of here, but it turns out that working out overhead makes your neck bigger!!! So I no longer fit into a 15 1/2!! hahaha. But the good news is I got this "button extender" that seems to work alright. But yeah, it's pretty nuts. In a couple weeks I'll let you know all the physical goals I've accomplished here because they're actually pretty phenomenal. I've put on a little over twelve pounds, but I can assure you that I've only lost fat. So it's pretty cool.

I accomplished a sweet goal this week!! I have now seen over 50 people here that I know! (People that I actually remember their names too, haha). I was hoping to see over 50 before I left the MTC, but I already have. I love it here.

One more thing. Soccer has been favoloso. I love it. The new portuguese Elders in our Branch are pretty good, and so it's really fun to play with them. It's been snowing here, but it melts so we're still able to play. Except Anziano Garcia, Anziano Garvin, and I manage to do alright. My companion (Elder Garvin) did something really funny yesterday during soccer: Okay, so first he kicks the ball out of the air, and it hits some big guy in the face and knocks him down. THEN, my companion runs to the ball, without looking kicks it towards the goal, and right then that same guy was standing up and he got hit in the face!! hahaha. It was so funny. The kid was alright. So that was good.

One thing I forgot to tell you is that we once again had a lesson tutto in Italiano. And I'll tell you what, I'm feeling pretty good about it. I can understand pretty well, and I can also communicate most of what I can say. I can also ask some pretty killer questions in Italian that have been really helping me get some good responses. There's a ton more to learn, but I really feel quite prepared. We're doing three SYL days this week. So that should be good. Our last ones have gone really well. Discussing a fairly wide variety of subjects.

The Spirit is great. I really like the firesides still. I've been singing in the choir with Elder Ben Savio at all of them. I love that kid. So much fun. He seems to be doing great.

We had a quick health scare the other day. Anziano Rowland got sick, but it wasn't swine flu, so he didn't have to get quarantined. But check this out. There is one sister that didn't leave today with the others because she is having some health problems. But she will go to Italy in 2 weeks. Other than her, we are now the oldest Italians here.

Pretty cool.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks

P.S. Grazie mille per tutte le cose

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Awesome Happenings

Come sta questa settimana scorsa?!

Things have been awesome here. Yesterday we gave the first lesson tutto in Italiano. It was way sweet. The guy we had was really cool and pretty funny. Some highlights from the lesson: When I told him the first vision in Joseph Smith's own words (translated to Italian), from memory but at a comfortable pace so the investigator (william) could soak it in. That was really powerful.

Me and my companion kept saying that Joseph Smith "ha volato" instead of "ha voluto", which means he flew instead of he wanted. haha. So the investigator was like "Joseph Smith ha volato??" And he waved his arms like flying. It was pretty funny.

The lesson went really well though. I also busted out a smooth flow of Italian because he thought all we needed was the Bible and he loved the Bible, and I was like, I know the Bible blesses our lives and is the word of God, but I also know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Gesu Cristo and that it blesses are lives, and how much better is it to have even more words of God?! And he was like "haha, yeah that's true." And then he said he wants to read the book of mormon and pray about it.

And at the end of the lesson we knelt in prayer and we had him offer it, and I got a cramp in my leg.

That was during the TRC, so it was just practice. Now let me tell you about a couple of real investigators. Wilma from NY, and Brian from Minnesota. I talked to them while I was in the Referral Center. I'm serious, you guys should log onto the chat on if you ever have and gospel questions.

So Wilma was this lady, from Trinidad or Jamaica or something, who wanted a Finding Faith in Christ DVD. And so I was like, could we send some representatives over to deliver it, and to share a message about Jesus Christ? And she was like "Yeah, I'd really enjoy talking about Jesus" And then I found out she has a mormon friend, and she has a friend who may also be interested, and basically it was pretty sweet.

On chat I talked with Brian. He's a cool kid. Catholic. He had a lot of concerns about the afterlife. The highlight from that conversation is when he told me that he's catholic, but it's all the same God...And so I told him that's cool, I have a lot of catholic friends. And then I invited him to come worship with us sometime, and told him I think he'd enjoy it. And I'm totally sure he went to church last week, and he still had a lot of questions so I told him any of the members could answer them for him, or he should talk to the missionaries. So...BOOM!! That was sweet.

