Sunday, September 12, 2010

Missionary Homecoming Talk

Wes and I reported our missions to the Ukiah II Ward on Sunday September 12, 2010. What follows is my (Joan’s) homecoming talk.

I’m happy to be here with you this Sabbath Day. The theme is from Psalms 37 which I’ll read in a moment. I want to integrate our missionary experiences in Mongolia with this scripture.

To give you a background for our missionary experiences, Mongolia is sandwiched between Russia and China. Mongolia is slightly larger than Alaska and has less than 3 million people with half of the people living in the capital city Ulaanbaatar and the rest of the people sparsely scattered throughout the countryside. Mongolians traditionally are a nomadic people; they rely on their livestock. According to the State Dept., only 1% of their land is arable which explains why they rely on livestock instead of farming. (

As part of the collapse of communism, the Russians withdrew from Mongolia. In sub-zero weather in January 1990 the Mongolians held large-scale demonstrations demanding democracy. By March of that year the Russians agreed to withdraw by 1992. Their withdrawal in 1990 and 1991 along with their withdrawal of economic assistance left the Mongolian people starving; some of the people had to go back to the countryside to survive.

1992 was a pivotal year. With the withdrawal of the Soviets, Mongolia’s new constitution went into effect. The Church sent six missionary couples to Mongolia in September 1992. The Church opens missionary work in a new area with couples before they send in young missionaries.

In April of 1993 the land was dedicated by Elder Neal A. Maxwell for the preaching of the gospel. Quoting from Elder Maxwell:

“In the power and the authority of the Holy Apostleship, I dedicate the land of Mongolia and bless its leaders and people, its soil, and its sky – all to the end that the nation may be blessed, that it will so respond to the Gospel message so that Thy work may be firmly established here. May Mongolia ever be a beacon light to other nations.”

The people of Mongolia love their country and especially their countryside. They are receptive to hearing the gospel message.

The Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission was officially created two years after the dedication on July 1, 1995 with Richard E. Cook as president, who is now a director of the church’s Perpetual Education Fund, and his wife Mary N. Cook, who is currently the 1st counselor in the general YW presidency. Last June Elder and Sister Cook visited Mongolia, just after we left, to speak at a Youth Conference, at firesides, and to help train young men and young women leaders.

There are now approximately 10,000 members of the Church in Mongolia, about 1/3 of 1% of the population. The summer before last (2009), the mission had up to 184 young missionaries serving. With the withdrawal of almost all the young American missionaries, the number went down to around 134. Under the leadership of President D. Allen Andersen, who was our mission president, many young Mongolians received calls to serve a mission in Mongolia. Before his tenure as president, most of the missionaries were Americans. With many Mongolians serving, the mission had enough missionaries to thrive when the Americans returned home. In Mongolia there are also many sister missionaries; they feel it is as important for them to serve as it is for the young men.

In May 2009 the first stake was formed in Mongolia with President Odgerel as stake president. We were privileged to attend this event. The people were so excited. The stake was formed 17 years after the introduction of the church to Mongolia, the shortest period of time for a country in Asia from the introduction of the gospel to the formation of a stake.

With a stake came wards, ordination of high priests, and a patriarch. People were thrilled to have the privilege to obtain patriarchal blessings. Previously only people who had traveled out of the country to places like BYU-Hawaii or to serve foreign missions had been able to receive patriarchal blessings. A survey was taken of those who’d received their blessings, and it was found that all of the tribes of Israel were represented among the Mongolian people; they are part of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Psalms 37 reads:
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

One of the themes that was emphasized on our mission to Mongolia was keeping our covenants, consecrating our all to the Lord. Faithfully keeping our covenants is what we do when we commit our way unto the Lord.

Elder Maynes at a General Conference (October 2004) explained, “As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have also taken upon ourselves sacred obligations. We have done this in the waters of baptism and in the temples of the Lord. We call these obligations covenants. Covenants are promises we make to the Lord. They are extremely sacred in nature. The most important thing we can do in this life is to keep the promises or covenants we have made with the Lord. When we keep our promises to the Lord, He allows us to progress spiritually.

Elder Maynes then proceeded to talk about examples of Filipino families and individuals who understand and keep the covenants they have made with the Lord. I wish to relate instances of how the Mongolian Saints were examples to us of those who committed themselves to the Lord.

As an example of the readiness of the Mongolian people to accept the gospel, there were several occasions when people came up to us and said they’d like to join the Church.

