<![CDATA[Elder Mathew Smith - Latest News from Elder Smith]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 18:19:49 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[February 8th, 2016]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 19:41:35 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/february-08th-2016
Buenos Dias!
    Como estan todos? Espero que Google puede traducir bien aun sin acentos sobre mis letras. No tengo la paciencia por ponerlos, pero si no, esta bien.

Jose Torres with
​Elder Smith and Elder Scalise

    I'm so excited to hear that everyone is doing something exciting! Getting ready for baseball season, dating, and making a Rube-Goldberg machine!?! That's the coolest homework ever, Mason! I'm excited to here how it all works out! I'm glad to hear that Grandma Gayle shared so much of what she learned on a mission in sacrament meeting, you really do learn tons out here that you didn't even realize you needed to before!!! We come home exhausted just about every day...and that's just on days when we have the car!!! Everything from exercise to emotions to mental and spiritual growth all are at such extremes out here that you just burn through all you've got day after day, it's awesome!!!
     In my personal life, recently, I've been struggling the last few weeks trying to fight stagnation. In other words, I was getting comfortable with my ability to speak spanish. It's not like I understood every word everyone says all the time but those times ARE fewer and far between that I have to ask and as far as speaking, though I can't always say everything I want to exactly, I know enough that I can say anything I want at the least in a little round-a-bout sort of way. I had to look at the things that I had been doing to learn, that had worked great up until now, and come up with new ways to stretch myself. I've since started reading the TEACHINGS OF THE PRESIDENTS OF THE CHURHC in spanish because they use bigger words and fancier ways of saying things that general conversation!  That along with some other things help me continue to stretch myself. I was thinking about that this morning in another context though, our personal growth. Sometimes we realize that we need to change something, we figure out what it is, set goals, and start building great habits and developing ourselves...but  after a while we start to plateau again.
you first start, but a years later you look forward to reading that verse and pondering it each morning to start your day off right. Once that's easy though, you may need to start reading more, or spending time memorizing some scriptures, or using that time to study for your calling as a sunday school teacher rather than just enjoying a nice spiritual thought. Those things take more work and might not be as convenient as your original goal, but they will help you become better and thus would be better for you. It can be anything, it doesn't have to even be church related. The point is, the more we reevaluate our goals and habits to make sure we are always pushing ourselves, the less our growth will plateau and the closer we will get to our highest potential!
    Challenge of the week, then, is this: pick something that you want to get good at or are already working toward, set a long-term goal about what you want to acheive, then plan checkpoints every few days, weeks, months, or years (depending on the nature of the goal) and determine that at some point on those days, you will check where you are at with your goal, what you've been doing that works, what you've been doing that doesn't, and how you can more effectively pursue that goal until the next point. I promise that if you do, your life will be harder, you will be happier, and you will accomplish more.

    This church is the church of Jesus Christ himself, I know that. This work is a miracle. The saying is true that, "If the church were not true, the missionaries would have messed it up a long time ago!" I love you all and wish you all success as you each personally strive to be better!

     Best of luck and my love!

        Elder Smith

Hma Rosa with her mother (not a member...yet), The Martinez family, Sergio, Catherine, and
​baby Anders, and Eduardo!

 It's sometimes hard to give up habits that are bad, but it's definitely hard to give up GOOD habits that have helped us to grow and become better, but sometimes those good habits, when they no longer challenge us, can hinder our growth more than help. For example, reading one verse of scriptures a day might be hard when

Members from Fort Walton and Sandestin alike follow the spanish saying,
"Donde la comida esta, alli se encuentra la gente!"
"Where the food is, there you'll find the people!"

​Left to Right: Julia, Sergia, Eduardo, Jose Jr., Jesus!
Sergia was confirmed just yesterday in Sacrament meeting by Bishop Golden! Such an incredible experience!