OH!!! BIG NEWS. I'm a Zone Leader now! haha. That was this last week. So that's pretty cool. Turns out it's about a hundred times better than being a District Leader because you don't have to do as much, but you get more respect. haha. So that's pretty cool.

I'm healthy as ever. This may sound ridiculo, but I really drink 1 or 2 V8's every day. I also have a grapefruit every morning, and basically it's awesome.

We also had our one month anniversary. I've been here awhile now. That first month flew by, as I'm sure the next one will as well. I really just want to get to Italy. It's going to be so awesome.

Let's see...what else to tell you about., Have I told you how amazing our classroom is? We totally have the best one in the MTC. For one, we have the most decorations. A couple of the Anziani in our district are pretty sly about snagging some from other rooms, and it's way good. We also have the best markers. Anziano Rowland's mom sent us a package of different colored expo markers so that's sweet. We also found a way to get some sweet soft chairs.

And we listen to Music with a message all the time which is so good, and you should really check it out. They just came out with a new one!! Joseph Smith.

Ciao Ciao Ciao!

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wow, a full week!


I kept really busy this last week. And so I guess I'll just start telling you how eventful it was!!

First, tuesday night. We had a general authority come teach us about teaching. haha. Elder L. Tom Perry. That was pretty awesome. I sang in the MTC choir, and we sang Lead Kindly Light. It was pretty cool.

We also got new missionaries in our district. Four sorelle, and one anziano. He's from australia. haha. Melbourne.

On thursday the highlight was calcio. I don't know if I've told you, but mio collega is a killer soccer player. So me and Anziano Marzolla were both running at him and he faked us out, and then my cheek hit Anziano Marzolla's forehead!!! It was pretty crazy. But I bounce back quick, and it was a fun game.

On friday it snowed. Exciting for my district leader who's never seen it snow, but I wasn't loving it. The only cool thing is I got to wear my trenchcoat which worked out well.

Saturday was amazing. We had a zone conference. I can't help but tell you some of the quotes that we heard that really hit me, that I think are very helpful:

"Sometimes, fear of rejection or of giving offense looms before us like an impassable obstacle"
-President Henry B. Eyring

Something to think about.

The other one I really loved was this:
"We should live to possess the Spirit daily, hourly, and at every moment...which makes the path of life easy."
-Brigham Young

Sunday. I love sundays. Especially because it was fast Sunday!! So I got to bear my testimony in Italian, and the main thing I said was that la chiesa e vera, e quello semplice. The church is true, it's that simple. And lately we've been learning that what it all comes down to is just whether or not the book of mormon is true. And it is. So Joseph Smith was a prophet, and our church is true!

One thing for fast sunday is that we had mission conference. My favorite thing there was the noise. We were asked to all open up to a scripture, and it sounded way cool. Have you ever heard a couple thousand scripture pages being flipped? It was like a bunch of farfalle or something. Way cool. A very nice fluttering noise. : )

Okay, so this last week I found a ton of scriptures I wanted to share with you, and I would love to tell you some funny stories, but I loved these scriptures and I've never found so many like this before, so I thought I should share them.

2 Nephi 31:3 -Talks about how Nephi loves plainness, which I can totally relate because I think a lot of people complicate the gospel

Matthew 18:20 - About wherever there are two or three, there is the Lord. And on missions there are always two of us!!

Matthew 7:3-5 - This is one we hear a lot, but I think it's way important that we're careful not to judge others.

Ether 12:4 - I like how it's like, if you believe in God, than there's hope for a better world. Which if everyone did, I know we would have a better world.

Matthew 17:20, 21 - This is the one about faith as a mustard seed can move mountains. But what really stood out to me was the second verse. Because you can't just have that little bit of faith, you also need to do something. Like ...PRAY!!! And fast.

I also think something you should check out is Music w/a message. So good!! We listen to it all the time. You just go to, and then on the right side is the mormon channel, and then go to music with a message. I really like the Jesus Christ - Friend, and I like the service one. If you need some Sunday music it's perfect. Plus they all have good principles.

Hey!! I almost forgot something really exciting!!!! As of last tuesday, I can roll my 'R'!!! It's awesome. This language is really coming for me.

I also have a new favorite hymn. It's number 293. It's about having good friends, which I have definitely been blessed with amazing friends (um...they're basically all on missions right now!!)