Each Friday was baptism night. Many people from our branches attended the baptisms. Before being baptized, investigators had to attend the entire 3-hour block for three Sundays. If the investigator was a teenager, he had to attend the 3-hour block, mutual, and seminary for 2 months. If under the age of 12, he had to attend for 4 months. The new converts at their baptismal service, after they’re baptized, are expected to stand in front of the people and bear their testimony. They have no problem in speaking in front of a large group.

Many of the members and missionaries are the only members of their family in the Church. Family members often join the Church while missionaries are serving. In a few families there are beginning to be 3 generation families with brothers and sisters and cousins as members of the Church.

A country-wide Youth Conference was held last June. For the youth to be eligible to participate, they are required to have 80% attendance at seminary. 350 youth and 100 leaders attended from all over Mongolia. It was a miracle that the youth were able to hold to the required attendance considering this past winter was a Dzud disaster with temperatures of -40 to -50 and deep snow in some areas. Seminary is held early in the morning, and the students walk to seminary in the cold and dark. In one branch the missionaries would get up early and go from ger to ger collecting students and walking them to seminary.

Khovd is 1000 miles west from the capital city Ulaanbaatar. 38 youth attended youth conference from Khovd. All our Church buildings have a guard or caretaker. One cold winter morning in Khovd, in the middle of the night, a caretaker heard a knock on the door. He wondered who was there. Two young people were standing there who had come for early morning seminary. They lived in a ger where they didn’t own a clock. They had awakened and thought it was time to go to seminary and came because they didn’t want to miss seminary or be late. It was only 3:30 in the morning.

Firesides are held for new Mongolian missionaries going to the Philippines MTC and for departing missionaries. It is only recently that missionaries who are serving in Mongolia have the opportunity to go to an MTC. When a fireside is announced in the branches, the people come and the room is packed.

There is a branch about 2 hours from UB called Baganuur which has about 100 people at church each Sunday. For District Conference last March, on a Saturday afternoon 60 adults rode into UB crowded into 3 meekers, which are large vans, to come to the meetings. After the evening meeting they rode for 2 hours back to Baganuur in the crowded meekers. Then early the next morning on Sunday they repeated the 2 hour trip each way in the crowded meekers so they wouldn’t miss any district conference meetings. The people are poor, and it was a sacrifice of money as well as time for them to come.

Last April there was a countryside choir festival held at the National Theater in UB for the entire Church in Mongolia. 650 singers participated from every branch and ward except for the 3 furthest outlying areas which held their own choir festivals. One singing group was from Bulgan, a newly opened proselyting area. There is no branch there, but the people wanted to participate. 19 people sang in the choir; there were only 3 members, but 14 investigators sang, as well as 2 missionaries. They sang 3 numbers, all memorized: Love One Another and I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus in English, and We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet in Mongolian.

In addition to the Mongolian Saints setting powerful examples of faithfulness, the area authorities set an example. Mongolia is part of the Asia Area with the area presidency in Hong Kong. The Asia Area has over ½ of the world’s population.

We had regular visits from the area presidency and area authorities. Elder and Sister Perkins, Elder Hallstrom (who is now a member of the 7 Presidents of 70), Elder Pratt, and Elder and Sister Watson came to visit us as well as President and Sister Goo of the Hong Kong temple presidency, Elder Jones, and Elder Ho.

Elder Pratt spoke of the covenant of consecration. The General Authorities and the Area Seventies give what the Lord asks. If they are required to travel, it is O.K.; it is part of their covenant. He said they have it easier than Brigham and Heber; Brigham and Heber didn't have Skype.

Elder Ho commented, even with his traveling on Church assignments, he always has family home evening on Sunday night. Their family's home evening is held in four locations. They get together on Skype as a group meeting. They have assignments just as they would if they were together in one location. When it is 6:30 am Sunday morning in Vancouver, Canada, it is 9:30 pm Sunday evening in Hong Kong.

These are examples of Saints committing their way unto the Lord and trusting in him (Psalms 37:5). They are covenant keepers; they are keeping their covenants to take His name upon them, always remember Him, and keep his commandments. According to Elder Hallstrom, “They are living their lives by covenant, not by convenience. Their covenants are the basis for their decisions and the direction of their lives.” In the words of Elder Christofferson (April 2009), “they are letting their covenants be paramount and their obedience exact.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back in the States

Medical for Wes
We flew from Ulaanbaatar to Salt Lake City on the evening of Tuesday June 8 by way of Seoul, Korea and LA. The Church kindly flew us business class; 5 tickets were purchased – one for Wes, one for Joan, one for Dr. Eliason, one for the oxygen tank, and one for Dr. Eliason to return to UB. We appreciated Dr. Eliason accompanying us in case there were problems. We flew as far as LA with Korean Airlines which provides great service.