Left to right: Hermana Aguayo, Julia, Flor Rosalez, Hma Arely Soto, Sergia, Eduardo, Elder Scalise, Yo, Sis Harris, Bro Sergio Martinez (our ward mission leader...he's jumping by the way, haha! Love him!), Sis Beamish, Elder Smith. This wasn't even everyone who came! What a turnout to support the newest member of the ward! :)

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<![CDATA[Feb. 1, 2016]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 19:08:10 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/feb-1-2016
​Buenos Dias!
    This week Sergia got baptized! It was so much fun to see that family united even more in the gospel of Jesus Christ! Elder Scalise baptized her and she will be confirmed next Sunday! So much fun for that family! Elder Scalise and I have been so blessed recently! We've been working really hard recently to plan well, work hard daily, coordinate well with the ward, etc. I feel like my first few months here, we found a lot of success sometimes, and less success other times, but it was just kind of hit and miss. It's been a lot harder over all since Elder Scalise and I have been together, but it's also been more consistent. We've been learning and improving more or less together and are really starting to see the fruits of our labors, earned the hard way, after patiently pushing uphill week after week. I absolutely love the people we know here. We're meeting wonderful new people regularly and having a blast daily! I think stress is finally being transferred to joy in both of us and the whole area and ward is starting to grow the way things do in the real world, slowly, steadily, and consistently as we work for it.
    Diabetes-Wise, doing a lot better. We just saw a bunch of patterns that answered a lot of questions and, long story short, Dr. Roberts isn't worried. That's not to say we're out of the deep end, but we're pretty sure we know the problem and thus can adjust. Thanks for all the prayers! They make a difference!
    Challenge of the Week: This one has a bit of a back story. We started talking to this High School Senior named Ramiro a few weeks ago (named after his dad Ramiro, whose wife is Marciel, just if I've mentioned them before). He's a cool guy who just chatted about what we do as missionaries with us but wasn't interested in church or anything as he is an Atheist. I'll be honest, I really had been hoping to meet an atheist and had just given up hope a couple months ago. Yesterday, after the baptism, we went to visit Marciel and Ramiro Sr. with Bro. Atrice (who served a mission in Puerto Rico). Ramiro was asleep already and Marciel was busy but Ramiro Jr. invited us in because he likes to talk anyway. We got talking about after High School plans and Ramiro says he's really interested in Psychology. Brother Atrice studied Psychology in College with a business focus and so they got talking right away. Long story short, things connected to the Restoration of the gospel. We started talking about God and Jesus Christ's roles and when we shared about what prophets are he asked if there was one today, then how the prophets become prophets...after a bit (we had been standing around their kitchen counter) he said, "That's interesting...Ya'll wanna take a seat? We gotta talk." We laughed then sat down and talked and he shared how he'd grown up seeing contradictions in the Bible. Bro. Atrice shared how the Bible came about (Prophets all having their own books, Constantine calling the Nicene Creed and how essentially, [as we believe it] 
good, well-intending men, though not authorized by God, debated and voted to determine what was scripture and what wasn't) thus the imperfections and following translations lead to a book of true scripture, The Bible, that simply lost the CLARITY and COMPLETENESS that was originally taught. Ramiro then said, "Well i you have a prophet now authorized by God, why can't he just make another book to clarify what's missing?" That of course led to the, "Interesting you should say that..." after which we explained what The Book of Mormon is [a record of all the "Books" from prophets and their teachings on the American continent (as the Bible was kept by the Jews and later Christians in the Eurasian continent) collected and abridged by Mormon (an authorized prophet of God), a project finished by his son Moroni (the last prophet of God among that people) then hidden to be given in the 1800s to Joseph Smith (a newly called, authorized, and guided prophet of God) to translate (1 time under divine direction) into The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which testifies of the truth of the divine identity, birth, ministry, atonement, death and cruzifiction, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible and clarifies the simple truths lost over time in the Bible.] How the Book of Mormon and the Bible support each other and testify of Christ and God, and that if the Book of Mormon is true, then God is our Heavenly Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer, and He directs His church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints through a living prophet, called by God and authorized to do so and to act in God's name for the salvation of humankind. The challenge we left with him (which he accepted), if the challenge of the week this week for EVERYONE reading this (and is also the best part of the story). Science is the search for truth through putting claims (hypotheses) to the test in experiments. We go house to house, person to person, country to country challenging all of God's children to do the same exact thing: Read the Book of Mormon, take time to ponder or meditate about the message it contains, then "ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things (that the book teaches about God and Jesus Christ) are not true" Moroni 10:4. If you do, no matter what your current beliefs are (including those who are members and already believe this book to be the true word of God), with a willingness to act on the answer you receive and a genuine desire to know and accept whatever answer you get, then I promise you from my personal experience doing the same, He will make the truth of it clear to you through His Holy Spirit.
    I know this church is true, I've put everything I can that it teaches to the test and I continue to test it all each day and I know that it is. The best part? You can, too.
    Love you all tons!
        Elder Smith
P.S. Pictures coming next week!
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<![CDATA[January 25th, 2016: A Taste of Southern Living]]>Mon, 25 Jan 2016 20:47:56 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/january-25th-2016
Hey everyone!
    I've used pretty much ALL my time on the computer today working on getting ready for...(drum roll)...Sergia's baptism!!! I'm so excited for them to unite their family just a little more as the mom now of this wonderful family is getting baptized!!!
​The book is blue, the church is true, and your challenge of the week this week is easy: watch this video and take 5 min writing your thoughts in a journal! https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-04-20-our-true-identity?lang=eng
    Love you all!
         Elder Smith