Okay, so I'm almost out of time. But I've got something funny for you. The Spanish-speaking elders. Oh my. So in Italian "ciao" means hello or goodbye, but apparently in Spanish it just means goodbye, so they think we're being rude when we say ciao. haha. And the other one is that they say "bien", and we say "benne" And so when they ask how we're doing, and I say molto benne, I've actually been corrected before that I should say "bien". What a joke. haha.

They also have reminded me to turn off the lights in the bathroom because it's 10:15, and that's quiet time. (But "lights out" is at 10:30) So...idk. They're funny.

Well, I guess I better get off.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks. : )

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Healthy, happy, and speaking Italian!


So I just got a package (like 2 minutes ago), and I'll tell you what, I am one happy Anziano. I love packages!

So good.

I think I'm starting to run out of things to say!! Because we have the same schedule every week, and we do the same things. (learn Italian, learn Preach my Gospel e giocamo calcio)'s pretty much AWESOME!! haha.

But one of my highlights was last tuesday night. In my e-mail I had mentioned a little bit about planning. WELL, the entire fireside was about planning!! I think you'll like this: The guy said planners are just like the Liahona. So read Alma 37:38-43 (I think), and check it out.

Also, look at the chapter headings for Abraham 4+5. I talks about how God plans before he does things. much more do we need to plan before we do things!! It reminds me of that scripture about how Jesus was even baptized, so how much more important is it that we are baptized!!! (2 Nefi 31:5)

So the Italiano is coming along nicely. We're going to try and SYL until noon tomorrow. That means only speaking Italian. Crazy. But I think we'll do alright.

Anyways, a highlight for the week was definitely the obstacle course. Blindfolded, led by the directions given by your companion in Italian. It was CRAZY. Cause it was also a race, and so of course we were running. I didn't hurt myself too bad. My companion ran into a wall, and that was pretty funny. The highlight was definitely when I was telling Sorella Miller where to go and I told her "Avanti! Salti!" Which means "Forward! Jump!" and she cleared a tipped over trash can. Que Ottimo!

Now that I think about it...there are tons of things to tell you about! But I really want to give you guys some character descriptions of my district. At least brief ones.

So here's everyone:

Anziano Garvin: My companion. He's from Elko, NV. He loves the Gospel, he loves obedience, he loves to talk a lot in response to questions in class.He's very motivated, and he's basically the ideal companion. I'm in the best shape of my life right now because we work out every morning and he pushes me so much when we play soccer.

Anziano Marzolla: He's from Germany. He's really funny. He's a pretty good soccer player, and he is really efficient when it comes to the Gospel. I like that. When he does work, he does work. He is also half Italian, and can understand it quite well. He speaks really good English.

Anziano Rowland aka Capo Distretto: He's our district leader. He's from Kissimmee Florida. He loves drumming, and he is usually laying down a beat while he studies. His mom makes awesome cookies and sends us a lot of them. He also has some really crazy cool stories, and he's taken two years of Italian.

Sorella Miller: She didn't show up until a couple days after we arrived. She is a "solo" sister. i.e. She doesn't have an official companion, and she's allowed to be alone as long as she's with our district. She speaks fluent Spanish and is from Denver Colorado. She's really good at focusing, and she also likes to respond a lot in class. Her Italian is coming along really well (cause it's a lot like spanish). She also loves to play soccer, but she can't play with us because sisters can't play with elders.

Anziano Garcia: (pronounced Garthia) haha. He's from Spain. He's really good at soccer, and he's an amazing artist. His English isn't that great, but his Italian he definitely has the advantage because our teachers said they're going to start teaching in only Italian soon. When I say he's an amazing artist, I mean it. He's way sweet. He has a very organized mind. Like statistics and graphs. He is also really funny.

(Battessimo! Adesso!) hahaha.

Anziano Kramer: He's from Tennessee, and he spent his last year studying music at BYU-Provo. Like opera style singing. He's taken a semester of Italian pronunciation, so that gives him some advantage. He loves to sing about EVERYTHING. (think: "Anziano Banks is writing in his jourNAAALL") haha. But he's cool. He knows a ton about scriptures, and quotes.

Then there are our two teachers:

Fratello Auna: From Kona, HI. He was a legend in the Rome mission (so I've heard from people who served with him). He didn't hold back, and rocked the mission. He's very passionate about the Gospel. I think he's also a pretty mean Basketball player, and he's good at beat boxing and a little gliding.