Bonnie, Marjorie, and Jacob met us at the airport in Salt Lake on the afternoon of Wednesdsay June 9 (Salt Lake time is 14 hours earlier than UB time). We went directly from the airport to the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray where Wes was admitted. On Thursday morning (June 10) they did a cardiac catheterization and inserted two stents. What follows is Bonnie’s medical report for the record.

"On Thursday morning (June 10) they did a cardiac catheterization. The cardiologist confirmed the inferior MI. Wes now has Q waves in leads II, III, & AVF. He had two lesions in the branches off the right coronary artery (PDA & PLV). They placed stents in both of these areas, and he now has good blood flow. He also has a significant lesion in his left anterior descending artery. They did not feel that it was safe to stent that artery today because he has a history of being allergic to contrast dye. Also his creatinine was a little high at 1.8. As a result he will have another cardiac catheterization in 2 or 3 weeks.

"Thursday night he had an echocardiogram. It showed that his ejection fraction was 55% which was great. In the angiogram it showed that he still had blood flow through the lesions so there was still some perfusion although the inferior wall was hypokinetic. The cardiologist, however, expects this to improve."

On the day Wes entered the hospital for his cardiac cath, MyrLene was also in the hospital as an outpatient. We saw Stan, but missed seeing MyrLene.

We were grateful Wes did well after the procedure and didn’t have to have open heart surgery. He was released from the hospital the next day on Friday. The two stents placed on June 10 were in the area that caused his heart attack. An appointment was scheduled for Monday June 28 to place the 3rd stent in his left anterior descending artery.

Wes didn’t make it until June 28 without having chest pain again. On Saturday June 26 Wes’ chest pains recurred. John Conrad and I took him in the evening from Kaysville to the Emergency Room at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray where they immediately admitted him. The hospital said he didn’t have another heart attack, but they kept him in the hospital where they could give him medication and monitor him until his scheduled stent insertion.

On this second hospital visit I became concerned because Wes’ blood sugar went up to 400. They kept giving him insulin in the hospital to bring it down. I believe it went that high because of the injections they gave him because of his dye allergy. His blood sugar is now back where it should be with medication. Wes didn’t seem to spring back as quickly after the last stent, but he’s doing fine now.

Home Again and Family
We didn’t anticipate returning home to the States so soon; we wanted to stay and continue our mission in Mongolia. We do miss our friends in Mongolia. However, it does feel good to be in the States and be with family again. We’ve been able to see all of our children, Wes’ brothers and two of his sisters, and my brother.

Bonnie and Jacob flew in from California and stayed for a week to help us. They left on June 16 to return in time for Austin’s junior high graduation. Suzanne and Cheryl came late in the evening of June 23 to visit with Dad and stayed for several days. We appreciated all the visits.

We’ve also enjoyed seeing our friends from Ukiah. We’ve seen Marc and Leanne Irwin, Steve and Margie Fowler, Carl and Sharon Morgensen, and Darwin and Nina Richardson. We were able to attend Chase Irwin’s wedding reception in Salt Lake (June 17). Carl and Sharon drove their Toyota Avalon from California to Utah since they are entering the MTC on July 5. We bought their car from them and are enjoying it.

Besides visiting with Stan and MyrLene, our family went to their home on June 26 where we also saw Frank and Roberta. (That evening Wes went to the emergency room.) Scott and Crystal came to Marjorie’s on July 3, and Steve and Linda came by on July 11.

We’ve been busy with the grandchildren. We see them often. The only grandchildren we haven’t seen are Austin in California, and then Suzanne’s children whom we’ll see this fall.

On Father’s Day the family got together at Marjorie’s. For the 4th of July celebration on July 3 we attended the Kaysville Parade in the morning, had a BBQ in the afternoon, and watched fireworks in the evening.

This coming week from July 21 to July 24 we’ll go camping at Yellowstone with Marjorie’s, John’s, William’s, and Wendy’s families. We are staying at a KOA in West Yellowstone.

We’re still in Utah. We’ll finally drive home on July 27 after Wes’ followup visit with Dr. Miner. We appreciate Marjorie’s hospitality. She didn’t know we’d be staying with her for almost 7 weeks.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Update on Sunday June 6, 2010

Departing Foreign (American) Missionaries

Finally the day arrived for our 20 American missionaries to leave. It was sad to see them go. 9 of them were transferred to the States; 11 had completed their missions. Elders Whittle and Alder had been particularly kind and helpful to us. They both had been zone leaders assigned to our Sukhbaatar Branch. They translated for us. They took us to homes for Tsagaan Sar. They were a blessing in our lives.