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<![CDATA[Jan 18, 2016]]>Wed, 20 Jan 2016 00:16:14 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/jan-18-2016Picture
Hola, buenos dias!
    One of these days we'll actually have a normal preparation day (which is becoming less normal every week)! Until then, I'll keep it short.

<Left to right: Jenny Soto, Member from Destin, Arely Soto holding Michelle (Jenny's daughter), other unknown member, me, Hermana Alba Rosa, her mother peeking out behind her, and of course Eduardo popped in!

Missionar-itos:
    The Lopez kids are doing great and we take Jesus and Eduardo with us to lessons once a week (alternating each week) as they want to serve missions in the future!
     We've recently found a ton of new people to teach and had one of the most difficult and productive weeks of my mission! Elder Scalise has been struggling with the language, and it doesn't help that - since I really got comfortable with the language right as he got here - I kind of talk a lot. We've really been working on evening that out recently, and accidently ran into a barbeque we weren't invited to just last night where we actually got a lot of (Spanish Speaking) practice in! Anytime you go to a Spanish get-together, the conversations pick up in volume, speed, and quantity and it was great timing to run into these recent investigators who immediately invited us (which in Spanish culture is a lot closer to a command than an invite) to eat with them. We met several of their kids who no longer lived at home and they were blown away by what we do, then you should have seen their faces when they found out that we chose this ourselves, don't get paid, email family once a week with 2 phone calls a year, and get assigned to live with and work with people we don't know.  My testimony of mission rules grows every time someone hears about what we do. There's really only one incentive to serve a mission when it comes down to it: the church is true and we have a testimony of it! They especially couldn't believe that us 19 yr olds cooked for ourselves! Ha!
    And so, the challenge of the week is...learn how to cook/prepare a dish that you didn't know how to before! It doesn't have to be fancy but it can if you want. Just learn how to fry eggs, make pasta, German pancakes, fresh tortillas, whatever! Have fun! Provecho! (Basically "Enjoy" or "Bon Appetite")
    Love you all so much! Have a wonderful week and we'll talk more next time!
The church is true!
    Elder Smith

