Saturday, May 7, 2011

News from Elder Simonsen: We Will Stand As A Witness of God In All Places.

In December 2010, six young men and three women gathered at the Missionary Training Center- willing to put their names on the line for their Savior Jesus Christ.  Elder Simonsen had the privilege of learning with, what he called, "a very special district.  Our teachers tell us that.  The spirit is so strong in our class and it is great.  And we feel it too."

 At the end of their MTC experience they went together to the Provo Temple across the street from the MTC. 

Many Elders and Sisters were leaving for their mission fields through out the world.  They were prepared to speak and teach in their new language, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder Simonsen would say "goodbye" to the group of Elders and Sisters who were on their way to the Denmark Copenhagen Mission where he was taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time..only two years ago.

The Sisters and Elders, in his district at the MTC, took their name tags off and placed them all together in a line on the wall of the fountain in front of the Provo Temple..putting their names on the line together one last time- a group of good friends who have learned to love each other during the nine week stay
at their home in the MTC.

Each name tag carried the name of their family, their own name, and name of Jesus Christ.

They were ready to put their names on the line and dedicate their lives for the next two years- to their Savior Jesus Christ.

When they entered together, they were given a little white handbook designed to teach them what the Lord expects from his full time missionaries.

In the front of the book is a scripture-
a sacred invitation from the Savior, Jesus Christ:

"I give unto you to be the light of this people...therefore, let your light so shine before this people... that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."
--3 Nephi 12: 14, 15

Elder Simonsen and Monson learned together about the meaning of this call.  They went everywhere together.  When they put on their name tags they committed to stand for something.  The handbook continues with this article of faith:

"We believe that man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."

And then a reminder, to all the Elders and Sisters at the MTC: 
"You have been called to invite others to come unto Christ.  As such you will be expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance by keeping the commandments,
 living the missionary rules and following the
counsel of your mission president."

Elder Simonsen sent one of his little missionary planners to me before he left the MTC.

One of Elder Simonsen's last concerns, as a Zone Leader, before he left the MTC was to make sure that these missionaries were well trained in the principle of "How to Plan" for this important calling everyday in their mission field (after they leave the MTC).
He tried to teach what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland- one of the twelve Apostles- had taught them in one of their powerful devotionals. Elder Holland said:
"The missionaries don't know how to plan,
how to study, and how to teach for commitment."

  Elder Simonsen said: "We decided to take the 'how to study' part and apply it to our Zone's needs.. We can't wait to get out there in the field in a couple of weeks, and start doing these things that we have learned, and apply them." 

On the front of his planner is a picture of a tool that he was very familiar with before he came to Utah... a compass.  As a student of the Maritime Academy, studying to be a maritime officer, Elder Simonsen knows how to chart a course at sea.  He is familiar with maps and using ancient tools to arrive at a destination even during a storm.

This missionary planner is like a compass..full of ideas that will guide each Elder and Sister to find those dear friends who are willing to listen to these good men and women.

In Elder Simonsen's Missionary Planner is a list of events that he, himself, followed as he discovered the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Svendborg and Odense, Denmark in the new year of 2009.

Every morning, Elder Simonsen and his companion, Elder Monson, had personal and companionship study.

They spent time in the scriptures- the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon, role playing as they teach each other the Gospel, and praying together to be guided to someone who is willing to listen.

These are some of the scriptures in Elder Simonsen's planner.

In his planner there are lists of goals that were made
with his district.

Clear planning helped him focus on the needs of his district and Zone.  Music was an important part of uniting and bringing a good spirit into their meetings.    In his planner were also many of his favorite quotes:
1. Take time to be Holy.
2. Faith is not faith until it has been tried.
3. Remember the power of the words in music.
4. Find simple ways to explain the word.
5. Address the concerns of the investigator.
6. Simplify doctrines and testify of their truthfulness.
7. Tell about your family.
8. "The simpleness, the sweetness, and the consistency of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and to protect us in the troubled times which we do now and will yet live."  Elder David A. Bednar  (1 Nephi 1: 20)
9. "They do not love that do not show their love."  Shakespeare
10. "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than
      a person to be loved."  Thomas S Monson
11.  We don't teach lessons, we teach people.