On the evening of Sunday May 23 our Departing Missionary Fireside was held where all of the missionaries spoke. Early on the morning of Tuesday May 25 after the missionaries loaded their luggage in vehicles, they gathered in the parking lot behind the Bayanzurkh building for a song and prayer before they departed. I felt blue for a couple of days like I do when our own children leave. There are only 6 young American missionaries left here. They are sponsored by other organizations to whom they owe the teaching of English. These missionaries will not be able to be transferred outside UB because of the sponsorships. I don’t think the Church has ever before had missionaries sponsored by other organizations.

Socializing with Members
Saturday May 29 after piano we were invited by Pujee to go to her apartment to have lunch with her and her husband. It was a pleasant afternoon; they served pilaf (plov in Russian) with beef.

Then on Sunday we had our recently released Sukhbaatar branch president to dinner, Batjargal, his wife Purevsuren, and their 17-year old daughter. We also had their married daughter Shinegerel with her husband Batmunkh and their baby. Then we invited Shuurai and her daughter Battsengel (she returned earlier this year from a mission to Arizona). Finally, to help translate we invited Orkhontuul (an RM who served in Australia). Actually the only people who didn’t understand any English were Batjargal, Purevsuren, and Shuurai.

Batjargal talked about how the gospel has blessed their lives. I believe they joined the Church in 2004. He has served as branch president from 2005 until 2010. Batjargal and his wife want to go on a couple mission. At first I thought they meant further in the future, but then I realized they meant sooner. They said they had to wait until their youngest daughter turned 18 which will be on Dec. 31. They talked about saving money so they could become missionaries.

They had all kinds of questions about going on a mission. They wanted to know how much it cost to be senior missionaries. They wanted to know if it helped if they graduated from Institute. They wanted to know if they had to know how to use computers to go on a mission. They wanted to know if they had to learn a foreign language. They could well be the first couple missionaries from Mongolia.

Children’s Day

Tuesday June 1 was Children’s Day, a national holiday. The paid employees didn’t work that day. As couples we decided to go out for lunch. We went to Mongolian BBQ. They had a ger set up in the back of the restaurant; the 12 of us sat in there to eat. We enjoy being together with each other; they are all wonderful people. It was also Sister Powell's birthday (the day after) so she was sung to and a cake was brought.

Our Anniversary, Terelj, and Dad’s Heart Attack
Thursday June 3 was our 47th wedding anniversary. We planned to go to the Terelj Hotel with Elder and Sister Eliason to celebrate our anniversaries. We were married June 3, 1963; they were married June 4, 1964. We didn’t make our reservations at the hotel until Wednesday since we were still waiting to find out the status of our passports. We heard that the Labor Department had accepted our applications for work permits and we wouldn’t hear more for a few days so we thought it would be safe to go.

We are still not legally here. Our residence permits expired on May 11, and the Immigration Department is holding our passports. Last Tuesday night just before our English class in the Bayanzurkh building began, a policeman came into the room in plain clothes and showed us his badge. I was sure he was there for us, but there was a Chinese dignitary in town, and he was checking the building to see if there were any undesirables hiding in the building.

We didn’t leave for Terelj until Friday the 4th because 21 new missionaries arrived from the Manila Philippines MTC on Thursday. The van was needed for them on Thursday and also Friday morning. Also both the Eliasons and we needed to orient the new missionaries first thing Friday morning. We probably left UB around 11 am.

The Terelj Hotel is in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, about 56 miles away over rough roads. We had a very nice room and were enjoying our stay. About 5 in the afternoon (I could be off an hour; I’m not sure of the time anymore) Wes had a heart attack. His symptoms were he was cold and clammy and was drenching the bedding, he was white as a sheet, he was dizzy and felt nauseous, and he had severe pains in his chest which radiated to his back and his left arm. He lay down on the bed and couldn’t move. At first I didn’t realize how serious the problem was since I’ve seen him be cold and clammy before when he wasn’t feeling well. Wes wasn’t talking, and I didn’t realize he was having severe chest pains. Fortunately for us, the husband of the other couple we were traveling with, Elder Eliason, is a doctor. He took Wes’s pulse, and it had fallen to 42 bpm. He wanted Wes to take an aspirin right away to thin his blood. We didn’t have any on us and even the hotel didn’t have any. We decided we needed to return to UB. Wes had consecrated olive oil in his pocket. Before we left, Elder Eliason gave Wes a priesthood blessing. The hotel didn’t have a wheelchair so Wes had to be helped to walk out to the van. Then it took us a little time to get checked out. At least they cut 50% off the room rate because we were leaving early due to a medical problem.