Sorella Birdsall: She's from Utah. She seems to be really good at connecting, and she's also really good at covering a lot of material and making sure everyone gets it. We usually have her in the evenings and it's always a joy to see her.
She pushes us quite a bit with our Italian. The other night we had to teach her about the Atonement in Italian. She would do one person at a time and it was pretty crazy. It went really well. Good practice.

Anyway, I'm about out of time. But I think those references will help you get an idea of who I'm talking about. Be sure to keep in touch, and keep me in your prayers.

I'm healthy, happy, and speaking Italian, so I guess you can't really ask for more!! : ) haha.

So que la chiesa e vero. E so que Dio ci Ama.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Hola Familia!!

oh sorry.

Ciao Famiglia!!

I get so confused with all these languages running through my head!! We have two Spanish speakers in our district. (One being from spain- haa)

Anyway, let me tell you about my week!!

I went to this place called the referral center. It's totally awesome!! We get to chat with people who are, and just answer whatever questions they might have. You should seriously use it--it's bomb. We love chatting with you, and some of these missionaries will do a really good job helping you! And who knows? Maybe you'll get to chat with me!

My highlight for the week:
We were doing some practice scenarios in Italian. The situation was someone was at a bus stop holding a photo of their family. You talk to them about their family and then bring up the Gospel. (That's right, we're learning a ton of Italian!) So anyway, I found out my collega is hilarious. He says "You have a beautiful family--how would you feel if they died?" hahahaha. So funny.

The other funny highlight I had this week was with Anziano Garcia (the one from spain). We were teaching someone and as soon as we walked up he starts saying "Tu Battessimo! Tu Battessimo adesso!!" hahaha. It was so funny. That means You-baptism-now! It was great.

But seriously, these activities really help us practice and I promise we take them seriously most of the time and they're very helpful. Especially when we go in the Training Resource Center. And we had another great time in there this last week, and the Italian portion went about 100 times better than last week.

What's my favorite activity every day? Well..probably calcio. But after that, I really love to plan!! It's so great. We have these little planners and we plan out our entire days and set goals. You've got to try it. We accomplish so much more than there's any way we could otherwise.

I have the whole first vision memorized in Italian!! We used it in our lesson at the TRC. It was powerful.

So one thing I've noticed here is that I haven't been having any problems. I mean, I've been pretty tired the last couple days, but besides that I just love everything about the place!! (Oh my goodness, the trees are gorgeous. Bellissimo! I love fall).

What I have also noticed is that there are a couple missionaries that really struggle and that they miss their family and stuff like that. Do you know why? I'll tell you why! It's all about obedience. I've just been really obedient. Why try and fight it? Obviously all the rules were given through inspiration, and it's not like they're really that strict. Although I will admit that it's tough to have no music at all because it's been banned from the MTC. But these Elders just don't go to bed or class on time, and they don't stay focused and studying, and they'll spend study time looking at pictures or something, and it's like: HELLO!!! I would miss people too if I spent all day looking at photos of them! But I've only pulled out my photos three times just to show people. And Elder Hollland said "Obedience is the first law of missionary work" but then he said that actually "Obedience is the first law of everything" And if you check out D+C 130:20, 21 you'll see that through obedience you get blessings. And I know I've been getting blessings and that through obedience and prayer things have just been going really well for me.

I need to tell you some more about Calcio. It's awesome. We have some killer players in my district, and I've also been playing really well because I've been throwing a lot of energy into it. Might as well, we only have about an hour to excercise every day.

As far as scripture study goes, I got a copy of True to the Faith from my collega, and I've been using that quite a bit. It's still my favorite gospel reference!! So good.

One crazy thing is today we got a bad rating on our room! Last time we had a "celestial" and this time all we got was acceptable. It was the worst it's ever looked---because it's P-day! But anyway, mio capo distretto (District Leader) said something really funny the other morning after we had to do linen exchange. He and I both have top bunks which are pretty hard to make. He said "It's gonna take me like 30 minutes to make my bed" hahaha. Anziano Rowland...funny guy.

I really have a pretty hilarious district. It's sweet. When mio collega said that thing about families I laughed harder than I've laughed in over a year I bet! It was crazy.

I guess my times coming to a close.

Basically, I'm just having a good time here. The last week FLEW by, and as I'm sure the rest of the mission will. I'm very busy, which is very good.