Elder Simonsen created a video not long after he arrived in the MTC.  It was full of many thoughts and things that he had learned from the devotionals and firesides where 2,000 Elders and Sisters
gathered to hear the great leaders and apostles of the Church.. and what he learned from his district as they taught each other how to share the gospel in Spanish. 

During the video, he pondered over a question that he had in his heart.  He called it a "Prayer" about the Sister missionaries (and Us- the Senior couple missionaries) who had learned to love him while he was learning the gospel.  It has been such a pleasure to serve him and to be part of his life as he discovered the many blessings of the gospel.
He wanted to know why.

He said:  "I have been having a prayer in my heart.  I've been having a question in my heart without knowing it... and the Lord always answers-  I don't know why he answers to me-

There are so many people out there that need some answers, maybe better than I

--But I didn't know I had this question in me.  I didn't know I had this prayer in me..It's a prayer- a question-

What does Emily (Sister Roberts) feel for me?
What does Mandy (Sister Burton) feel for me?
What does Belva (Sister Wilberg) and what does Carl (Elder Wilberg) Feel for me ?

I was led to a scripture in Thessalonians and I'd like to share it.  In First Thessalonians -in Paul's letter, it describes Paul's feelings for (the people who he was teaching in Thessalonia). 
1 Thessalonians 2: 2-8, 20

"...We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.  For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile.  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but which trieth our hearts.  For neither at any time used we flattering words as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:  so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only,
 but also our own souls, because you were dear unto us."

The verse that struck me the most was verse 20: 
 "for ye are our glory and our joy."

And after I read those, I just felt..I got this answer-
What you felt for me..  What I'm going to feel for my  investigators- and it's a great blessing to have you in my life."


Our last days at the MTC.

On the day before Elder Simonsen left, he wrote:

"I need to pack and get my stuff to the bus by 10 am, Tuesday
and a couple of hours drive after, I will be in my mission, no weight limits or anything like that !  Thank you for all the things you do !

On February 15, 2011, Elder Simonsen was ready to
go with one more thing on his mind:

"I am leaving the MTC in a couple of hours, so I am sending all the stuff that I want to send.  There are 7 Book of Mormon mini's, five have my testimony in the back (for your grandchildren). Remind them that they should always have the Book of Mormon.  It will answer many prayers ! 
 I want you to prayerfully hand (the others) out- they could be for nonmembers or members. 
 I love you.  Thank you for all your help and thank you for making my MTC stay so much greater !  See you."  
--Elder Jens Jacob Simonsen

Elder Simonsen's last thoughts and testimony
 before he leaves the MTC.

Hello Belva and Carl,

"We have about a week left here at the MTC.  We have a missionary departing tonight and I just wanted to say "Hello, and say a couple of thoughts that I, that we've, been having here tonight."   (notes from his last video from the MTC..February, 2011)

"I know that Jesus Christ lives.  I know that he is the Christ and I know that if we follow his teachings no matter what, our problems in life, no matter how difficult it might seem to overcome..the Gospel of Jesus Christ will help us.  I know that God loves us."

"I know that I know nothing compared to my knowledge that God loves us..loves me, loves you and loves everybody else and all of the investigators personally.  I know that there is a reason why we are here at the MTC.  Because we have a belief and we have a knowledge and a hope that we can make a better world.. starting with ourselves."

"And I know that the gospel is true even if we (have) just the basic doctrine of Jesus Christ (it) will help us overcome anything and will help us come closer to Christ- repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, baptiism and remembering our baptismal covenants, every Sunday at sacrament meeting."

"And receiving the gift of the Holy have to receive the really have to receive the Holy Ghost
and some people just take the gift and without even opening it up..the gift wrapping around it and just leave it on the table..(they) just watch it.  We have to unwrap it, open it, and ust it every day and strengthen our testimonies every day..."

"We have to endure to the end and one of the ways we can do that is by seeking spiritual experiences as much as we can..that's where the tender mercies of the Lord are....that's when we know when logic and chance can't seem to explain.  That's when we know that its not just a coincidence."  