The drive back to UB was difficult for Wes because the roads were so rough. It took us a while to get back and to drive to the opposite side of the city to Hospital 3 (the traffic in UB is unreal). By the time we got to UB, Wes’s color had improved, but he was still in pain. As we drove past the mission building we picked up Elder Sherwood (who wants to be a surgeon) and Elder Bayasgalan so Elder Sherwood could translate for us when we got to the hospital. We went to Hospital 3 because Dr. Eliason understood that that was the hospital that specialized in heart problems. Driving into the emergency entrance you’d never know it was the right place. There was no sign at the entrance and the road to it was a bumpy uneven rocky road which didn’t seem like an entrance. Hospitals in Mongolia are definitely not like hospitals elsewhere. We probably arrived at the hospital around 9 p.m. Elder Sherwood had brought some aspirin with him so Wes could take one. The hospital wanted to know if we had any water to drink with the aspirin (I guess they didn’t have any clean water) so we went out to the van to get a water bottle. They did give Wes an EKG. The first results were inconclusive because Wes was so cold he was shaking. Then they took a second EKG and said it indicated a mild heart attack. We asked for a blanket because Wes said he was so cold. They put a nitroglycerine tablet under Wes’s tongue. After that Wes said the pain started to lessen. They took a blood test. We had to wait awhile for the results; they said an enzyme level was raised which indicates a heart attack. The doctor who came into the “emergency room” is supposed to be a cardiologist, but after the EKG and blood tests, he turned to Dr. Eliason and asked what he wanted to do. Dr. Eliason replied that the other doctor was the cardiologist. The cardiologist had nothing else to recommend except Wes being watched in a hospital.

It was decided Wes should spend the night. At first they said we should go back to Hospital 2 since only Mongolians stayed in Hospital 3 and foreigners went to Hospital 2. Dr. Eliason said that we were at Hospital 3 instead of Hospital 2 because they specialized in heart problems. Anyway Wes did spend the night there. We happened to end up in a single room instead of a ward. There was a short bed with a hard mattress pad. Wes asked if they had a hospital gown he could sleep in. They didn’t; if you want to wear pajamas you bring your own. They put a folding chair in the room on which I slept during the night. Wes was still cold. I asked the nurse if we could have a second blanket; she said “no.” The nurse offered Wes a nitroglycerine tablet; I said he had just had one so he didn’t receive another, but she gave him two shots – one in the arm for pain and one subcutaneous shot in his stomach (I don’t know what it was). We never saw a nurse again until morning. They don’t come around and check on patients. There were a couple of derelict toilets down the hall. We were told the water for the toilets had been turned off for the night and wouldn’t be on until morning. Interesting the room had a small Buddhist shrine set up on the windowsill.

Anyway after the night, where Wes didn’t sleep well (neither did I), he said he ached, but it was from the uncomfortable bed instead of the chest pains. He seemed better today (Saturday). Since the nurse had given Wes extra nitroglycerine tablets the night before, he took one in the morning. The nurse came around the next morning (the only time we saw her today) and gave Wes another shot in the stomach and took another EKG. The doctor appeared shortly afterwards and said the results of the EKG looked better. I thought the doctor said the EKG was normal; Dr. Eliason said it was better, but he could still see it wasn’t normal. There was a man in the hospital whose mother was across the hall who either teaches or is connected to the International School (university level) which I think is based in Vermont. His English was very good, and he was valuable in translating when we got up to the room.

Dr. Eliason called the 24-hour LDS Church medical service in the U.S. and talked to a cardiologist. The cardiologist thought Wes should stay in the hospital for 24-36 hours in case of further problems. Dr. Eliason tried to explain what hospitals were like in Mongolia; they don’t seem to be much use, but many Mongolians like to go to them for R&R, not medical treatment. When Dr. Eliason came back to the hospital this afternoon to take us to our apartment, he brought propranolol, a beta blocker, some aspirin (Wes can only take a little because of his ulcer problems), and nitroglycerine tablets. The doctor at the hospital never recommended taking a beta blocker or any further tests.

When we were trying to leave the hospital, the nurse said we had to see a doctor first. We waited about an hour. The doctor who came up was a doctor we’d never seen before. We were happy to leave and also to find food since there is also no food at the hospital. Patients have to provide their own food. We’d had a couple of bottles of fruit juice and some apples with us that had to last us. We didn’t get away until about 4 pm Saturday. We will have to go back on Monday and pay since cashiers don’t work on weekends. We had no way of notifying family what was happening. Then by the time we got back to our apartment, it was nighttime in the States.