I love you.

Scegli il ben.

Read your scriptures.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks

p.s. I forgot to mention that I did see Craig Tippets in passing and he looks good. I also have seen a ton more people and that's been great. I'm molto felice! Ciao!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


So we are amassatto! Which means tight.

It's why I have my fingers crossed in one picture. Me and my companion are in a photo. His name is Elder Garvin. Anyway, hope you guys get the pictures and you like them!

Love you guys!
I love the church!

The church is true!!


First Letter!


So i seriously only have 25 minutes to e-mail you and the timer goes down fast, and this keyboard sticks!!!

So I'll try to get to everything. The MTC is AMAZING!! I can't believe how much i love it! As soon as i got here I kept seeing people I know, and now i have seen a total of 26 people that I knew by name before I came into the MTC!! i love it. the spirit here is incredible.

My district is pretty awesome. There are six of us anziani, and one sorella. We have some diverse talents, and we all seem to get along really well. i love my companion! He is so solid in the gospel, and he's a straight up scriptorian. He knows a ton about the church. And knows all the scriptures you could ever need to know!

My companion was pretty funny. When I got the letter from mom he glanced over and said "who's that? She's a cutie" hahaha.

My Italiano is starting to come along. I can bear my testimony. Io so che il libro di mormon e vero! Io so che la chiesa e vera. I can also kind of pray, and of course do introductions and stuff. I also have the missionary purpose memorized in italian.

So far i haven't had any problems missing home or anything. i pray often, and that's all you really need. The gospel is SO SIMPLE! All you have to do to convert someone is get them to feel the spirit, then read the book of mormon and pray about it with a sincere desire to know. Like it says in Moroni 10:3-5. Our teacher, Sorella Birdsall said that all they even need is a desire to have a desire, and then if we can create an environment where they can feel the spirit, then it'll work!

Which reminds me of something I really want to tell you about! We did our first day in the Training resource center yesterday! First we had to talk with someone in Italian for 15 minutes, and that was really rough, but then we got to give a 40-minute lesson on the restoration. It was AMAZING! I feel like if I was speaking english, I'm already ready to do this! I love it! We started with a prayer, taught the guy a lesson, bore testimony often and prayed for each other during the lesson, and then at the end he was actually willing to offer the prayer for us, and accepted our challenge to read the last couple paragraphs in the intro to the book of mormon and pray about it. And I know it was fake and the guy was already a member, but the spirit wasn't fake, and he acted like a real investigator, like we had to work to get him to open up more and stuff. I will admit he was pretty receptive. It helps that he already had a testimony of Jesus Christ.

Okay, so i'm sure you're all wondering about the food. I am very happily surprised to say that it is AWESOME! Bennissimo! I've been trying to eat more healthy. My companion and I both help each other by eating salad and stuff like that.

And I'm not going to get fat in the MTC. i've been working out every morning and getting excercise during gym. We've played some awesome calcio (soccer). It's a really good time.

If you're wondering if I need guys fulfilled my needs really well. I was needing a backpack, that suit jacket, and a little note pad!! So thank you so much for that! Grazie Mille!

Anyway, keep me posted on how everything is going for you guys! Everyone thinks I'm the most popular elder because of all the mail you've been sending! haha.

Something else that was pretty cool was my row got called up at the MTC fireside the other night. We all had to say things that we gave up to come on a mission, but it couldn't be the same as someone else. I was going to say music, but the guy in front of me did!! So I said snowboarding.

I think if I would've been called to a chinese-speaking mission my life would just be too easy. So it's good that I'm getting challenged by going to Italy.

I've gotten some sweet photos but I can't send them to you! Cause I forgot my stupid attahment to the computer but I promise I'll send some next week. Or maybe later!

So I'm going to sign out and try and get one to you.


Io Amo all of you!

Con Affeto,

Anziano Ray Banks!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Write to Ray!

Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that as long as Ray is in the MTC (which will be until the beginning of December), you can write him for free if you use:

And, he gets the letters the same day you send them, which is also a plus! Of course, I'm sure he wouldn't mind handwritten letters either!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And he's off!

Getting ready to head out to a last lunch before the MTC.

Lunch the the Mcfaddens!

Unloading the van.

Another Elder heading to the same mission!

Once the emails/letters start coming in we'll post them!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Almost time to go!