"And as we put Moroni's promise to the test- we remember how much God has been merciful to the children of men and we remember how merciful God has been in our lives.  We remember that, when we pray to receive an answer, to receive a testimony, and to strengthen our testimonies." 

"I know that God will give to whoever asks, in faith, and to whoever acts upon that faith...
because when we study the atonement more..we will become more and more desirous to share the gospel with others.. that is one of the biggest things that we can do.  Sometimes it is the only thing that we can share is our selves. 

And I know that Thomas S Monson is a prophet today.  And I know that we are led by the prophet and the twelve apostles and I know that our calling, our missionary calling, is a calling of God and that we are here for a reason..and that is to bring to pass the imortality and eternal life of man..Like god promised to his children."

"It is not our mission, it is God's mission.  And that's what he is doing...He is bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  And I know that all he wants for his children is to be happy ..because Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy."

"He just wants us to be happy with what ever we have, no matter if we are members or nonmembers.  If we are Christians, or Muslims, or Budhists..He just wants us to be happy.  And this shows how much he loves us no matter what we choose.  No matter what we have done in the past we can always repent and come unto him and always do good. 

I know that this gospel is true, the church is true and the ordinances we do in the temple are true.  I know that the Church of Jesus Chrits is restored in the church today."

"And I know that there are angels sent here among us to save us and I know that there is somebody out there waiting for me.  And everybody, no matter what age should pray for opportunities to serve.. 

The Church, and this Gospel has brought so much happiness in my life.   In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."  
 -Testimony of Elder JJ Simonsen  
(from a video made on the last days before leaving the MTC)

At the end of the day, these friends and companions gathered in the halls of the MTC and sang good bye to each other.  "God Be With you till we meet again." their new Spanish language.

The Apostle,Elder Richard G. Scott expressed his great love for his mission when he said:

"Everything that I cherish in life today began to mature from my sacred experience as a full-time missionary."  (Ensign, Nov. 1997)

Elder Simonsen, trained in the MTC, is more than ready to begin this sacred experience. 

On February 15, 2011 Elder Simonsen entered the
Utah Ogden Mission in Northern Utah- Spanish Speaking.

A Map of Elder Simonsen's Mission.. it covers an area from Northern Salt Lake to a small part of Idaho, and Wyoming.

Elder Simonsen was welcomed into the mission at the mission home in Ogden.
Then he received his area assignment and new companion.

His first area is Brigham City, Utah about twenty
miles from Ogden.

Elder Simonsen writes:  "Well, I am in Brigham City now, at my first area, with my trainer (on the left) Elder Valenzuela from Guatemala, who is a year younger than me and who is the only member in his family.  He was converted six years ago."

"The members are great around here, we love them !"
--Elder Simonsen

Brigham City is a small country town named after Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Church.  President Young gave his final public address in Pioneer Park in the center of town, just weeks before his death.  During October Conference, in 1853, Brigham Young directed Lorenzo Snow to found a new town that would be self-sufficient.  Most of the settlers there were part of the first LDS immigrant company to arrive in Utah.  They were from Denmark, the country where Elder Simonsen, himself became a new member of the Church.  (He has had the opportunity to speak Danish to some of the descendents of these early pioneers).             --Sister B

On July 31, 2010, just a month after Elder Simonsen received his mission call in Odense, Denmark- there was a ground breaking on the main street of Brigham City across the street from their beautiful old tabernacle.  They were about to begin the construction of the new Brigham City Utah Temple.  There are banners all over town today that read: "Making Life Better (in) Brigham City."  The building of this sacred temple and the spirit of the missionaries who will bring this good news to the people of Brigham City.. will have a lasting impact on this little farming community in northern Utah.  --Sister B

President Boyd K. Packer in his opening remarks at the new Temple groundbreaking said:  "I am home."  President Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife Donna are natives of Brigham City.  President Packer had attended elementary school 80 years before on the very site where he stood.  He continued, "I can see in my mind's eye a temple sitting here in about two years time.  It will be gorgeous, it will be white.  You will see in the design of it- reflections of previous temples that have been built, particularly the Salt Lake Temple.  It will be a beacon from all over the valley."        --President Boyd K Packer

This is the ground breaking on that sacred site and a painting of the future Brigham City Utah Temple.