Dr. Eliason said Wes is grounded to our apartment and must rest. He said we must take the heart attack seriously; there is a danger of another one occurring. The current thinking is that in a few days Wes will fly to Hong Kong for further tests. Dr. Eliason says the stress would be too much for him to travel immediately or to travel as far as the States. Now we just need the Immigration Department to give us our passports back so we can fly. (President Andersen said he received a phone call that we finally had our labor permits about 30 min. before Dr. Eliason called him about the heart attack.)

Wes is feeling O.K. now. We were blessed that it wasn’t more serious since we’d never have returned to UB in time, and even if we had, I’m not sure about the care here. Since Wes had a priesthood blessing and was serving as a missionary, I felt he would be O.K. until we returned to UB. Now we just need to know the cause of the heart attack to prevent another one from occurring. We may get to go to Hong Kong again instead of going to Korea.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Update on May 22, 2010

You may see pictures later. If I wait to upload them, I'll never get the blog posted.

Choir Festival
We had a big event for the Church in Mongolia on Saturday April 17. A Choir Festival was held at the National Theater in Ulaanbaatar. 650 singers participated from every branch and ward except for the 3 furthest outlying areas which held their own choir festivals. There were 18 groups. An interesting choir was the group from Bulgan, a newly opened proselyting area. There is not a branch there, but the people wanted to participate. There were 19 singers in the choir, but only 3 members, with 14 investigators and 2 missionaries. They sang 3 numbers, all memorized: Love One Another and I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus in English, and We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet in Mongolian.

The night before the festival, Sukhbaatar asked me to play for their choir. On the day of the performance, two more groups, Chingeltei and Darkhan I, requested that I play for them so I sightread for the performance. The choirs were counting on being able to insert a disk into an electronic piano for their accompaniment, but the pianos there didn't have that feature.

To view the performances on YouTube, go to Mongolia Choir Festival at, pages 1 & 2.

Stake Primary Children's Program
The following evening (Sunday April 18) we were invited to attend a stake Primary children's program in the Ulaanbaatar building. It was like a ward Primary sacrament meeting program, but on a stake level. I haven't seen so many children here before all together at Church. It was a very nice program with the children from each ward saying their parts and singing songs.

Departing Missionaries
On April 21 fourteen more missionaries completed their missions including 1 American elder, 8 Mongolian elders, and 5 Mongolian sisters. Elder Christensen, the American, had stayed an extra month to help out. He was an assistant to the president. Now our new assistants to the president will be Elder Stephenson and Elder Adartseren. (There is confusion in the office between the names Stevens and Stephenson.)

On Saturday April 24 we had the pleasure of eating dinner at the Powell's and playing games with them.

Saturday April 24 through Friday April 30, NRT (neonatal resuscitation training), sponsored by Deseret International Charities, was held at the Bayanzurkh building in UB. All of the neonatologists in all 21 of the provinces of Mongolia attended. Two doctors from the U.S. conducted the training, Dr. Preece, who came with his wife, and Dr. Cornish. Several of the senior couples went with the Lassons and the doctors to see a traditional Mongolian performance by the Tumen Ekh Ensemble on the evening of Monday April 26. The program was great as usual. Afterwards we enjoyed going out to dinner at the Veranda restaurant.

We've had problems with the cords on our electronic keyboards for piano class. On Thursday April 29 Baatar took the Powells and us and Miga as translator to find cords for the keyboards. (We ended up purchasing 22 of them.) Then all 6 of us went to Millie's (a restaurant with American food) for lunch. Namkhai came and joined us.

Saturday May 1 the senior couples decided to attend another music and dance performance so we went to The Moonstone Ensemble. It was a very professional performance, but it didn't seem to me as traditional Mongolian as the Tumen Ekh Ensemble.

Saturday May 8 we had our own senior couples' Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Bayanzurkh building. We made Mexican food - enchiladas, Spanish rice, and tacos. The dessert of blackberry pie was very good so it's O.K. that it wasn't Mexican. Sister Caldwell made a pinata shaped like a camel, very appropriate for Mongolia.

New Mission Secretary
Namkhai (a young man) is no longer working in the mission office as the mission secretary. We will miss him. He has been our friend. We want to be sure to stay in touch. Starting May 3 Battsetseg (a girl) is our new secretary. She had been the secretary for the Lassons in DIC and will be an asset to the mission office.