^ Left to right: Raul & Arely Soto, Andrea (their daughter), me, Jose Torres, Margarita Perez!
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<![CDATA[1/11/16 email]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 23:22:18 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/11116-emailBuenos dias!
    First off, wow! Go Mom and family in tracking down those families! The Goldens have been looking for years! On top of that, Brother Golden just got called as Bishop yesterday, so now is the perfect time for them to have some help with a personal project as they're going to be extra busy for the next several years! Thank you so much for working on that! Keep being awesome!
    Also, Mikell, thank you for the joke! That's a great one (in case she hasn't shared: Que tiene Darth Vader en el congelador? Helado oscuro! [El Lado Oscuro])! I don't blame anyone for being too busy to write, I didn't write to anyone much when I wasn't on my mission either. It's okay, I appreciate your prayers and I know that you all care and I'm grateful for that!
    On the other side of things, Sergia, Jesus, Julia, and Eduardo's Mom has been able to reset her baptismal date for the 31st of this month! It's so much fun to see the whole family so unified in spiritual goals, as each of them help each other to better live as Christ did! That's how all our family interactions should be - uplifting and supportive "and they did meet together oft...to speak concerning the welfare of their souls." Moroni 6:5.
     Heavenly Father is so wise to tell us to meet together as families and congregations for worship. Some people say "I don't need to go to a church to worship God." You're right, we should love, serve, pray to, and worship God everywhere we go, but there's a part of us that needs each other to reach our full potential. We're social beings, we interact, we spend countless hours and resources for the sake of using social media. We were built to need each other, and especially support from each other in the things of greatest worth: spiritual development. As we prepare for church attendance each Sunday and to go to other church activities, we should not be focused on "I hope the lesson today isn't boring" or "please just let _____ stay quiet during sacrament meeting." Rather, we should go seeking opportunities to help others to feel the spirit and feel loved. We should be searching for ways we can help others. The church isn''t for perfect people, it's for spiritually sick people (really all of us) so we should go with the mindset that everyone there needs something and we may be able to provide it.
    That said, here comes this week's challenge! Whether it be church, school, or some other place where people gather regularly, pick a day where you will try to help as many people as possible in one day to feel loved. It can be as simple as asking about someone's day and then actually waiting for a real answer or you can go a little more out of your way, but challenge yourself to recognize the needs of as many people as possible in one day! I promise that if you do, you will feel more motivation, joy, enthusiasm, satisfaction, and patience for others.
    The only other big news, here's pictures of the district before Elder Farnsworth got transferred and Sister Miller finished her mission and went home!
​#FWB #akaZion
That's all folks! Love you tons! Keep growing, learning, and otherwise being awesome!
    Elder Smith (The one and only)
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<![CDATA[Surprise Party for Sister Robinson]]>Sat, 09 Jan 2016 14:49:50 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/surprise-party-for-sister-robinson
MOM'S EDITORIAL: If Matt can make someone smile, it thrills him beyond belief. Making someone laugh makes him even happier!  Hence, the party hat in the most awkward position possible!  Typical Matt.
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<![CDATA[January 4, 2016]]>Tue, 05 Jan 2016 18:24:55 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/january-4-2016Picture
Went to Fudpucker's again! (Where they serve alligator and have baby alligators in a tank). Elder Scalise kept saying he'd never seen nor tasted 'gator, so it was a necessary trip! Better yet, one of the Spanish locals, Angel, who comes to volleyball came with us! The more he gets to know us, the more questions he asks. We'll help him figure it out soon :)

Picture
Hello again!
    Thanks for all the pictures of all the cousins! That's so much fun! I love that everyone is growing up so much and we still can have tons of fun being
              silly and funny together!!!

    Before I update on anything going on here, I have two things to say. 1) Elder Scalise and I are staying in Fort Walton Beach for another transfer!!! WAHOO! 2) I have a mission for my family back home. Brother and Sister Golden are converts to the church (they joined in 1975 I think), and the missionaries that taught them were a Senior Couple named Keith and Murial Smith (remember those names). Keith Thomas Smith and His wife Murial (who has a sister named Ruby) have since passed away and were buried in Cedar City, Utah. Their kids are from California, among whom there is a Thomas and Thomas' biological sister (can't remember her name) whom they adopted. One of their biological children is their daughter Barbra (or Barbara) who married a man named Heber (whose last name they don't remember) and they had a daughter named Cherie. Keith and Murial's mission was during 1975 at least and they passed away sometime between 1988 and 1991. Keith had a Sheep Ranch in Iron County somewhere and their mission was to whatever mission area included Daytona Beach, Florida in 1975. They think he was a sheriff or otherwise in law enforcement at some point as well. The Goldens would love to get in contact with any of their children and so to track them down for Brother Robert Golden and Sister Cherie Golden, this adventure will include family history searching, field work, and contacting people around the community or elsewhere. I've listed all the info the Goldens could procure. Now, your mission - should you choose to accept - is find Keith and Murial's descendants and report back with contact information if found for the Goldens! Good luck!
    On the other hand, Sergia (Jesus, Julia, and Eduardo's mom) has come to church twice in a row now and possible has adjusted work so that she can come every week! Which means she can finally join her children as a baptized member of the Lord's church on the earth today! We are SO excited for her!!! I love everyone we work with, and there are so many people making so much progress right now that I am doubly glad I get to stay here another 6 weeks! I don't have a ton of time because we've got more to do today than most preparation days but thanks to everyone who has written to me recently! I know it's not a huge thing, but I recognize that it takes time and thought and it really does make a big difference out here, especially on a rough day, just to here what's going on in your life! Thanks again!
    As for this week's challenge, it goes along with that thought. You can do this anonymously or with a beautiful signature at the bottom; through the mail or in person; door-bell ditching or at the end of an hour-long conversation. However you do it, write a kind note to someone and deliver it this week. It can be a thank you note, get-well card, thinking of you, I'm-here-for-you, you're the best friend, hey how's life going?, whatever. Just let someone know you care. Imagine yourself getting a letter or a note or something like that and how you would feel. A few short words can go a long way! There are way too many rude, rough, and roudy words, fill the world with some quiet, kind, caring words this week, then tell me how it goes! :)
    Love you all tons! Keep learning, growing, and being awesome!
        Elder Smith