This is the temple in progress.  The top picture is the way it looked when Elder Simonsen arrived in Brigham City.  The bottom picture is the way it looks now..He will probably still be on his mission when it is completed and ready for an open house.

The center piece of this pioneer community is across the street from the new temple..the Tabernacle- a beautiful meeting place for the people of Brigham City.

Elder Simonsen and Elder Valenzuela arrived in their new home just a few blocks off of Main street on the north side of Brigham City.
Elder Valenzuela has only five months or so left of his mission, but both of them were new to Brigham City.

It is easy to tell that the Elders live in this apartment.  No one else has a picture of Jesus Christ on their front window.

A few days after they settled in,  Elder Simonsen wrote:

"We are doing great here in Brigham City, very nice members here.  We have dinner appointments everynight except P-day (Tuesday).  They wanted that day as well, but we wanted that day to be a "sacred" day where we eat whatever we want kind of thing...

Families here are great.  We have a Spanish branch with about 80-90 members at church on Sundays.  There are many Spanish speaking people (non members) here.  They just don't want to change their religion."                                                --Elder Simonsen

These are some of the dear members in Brigham City.

Snowy, Walking Days in Brigham City

"It snows almost every day or every other day..and we don't drive (because I don't have a license and my companion had an accident and lost his driving privilege- so we walk)"

-- Elder Simonsen, an Elder from the cold shores of Greenland

This has been one of the snowiest, coldest winters that they have had in Brigham City for many years- A fine welcome for this Elder from Greenland and his new companion from Guatemala- who had never seen snow in his life.

" I went through my first shoes..soles are worn down and there are cracks where snow comes in.. and it is a little bit hard to go to stores and stuff- so it takes a while to get stuff."

--Elder Simonsen in the "cold, dark world"

"This is a painting from the MTC. It reminded me
of Elder JJ's worn out shoes.

 It shows the dedication and hard physical labor that every Elder and Sister face day to day as they walk the streets of the world..with great enthusiasm- trying to share the Gospel with anyone out there who will take the time to listen.  These missionaries are either on their knees or on their feet- giving all of their time and effort to find one soul who is ready to listen."          --Sister B

It wasn't until Elder Simonsen arrived in the "wilderness" of his mission-  "out in the field"- that he missed his "Heavenly Home" in the MTC.  It was a great blessing to begin a mission in that sacred, busy place.

He wrote:

"It is weird being out of the MTC.  It feels like you are away from home.  It is one of the first times I felt kinda home sick.  It was great being at the MTC.  People there, all the missionaries, made sure that the place was a sacred place, where you receive learning, and you have the spirit all the time.  'Home is where my heart belongs'. "

                                                       --Elder Simonsen

"My heart belonged- while I was at the MTC."

"It belonged when we shared testimonies, were edified together, when we were at firesides..."  

"and we taught the Gospel together.."         --Elder Simonsen

 A Note:   Elder Simonsen received this thank you care package in the MTC with this note- "I enjoyed your testimony last night. I had two uncles who served their missions in Denmark." 

I think these cinnamon rolls came after he bore his testimony and conversion story to all of the missionaries in the MTC.  Great memories from that amazing experience.         --Sister B

"I felt a glimpse of my heavenly home, and I miss it more than ever !"

                                                       --Elder Simonsen looking back

At the end of this letter from the cold side of winter in Brigham City, Elder Simonsen remembers why he is there.  He writes:

"I know that everytime we choose God, we receive blessings.  I have made that choice and now it is hard for me to comprehend how many blessings that I have received !  I don't ever want to go back and spend a single second without it !

The Church and this Gospel has brought so much happiness in my life.  I love you, I miss you."                -Elder Jens Jacob Simonsen

A Brighter Day in Brigham City

A week later, after a very cold, snowy week in Northern Utah,  Elder Simonsen gets rid of his old shoes.  He writes:

"I went and got some new missionary shoes the other day, at a store that we have, 'CTR Store' or Holmes clothing, that specializes in missionary clothes and wedding clothes.  They measured my feet and got me the right shoes!  .. very nice 'Hush Puppies.' "

More Good News about his New Area

"We have the chance to go to the Logan Temple each week, and we love the temple.  It is so beautiful ! and we go each time! "

"It is a great opportunity to go and feel the spirit and upload spiritually for the week.  We have really nice Zone Leaders.. all of us are converts to the church, which is pretty amazing !  We love our Zone leaders."