Mother's Day May 9
Mother's Day is difficult to remember here since it is not a Mongolian holiday. Also it is Monday here when it is Sunday in the U.S. In Mongolia people celebrate International Women's Day on March 8.

At Church they sustained President Altansukh as the new district president for the UB East District. His daughter Buyanzaya was a sister missionary who worked in the office with us until her release on April 21. His son Munkh-Od is going to the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission in September.

In the evening we held our monthly senior couples' family home evening at our apartment. The lesson was lesson 30 on "Valiant in the Cause of Truth" from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

We decided this was an appropriate lesson for us since we're never sure what will happen to missionaries coming and going from here.

Mission Anniversary in Mongolia
Tuesday April 20 was the one-year anniversary of our entering the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Thursday May 6 was the one-year anniversary of our entering Mongolia. On Tuesday May 11 our residence permits expired. We have been in limbo wondering what we are to do. We were hoping to be sponsored by Hospital 2 where we've been teaching English for a year. Now we understand our sponsors are to be an architecture firm in UB where we are to teach English. We've been told off and on that we're to go to Korea and then come back in. We were also told we were to be investigated. So here we are almost 2 weeks past the expiration date of our residence permits waiting to see what will happen.

Thursday May 20 was Zone Conference for us. Wes attended, but I didn't. I asked President Andersen for permission to be excused. Since our situation in Mongolia is uncertain, I had projects I wanted to be sure to complete.

Money Problems
We've had problems with missionaries being able to withdraw money from their J. P. Morgan cards since around April 12. The problem is still not resolved. However, there is now more push to solve the problem since they've discovered the problem is not just a Mongolia problem; it is affecting all J. P. Morgan clients. The pending charges on the cards are not clearing out when the actual transactions are recorded. Thus the available balances are showing less than they should, and the missionaries can't withdraw all of their allotment.

Flowers and Trees
May 12, everywhere we looked people were planting flower seeds. Then on May 15, people were planting trees. The UB Post reported 130,000 trees were planted that day in Ulaanbaatar.

Terelj National Park
On Saturday May 15 I cancelled my Saturday morning piano classes so we could drive with other senior couples to Terelj National Park, ostensibly to decide which ger camp we'll stay at on our senior outing in June.

We enjoyed ourselves. We didn't see green yet (this was only one week ago), but we enjoyed the trip and had the chance to hold an eagle, ride camels and yaks, and hike in Terelj.

This past week it rained, and overnight we saw green grass and trees sprouting.

We have loved May. It's been pleasant. Even when it hasn't been, we haven't worn our coats because we're tired of them. One thing I enjoy about Mongolia is all the hours of daylight. It begins to get light about 4 am in the morning, and it is not completely dark yet at 9 o'clock at night. There is no need for daylight savings time here.

Baby Shower
Monday May 17 there was a baby shower for 4 babies whose parents work for the Service Center. Baby showers are not a traditional Mongolian event. Their interpretation of American baby showers is that the fathers give the baby shower and men and women are invited. The fathers provided a meal for the baby shower. The senior couples brought desserts and soft drinks as well as presents. It was fun to get to know the families of people we work with every day.

Stake Conference
Saturday May 15 and Sunday May 16 was stake conference for the UB West Stake. We had the privilege of having President Perkins, the Asia Area President from Hong Kong, attend the conference. The theme of the conference was loving your wife and children.

At the Saturday session President Perkins said the length of time from the first missionaries arriving in Mongolia to Mongolia having a stake was shorter than for any other country in Asia. He said that Mongolians have faith, they are of the house of Abraham and of Israel, they have believing blood.

He said God's standards don't change whatever circumstances we are in. He said Joseph who was sold into Egypt didn't forget his covenants. He fled and ran; he was going to obey the law of chastity no matter what. As a result he was a slave for 13 years in the king's prison. Because he was clean, he had the Holy Ghost with him, and he was able to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. There is power and joy in living the law of chastity.

President Perkins told about the life of President Monson. At the last General Authority meeting at April General Conference, President Monson told them to never disregard a prompting. So many times the prompting will tell you to go see or call someone. When he follows a prompting, he blesses someone's life. The Holy Ghost is a still small voice. If the Holy Ghost gives you ideas and you don't do them, the Holy Ghost will quit talking to you.

President Perkins testified of the blessings that have come to his family by their living the principles of the gospel.

For 24 years they have read the Book of Mormon every day with their children.
They have held family home evening every week. Their children like to sing and like spiritual things.
They have paid a full tithing.
They have avoided debt except for their house.
Every 6 months they love to hear the prophet and apostles; they follow their counsel.
They follow For the Strength of Youth guidelines.