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<![CDATA[December 28, 2015]]>Tue, 05 Jan 2016 16:09:17 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/december-28-2015

Elder Farnsworth got a
​Santa-Clause-Head piñata for Christmas eve...


​We didn't have a good bat, ....but we made due :D

Hello everybody again!
    Happy 21st Birthday Mikell!  For my Family, this is the second time I've talked to them since last week (#Christmas) so not much to add to that except it was awesome to see you guys and talk to you, love you tons!
    With that said, I'm going to focus most of this letter to everyone else. As far as how those we're teaching are doing, life is slow when everyone's out of town, but there's still plenty to do as a missionary! One thing in particular that happened is we've met 8 new people to teach in the last 3 weeks! There's always something we can do to be productive.
    I planned on writing more, but I've gotta go soon, so here's the challenge: Set your new year's resolutions, but set one goal in particular involving how you can better follow Christ's teachings. Them make it a SMART goal with a daily, weekly, and monthly plan of things you will do (specific enough that you can check off a box next to it) to make it a reality. Making good goals is a mission skill but more importantly a life skill. WRITE your plan somewhere where you'll see it each day! Good luck with it and all you endeavor to do! I love you all!
    Hugs from the 73 degree Winder Wonderless-land that everyone still goes to, to vacation in the winter, Florida!
    Elder Smith
​Brother Golden gave Santa a new Sleigh this year!!! (Robot Dancing Santa,
of course, because
everyone has one of those)

Christmas Eve, Elder Farnsworth and Elder Scalise got their eyebrows waxed!
(I passed).

"How long before the redness goes away?!" :)

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<![CDATA[December 21st email!]]>Mon, 21 Dec 2015 19:53:39 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/december-21st-email
FELIZ NAVIDAD!!!
     What a wonderful season it is! Everyone more open to focus on Christ, living like Him, giving like Him, all more willing to forgive and love! Carols, lights, family, friends, food, Christmas and the change it works each year in the hearts of nearly all people are miracles to me. I love this season. I've thought a lot this last week about what you all have been doing, especially family. No doubt Dad has already made sure that everyone sat around together to watch Miracle on 34th St. and White Christmas at least once. As soon as Mikell got home I'm sure she was on the piano with everyone around singing Christmas songs (Note: for those outside the family, we don't do much of the typical singing around the piano JUST for he fun of it, no doubt everyone has been arranging their own versions of Christmas classics, with parts and sometimes with choreography, in order to perform for Grandparents, ward members, and neighbors all alike). I can see clearly the Christmas tree, Gold and silver with one Mickey & Minnie ornament in wedding attire and the "1993" written in gold on the back hung in the heart of the tree...this isn't my first Christmas away from home, and not even my first in Florida, but it definitely is my first away from family. I thank God daily for this opportunity to give up all those wonderful traditions for a couple of years so that others may have the opportunity to someday have the same level of joy and peace with their own families. The fact that all the ornaments that Jose brought were gold, silver, and red (Mom's favorite color) was a tender mercy that bolstered my spirits and gave an extra boost last week. I love my family and can't wait to talk to them on Christmas day! You all hear that? I'm gonna be ready! Have lots of good questions and be ready to spill your guts about all that you've been up to! I also expect a virtual tour of the new house, just sayin :) haha.

Jose Torres hooked us up with a tree, wreath, and the works!