"We are very busy with the work.  We cover a huge area. (about 3 thousand square miles- or 100 by 30 miles wide)... but we don't have many people to teach, so most of our energy goes to finding people, and knocking on doors, and its going really good."
                                                                                                                   --Elder Simonsen

"My trainer is really nice- training me so (well) !  Spanish is coming along really nicely.  I can understand it.  It takes a little bit of time to think of a reply but I'm getting there !

I love you! Thank you for all that you do!  Miss you !  Say hello to all the returned missionaries from Denmark !  Tell them in Logan, that I am there every week and I would like to see them sometime !  Ha. Haa!  I look for them and pray a tiny prayer to meet them randomly on the street!  ha haa.

That's all I have time for now, five minutes to write my family !"

                                                        Love, Elder Simonsen

Spring is on its way

Elder Simonsen has entered what he describes as "Farm Days" in Northern Utah.  Among the beautiful snowy mountains are patches of green and a few dafffodils and tulips that announce the coming of spring.  Lambs, baby goats, and new calves are beginning to arrive among the snow flurries and sunshine.

"We received some fine videos from him-  I will include them on the blog.  There was a long, powerful testimony of how he felt about his love for this work and for the Savior who continues to guide and direct his work here in Brigham City. "          -Sister B

" Right after his testimony,  he surprised me,  without any explaination..with a video of the birth of a cow..from start to finish.  This was the first time that I have heard him speak in Spanish.  At the end of the birth he said:   Feliz Cumpleanos...Happy Birthday (to the cow).  What an adventure it is to be on a mission."    --Sister B

Life is full,as Elder Simonsen enters spring on his mission.  He writes:


       It has been a wonderful week.   We are seeing progress finally of our hard work to stregthen the two branches we cover- The Sycamore Branch here in Brigham City and Fairview 2nd Branch in Tremonton.  The Lord has blessed us with people who He has prepared and we see the miracles each day !

I love you very much ! I miss you, can't wait to see you again ! 

with love,   Elder Simonsen

Welcome to the Spring of your mission,
Elder Jens Jacob Simonsen.

Brigham City, Utah, USA

Dear Elder Simonsen,

The past month has taken you to what you call "farm days," from the chill of winter to the birth of spring in the Utah Ogden Mission.

You have gone from a Zone leader of many to a "junior companion in training."  You have born your testimony to 2,000 missioaries and have celebrated the birth of a new born calf.  Life is full.

The Lord has a fine way of keeping us humble.  President Gordon B. Hinkley wrote a book a few years ago called "Standing for Something."  He described what it sometimes feels like to be a leader:

"There is great loneliness in leadership.  This is so because we have to live with ourselves even if it means abandoning our relationships and pursuits.  We have to live with our own consciences.  We have to live up to our inner feelings.  We have to stand for the values and beliefs that we have embraced, adopted and woven into our characters..  I love Paul's account before Agrippa of his experience on the way to Damascus.  When he had fallen to the ground the Lord instructed him:  'But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness.. to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light.' "  --Acts 26: 16, 18

" What we desperately need today on all fronts- in our homes and communities, in schoolrooms and boardrooms and certainly throughout society at large-- are leaders, men and women, who are willing to stand for something."                     -- President Gordon B. Hinkley

You, dear Elder, have now stepped out into the real world of your mission.  When you gathered at the temple in Provo, with your dear friends, and put your name tags together for the last time.. you said to all of us- that all nine of you were willing to leave that sacred place and go out into the world to "stand for something."

You were willing to
"Stand as a witness for your Savior, Jesus Christ,

At all times,

in all things, and in all places."

--Mosiah 18: 9

Thank you for the great sacrifice that you
have made for this worthy cause.

Welcome to Spring, Elder.  May God be with you till we meet again.  Much love,  Sister B