So originally I posted this as a facebook note...and then it hit me! This totally sounds like a blog! So I decided to post it to my blog instead::

Okay, so normally this is more like something I would write in my journal, but it's upstairs and I'm downstairs, and my hand gets way too tired from writing in it.

I was just thinking about how awesome my life is. I think it's good to think about that sometimes, and I'll admit, I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Why? Cause it really is freakin awesome! I'm about to go to ITALY for TWO YEARS!! That's amazing! I also have incredible friends! Today I got an e-mail from Clark that was just exactly what I want to hear before I go in the MTC. Just some solid advice, and it made me way happy! Tonight I'm going to go longboarding with Vayla, while eating Boudin sourdough bread! It really doesn't get any better than that. (If you haven't tried it, you really should)

I also finished my farewell, and I'm also done shopping for my mission!! Everything is just working out really well.

And right now I'm chillin on my futon, and my body is really sore. Really sore because I have such an awesome, tiring lifestyle!! haha. It's crazy.

I've also recently discovered an abundance of cream puffs in the freezer, and that's definitely worth appreciating. Very tasty!

Anyway, I guess I just wanted to document that my life is awesome and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Like this week I'll probably not only get to go the St. George temple with my mom, but I'll also probably go to the Vegas temple with both my parents! So that should be cool.

What else? Oh yeah, I'm going to ITALY for TWO YEARS!

okay, so I already mentioned that, but it really will be sweet.
oh, and I also got Giggin by Mac Dre, so that's pretty awesome.

Longboarding! With Vanessa and David.

Going to the St.George temple with my mom.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Pictures from my PARTY!

A lot of people traveled from far away to come! Our good family friends, the Iversons, my friend David, lots of family from California and other parts of Utah, and of course I appreciate all my Saint George friends that came!

Farewell Talk

The party was awesome (pictures to come) and my talk went great! Thanks to everyone for coming!

In case you missed it, here is a copy of my talk:

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ray Banks and I’ve been called to serve in the Italy Catania Mission. I’ve actually been in this ward for abut four years, although for the last year and a half I’ve been attending student wards or been away. But this is my home ward and where I’ll be leaving from.

For those of you who do know me, you probably know that I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese (dust off shoulder), I’m half Chinese, my mother is from Taiwan, and my father served his mission in Taiwan. So naturally, when I opened my mission call, I thought it would be to Taiwan. Or at least Canada Chinese Speaking, or maybe the Australia Sydney North mandarin speaking mission.

So you can probably guess that I was completely shocked when I opened up my call to Italy. I was actually on a road trip with my family to California, so I didn’t even get to look up anything about the area for awhile. While we were driving I called some of my closest friends and relatives telling them I had been called to CATaNIA, and half of them thought I said I had been called to Catalina Island. So to clarify, I won’t be going to an island off the coast of California, but I’ll be going to an island off the coast of southern Italy. Catania, Italy, and no, I don’t speak any Italian. But anyway, since getting my mission call I have had the opportunity to look up some things about Italy.

One thing I did is read the BYU culture-gram about Italy. It said three things that stood out to me:
1. Italians consider social interaction very important; they try not to miss social events such as parties and celebrations.
2. When eating with guests, Italians usually do not hurry, a meal may last one to four hours
3. Soccer is by far the most popular sport

And that’s when I knew that it was the perfect call for me. So in preparation for my mission, I’ve been adapting to Italian culture by going to all the dances and parties at Dixie State College, spending hours eating dinner, and practicing my soccer skills.

But my dad kind of burst my bubble a little when he told me “Ray, you’re not going to Italy to become an Italian, you’re going to Italy to become a missionary”, so I’ve also been doing what I can to prepare spiritually. Which sort of brings me to my topic, which is testimony and prayer. Because as I’ve been preparing spiritually for my mission, I’ve been building my testimony (by reading the scriptures and preach my gospel and going to the temple) and I’ve also been praying about a lot things.

To start off, I’d like to do something that always bugs me: Ask a ridiculously simple church question. The problem with answering these is trying to come up with a perfect answer. Last week, my book of mormon teacher did this, and it took the class about five minutes to come up with a decent answer. The question I want to ask is, what is a testimony? But I’m just going to give you the definition as it’s written in True to the Faith:
A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that we are led by a living prophet today; and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints is the Savior’s true Church on the earth.
I really like how that sums up our basic beliefs, and gives the core of a testimony. The way we can actually know that these things are true is through a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. By praying and reading the scriptures we can receive this witness! In Moroni 10:3-5 it says regarding reading the scriptures:
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.