    At the mission Christmas Conference we had an awesome time focusing on Christ and also the just-for-the-fun-of-it parts of Christmas. We ate food, played minute-to-win-it games, performed mini skits, had musical numbers, and felt the spirit! Even more fun? We got to participate in the ward choir and Christmas program which included song in English and Spanish (thanks to Sister Smith the choir director who moved here after me but speaks Spanish fluently since her mission in Puerto Rico, she's a boss and is bridging tons of gaps for the Spanish members here) and I got to sing some fun songs' bass parts! Performing is one of the things I've been missing the most! Singing, dancing (that I can't do at ALL, did not realize I would miss it so much), and just making people smile! I keep getting opportunities to sing and though some may call it just a normal part of life, for me each one is a blessing wrapped in a "brown paper package tied up in string" 'cause it's one of my favorite things!!!
     On another note, I don't know if this has shown up where you are yet, but the church is rolling out a project called "Just Serve" and it's literally like online shopping for service opportunities! It couldn't get easier to find ways to make a difference! Look it up, learn about it, and be ready to take full advantage of it! In our area they're planning on getting it going around the beginning of the year.
     Other item of business with no transition, you all should be getting a package tomorrow, nothing in it is wrapped, DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS DAY! That is all.
     Aside from all that, everyone have a wonderful Christmas! I love you all tons and can't wait until I talk to you (family) on Friday! The church is true, life is good, Christmas is the bestest!
     Elder Smith

Matching "Elder" stockings
​from our moms who both shop Deseret Book apparently!

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<![CDATA[December 7, 2015]]>Fri, 11 Dec 2015 23:45:32 GMThttp://eldermathewsmith.weebly.com/latest-news-from-elder-smith/december-7-2015

Hi Everyone!
    First things first: 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY 
MARSHALL!!! ​
Hope it's a great one!

It's crazy to think that you're already 16! Such a fun birthday! I hope you have tons of fun with all this next year brings! (...don't wreck the truck! Haha!) Well what a week! This week Elder Black, my trainer, is going home! It's also one of our investigators' birthdays on the ninth, Natalie Smith's, the day before Marshall's big day! So I'll definitely have you all on my mind plenty this week. Sergia Lobo's baptism (Jesus, Julia, and Eduardo's mom) had to be postponed due to work, but we'll figure things out for her soon enough. As it is, all three of the kids were able to come to the ward Christmas party as well as Sister Gomez, Hma Alba Rosa (a grandmother) and her mother (greatgrandmother), and several other Spanish members and tons of other people! It was a great turnout and the whole evening went perfectly! The decorations were super fun to help put up Friday night! So fun in fact...that we kind of sort of lost track of time...ya. So we were all just working away having a blast and we're supposed to get home by 9pm if we're not in a lesson, so we flipped when Elder Farnsworth looked at his watch and said, "You guys, we gotta go, like, an hour ago." It was definitely 10:20. So...ya. We skeedaddled and the next morning when we all met to practice our part of the performance, we were all completely wiped out! None of us had energy and we all agreed that the curfew was definitely a good idea. We were all still able to push through the day and still be effective and have a great time that night, but needless to say at least Elder Scalise and I started putting alarms on our phone to remind us what time it is when it's getting close to 9. We are NOT doing that again! Hahaha! On the upside, Sister Mason, who got delegated to plan the party, threw out the idea to maybe make a Christmas tree out of hymnbooks but said she didn't know if we'd have enough books or if it would work. I heard her say that and somewhere between her mouth and my ears it changed to, "You probably can't do it" to which I replied, "Desafio aceptado (Challenge accepted)!" I felt like Nephi building the boat with Laman and Lemuel because everyone, even those who were helping me, kept saying it wouldn't work, it wouldn't last, some kid is going to knock it down anyway. Long story short, those Smith-competitive genes kicked in and it was such a hit, that elder Farnsworth wanted to be in the picture so that people would think he built it. So please humor him by assuming he built it, it would be greatly appreciated :)
Here it is!:

So anyway, with all that out there, life is fantastic! I'm struggling with things and learning so fast! I love how much I'm being pushed in my ability to learn, to relate to people, to recognize needs others have, to be able to help, to cook, to speak Spanish, to explain things simply and clearly, to run even (since I got here, I've been companions with someone who did track and field before their missions, therefore I have begun to run in the mornings and I'm still waiting for that moment they keep talking about when you start to enjoy running...but it's fine, Elder Scalise is more my pace than Elder Black at least. Elder Scalise can run longer than I can but I can run faster on shorter intervals so I'm not dying every day, haha)! I just feel myself growing as a person and I finally understand why people describe growing experiences as sssttttrrrreeeeeeetttttcccchhhhiiiinnnnggg. I definitely feel like I'm really getting out of my normal skin! In seminary, or example, I liked learning about the scriptures, memorized certain phrases, learning Jewish background so as to understand the bible better, etc, but I never really put forth much effort to memorize where any of the scriptures were. Now I'm paying for that as I try and play "catch-up", but it's alright. I've learned the value of learning where scriptures are, memorized, and I'm memorizing one scripture (1-3verses) a week in English, Spanish, and the reference, and I've realized that the more I do, the more opportunities God gives me to use those very scriptures throughout each day! For example, one week I slacked and I didn't really memorize more than the location of Helaman 5:12 and basically what it's about. I thought, "If I need to use that, I remember enough that I know what it says and I can find it in a lesson." Well, wouldn't you know it, that Sunday I'm translating and someone chose to use that scripture without saying the reference early enough for me to find it in my Spanish scriptures before they were reading it and I was trying the best I could to paraphrase while thinking, "Fail........" I've been much more diligent since then :) haha and so that's just one example, but I just don't have time to share all the little and big moments where things have clicked for me. The only other thing I'd share on that note is that I've gained a new level of respect for my parents. Teaching well is hard, but what's several hundred times more difficult is learning that people aren't ready to learn when they need the answer, they're ready to learn when they want the answer. Sometimes you really just can't help someone until they've struggled long enough that they're finally willing to try something else and all we can really ever do to help people learn is set up learning opportunities. They are SO hard to set up, take so much time and forethought, and are really only effective when you're willing to let one after another go to waste until someone finally takes advantage of the opportunity and learns. I'm incredibly stubborn, and I can only imagine how much effort my parents put into giving me opportunities that I just discarded due to my own unwillingness to improve. But that's what God does each day. He doesn't make any o us learn anything until we ask for it, and in the meantime he surrounds us moment by moment with chances to improve, learn, grow, and free ourselves from things that have been holding us back from a greater level of joy. He waits patiently, even when we reject everything He gives us and turn our backs on Him, still He waits, hopefully, indefinitely, lovingly, watching our struggles and helping us even when we don't want His help. And when we finally realize that we can't do it, that our way isn't working, that we need help, He's already there, prepared to comfort us and tell us that it's all right, He understands, and He has something infinitely better for us than we ever dared hope. That's the story o the prodigal son. It's not just about those who are "wayward"; we're all in over our heads. Life in one way or another is too much for us, we don't know everything, we aren't perfect. Then when we finally turn to God humbly, asking to just be His servant so that at least we don't have to be hungry anymore, He runs to us, covers us, and rejoices and feeds us a feast, giving us more than we would ever dare ask for. I love my God. I've come to Him more than once on the end of my rope, defeated and downtrodden, and asked just to be a servant and each time I've been filled to my ears with the feelings of love and reassurance that I'm doing just fine so much so that I felt I'd bust at the seems. It doesn't happen infrequently, it's happened to me I can't say how many times in just the last couple of months. It's ok to be overwhelmed. Trust in God. Ask Him and others for help. Let them lift you higher than you can climb on your own, we're all in this together.
    In the spirit of the season, and because we ALL need a Savior to make it through this world, the challenge of the week is to watch this video, think about one thing you can do to let the Savior help you improve this season, set goals to do it, then share this video and challenge, or your own challenge, with at least 2 other people this week. https://youtu.be/q_TEOyhy7Bg
    I love you all to death and would love to hear about all that's going on this season! What a great time of year to focus on Jesus Christ by being a little more like Him, thinking a little more about others and a little less about ourselves. I know that God loves every one of you individually and that He won't let you completely fall, even if we have to go through a few rough patches for our personal growth. I love this gospel, I know that it's true. It can't not be, there are too many miracles in my life for me to be able to deny that. The book is blue, the church is true, I love all of you!
    Have a wonderful winter week!
        Elder Smith
    (P.S. I need ideas on non-hymn, Christ-centered Christmas songs to translate into Spanish like "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel" for practice and to be able to sing to people, so if you want to input suggestions that'd be great! If it's a song that I likely don't know all the words to, it would also help for you all to find, copy, and paste the lyrics as well if you're going to send them. Thanks a ton!)
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