And so you can see that, just like everything in the church, there’s a simple way to do it. You just need to read the scriptures and pray! Then once you get a testimony there are a lot of ways to build it up.
I know in my own life I started out by sort of bumming off my parents testimony. And then people say that you need to stop doing that, so I read the book of mormon, and prayed about it, and then gained my own testimony (it really worked!). But then, I actually built up my testimony a lot more through other people. It’s funny that I’m speaking with Craig today because when I started writing this talk I immediately thought of him. I remember the first time I heard him bear his testimony in church I thought, alright, that’s cool that craig bore his testimony. Then a few months later I remember he bore his testimony again and I thought, wow, Craig has got an awesome testimony! I was way impressed about how solid he is in the church, and hearing him testify of the truths of the Gospel kind of inspired me to be better about paying attention in church, studying my scriptures, and just living the principles I’ve learned.

And that’s one of the great ways to build our testimonies! By listening to the testimonies of others and by bearing our own testimonies!

Our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson said: “Regarding one’s testimony, remember, that which one willingly shares he keeps, while that which he selfishly keeps he loses…..Teach and testify. There is no better combination.”

So you see how important it is to bear our testimony.
I remember one time after fast and testimony meeting I actually felt really stupid that I didn't bear my testimony, because I know the church is true and I wanted to tell someone. So when I got home I just bore my testimony to my mom, because it's important to tell someone.

When we bear our testimony it will be especially beneficial if we speak by the Holy Ghost
2 nephi 33:1
1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I amighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man bspeaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.


Going back to Craig, the experience I had also shows how peers can have a positive influence on your testimony. Three of my best friends, all went on missions this summer. What a blessing it is to have three great examples like that. And they have all helped me build my testimony. Just little things like, Ray, I don’t think you should do that, or…are you going to read your scriptures before you go to bed, or Ray, I slept in too but there’s a ward in green springs that meets at 2:50, so we can still go to sacrament.

I know that sounds a bit extreme, I usually don’t sleep in that late. And I know I’ll be making some adjustments to my sleep schedule for my mission.

When I followed the counsel of my friends, my testimony was strengthened as I obeyed the commandments.

And that’s another way we can build up our testimonies, just by obeying the commandments. I think that’s really cool cause let’s take, for example, if you didn’t have a testimony, but your parents made you go to church. Then you would learn the commandments and what you’re supposed to do. Of course it’s still your choice to pay attention and choose the right, but if you give it a try, you’ll gain a testimony! In John 7:17 is says:

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine…”

So basically that means that if we do God’s will, we’ll know of the doctrine, or have a testimony!

Now let me talk to you about prayer. As I mentioned earlier, we can pray to know the church is true, and then receive a confirmation by the Holy Ghost. But really we can pray for everything. Usually I just go to rap artists for a good beat, and I don’t usually recommend following the example of any rap artists, but Mac Dre, a famous bay area rapper, actually set a good example regarding prayer. In one of his songs he said, “I P-R-A-Y every D-A-Y” And another famous rapper, Lil Wayne said, “Before I sleep I pray to the Lord” This is some good advice. But they’re still probably not the best to go to for spiritual advice, so if we refer to the scriptures, in Alma 37:37 it says:

37 aCounsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for bgood; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the cmorning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

I know through personal experience that when we counsel with the Lord our prayers are answered.

This last year I went to school at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. That college has some significance in my family. Not only is it where my parents met, but it is also where my mother was converted to the Gospel. She was actually baptized in a sunrise service just a few blocks from BYUH at Temple Beach. My mother is a convert, and so she knows what a great blessing missionaries can be. So she is excited for me to leave on my mission so that I can go and Preach the Gospel, and share with others the same message that she first heard that changed her life. And I’m sure she’ll be praying for me on my mission.

Going back to my testimony of prayer… not long after I got to Hawaii, I had my 18th Birthday. I had started to hang out with kids that all had longboard skateboards. So for my birthday all I really wanted was to get a longboard. And I have parents that love me, so for my birthday they sent me one.! I was overjoyed! I started riding it everywhere. About two days after I got it I rode it to the library to study, and left it on the skateboard rack outside the building. When I got done studying, it was gone. It had been stolen!

The year before that when I had only wanted one thing for my birthday it was an iPod, and that had gotten stolen. It seemed like whenever I got something I really loved, it just got stolen! So getting my longboard stolen last year actually hit me pretty hard, and made me really sad. I went out for a walk on my own and just started thinking. I thought, when I get something nice, it just gets stolen. Then I thought, so I guess there’s no point in having nice stuff. Then I thought, but what about developing skills? Well, if you develop skills, you could just get injured, and then you would lose that. Then I thought to myself, what about good friends? Well, you or your friends may just move away and then lose contact with each other. I thought to myself, what is the point of even doing anything?! I’m here going to school, and learning all kinds of stuff, but what if I got in a car accident and went brain dead. There’s really no point in doing anything! (looking back all my thoughts seem ridiculous, but you have to realize that I really loved that longboard). In all my sadness and self-pity, I decided to pray. I prayed that I could somehow get my longboard back, that I could be happy again, and that I could know what is even worth doing because it seems like you can just lose everything.

In our prayers we can have a tendency to be too general, please bless, please help, but if we pray with faith, we can actually be a lot more specific in our prayers, and then receive specific answers.

And in this case, all my prayers were answered! Within two days of it getting stolen, the campus police watched the security tapes and got my longboard back from the guy whole stole it! And then of course I was back to being happy! And regarding the biggest question, what is even worth doing, I opened up my scriptures right to the page that has 3 Nephi 13:19-20

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where amoth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
20 But lay up for yourselves atreasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

So then I knew that what is really important is that we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. And I also had my testimony of prayer strengthened, and I knew that God really cares about me.

This whole story is a bit reminiscent of an article in this last month’s Ensign by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. It was about the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. In the article it says that “everyone…will be called upon to face trying times…We must not succumb to the fear that God has abandoned us or that He does not hear our prayers. He does hear us. He does see us. He does love us.”

So when times get hard, like our stuff gets stolen, or we don’t have any money because of the economy, we just need to endure, and use the hard times as an opportunity for growth and ask for help. Even when the Prophet was in Liberty Jail it became like a temple because of his testimony and faith. Elder Holland says “you can have sacred, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life – in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.”
So we can actually be thankful for the hard times because we can have sacred experiences if we approach them with the right attitude. Looking back at my experience, I actually think it’s way funny the scripture that I opened up to, and it taught me a valuable lesson. It also gave me something to talk about in my farewell talk, so thank goodness for that!

In closing, of course I’d like to bare my testimony, but before I do I want to tell you about one of my friends in Hawaii that really helped strengthen mine. Right before the semester ended he bore his testimony in church. For most of his testimony he talked about how exciting it was to get his mission call, and how he wouldn’t be able to body surf for the next two years, because everyone knows that he loves to body surf. But then at the end he said that although he doesn’t know everything about the Gospel, he has a simple, but strong testimony, and he felt ready to serve a mission.

I feel exactly the same way. I don’t know everything about the church, but I do know that it is the right church, the true church, and that we have a living prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson. He’s an awesome guy. I know that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and that he restored the gospel. I also know that through prayer and scripture study we can build our testimonies and live worthily, and that our example can help others in their lives. I know that through Jesus Atonement we can repent and become worthy. And I also know that God loves us, and cares about us. And I also would like to add that I love my family, and I’m thankful for them, and that they were able to come and support me, and for the example they are. And I’m thankful for the great friends that I have. I love you and know that you help me lead a better life.

And I definitely recommend a mission for anyone who's thinking about it. Cause in my mission call it actually says "Greater blessings and more happiness await you" And I'm a really happy guy, so if I can be more happy, that's just awesome!

And of course I’m thankful for this great opportunity to serve a mission, and I’m so excited that I really just wish I could go sooner. I know that it will be hard, but that through prayer I will have help as I preach the gospel. It’s like President Monson said “Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

And so I’m sure that my mission in Italy will be great.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Party is tonight, 6pm. My house! Everyone be there!

Tomorrow I'm talking in church, 9am, the new chapel on Little Valley Ward.

See you there!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mission Blog!

Hey guys!

Since I'm not going to be able to email/write everyone while I'm on my mission, my sister is going to post my emails here for you all to read. She'll update my address too, so make sure you check it out and send me letters!


Elder Banks