President and Sister Andersen spoke at the Sunday session of stake conference. Their talks sounded like farewell talks. President Andersen spoke about the love of God. In John 13:34 the Savior told his disciples to love one another. In John chapter 21 the Savior told Peter to feed his lambs and twice to feed his sheep. President Andersen said the lambs are those who are new in the gospel, struggling, or have problems in their lives. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are always looking for the lost lambs. We must pray for the love of God and our fellowmen so we can feed the lambs. We are to help others' burdens become light. We are to watch over and love one another.

Adiyabold, a counselor in the stake presidency, spoke on tithing. He said if we can't accept tithing, our testimony won't be strong. Tithing is an eternal principle. Every law is connected to a blessing. He will bless us with blessings we can't get on our own. President Hinckley said, "You will never get out of debt if you don't pay a full tithing." The windows of heaven will be opened (Malachi 3:10). Whatever difficulty you have, starting TODAY pay a full tithing.

You need to pay your tithing to go to the temple and to go to the Celestial Kingdom. President Faust in a First Presidency letter said if you pay your tithing, you'll protect your family and you'll be ready for anything. When you pay your tithing, you'll sing a song of joy.

President Perkins added the comment that the cost of the Church in Asia far exceeds donations. You need to pay your tithing so the Lord can bless you. Tithing is always linked to the temple. As you pay your tithing, the Lord in his own time and way will bring a temple to Mongolia.

He explained the Area Presidency is grateful for the stake presidency. The stake presidency holds the keys to revelation for members of the stake and the keys for all spiritual blessings of the Church. You will be blessed as you follow their counsel. To receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to receive a temple recommend, or to receive a patriarchal blessing, a person must be interviewed and approved by a member of the stake presidency.

President Perkins then spoke about the basic core principles of the gospel. He said Heavenly Father's Plan is to obey the law of chastity, to be married and hopefully sealed in the temple, to have children, to be faithful to your husband or wife, to raise children in love, and to have no divorce. Satan is attacking the Plan. He asked how do we save the family? The answer is in the Book of Mormon, which is written for our day, which says we need to Come Unto Christ.

How can we tell if we or our loved ones are Coming to Christ? We show by our right behavior.

We attend sacrament meeting and/or conference each week.
We follow the Prophet (Conference messages are in the Liahona).
We share the gospel with others.
We feast upon the scriptures in our homes. We read at least a few verses from the Book of Mormon every day.
We do our callings and duty.
We say kind things.
We are dignified in our appearance.
We are generous in our tithes and fast offerings.
We are unified with everyone in our family and at Church. We don't gossip or criticize our leaders. We forgive and ask for forgiveness.
We show love.
As we come unto Christ, we become better people because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter and General Conference

Mongolian Spring Is Here
March means the weather can go above 0° F. By the end of March it became spring. After months of cold weather the temperature reached 32° F. Although the temperature doesn’t stay up, we’ve had temperatures in the 40’s. In the outlying areas however, animals are still dying because they can’t get grass. The grass won’t begin to grow until May. This has been a record cold winter in Mongolia.

On March 31 the President and the assistants left Ulaanbaatar for a tour of the mission – the Darkhan and Erdenet areas and Murun. They were also going to go to Choibalsan, but that trip was postponed until this coming week.

Sunday April 4 was Easter. All day I had a special happy feeling to know that Jesus Has Risen.

For fun on Saturday I colored Easter eggs and made a bunny cake out of cupcakes.

After church on Sunday we invited the Sukhbaatar elders, the office elders, and the office sisters to dinner.

One of the Mongolian elders wanted to know what chickens had laid the different colored eggs – he’d never seen dyed eggs before.

Good News
A week ago Saturday (April 1) we received the good news that our 20 American missionaries who were either going to go home or be transferred on April 22nd wouldn’t have to leave then; they could stay until May 25. This means half of them will finish their missions here; the other half will be transferred to the States and finish their missions near the end of August.

Bad News
To offset this good news, all of our meetinghouses except for Bayanzurkh, were not reregistered by the government. We wanted the government to consider all the wards and branches as one church instead of separate churches. That delayed us. As a result, as of tomorrow (April 12) we can now only have a one-hour sacrament meeting for each ward or branch until at least June. No other meetings can be held in the meetinghouses – no 3-hour block, no baptisms, no seminary or institute, no singles family home evenings, no choir practice. Other meetings will be crowded into the Bayanzurkh building.

General Conference
This weekend was general conference weekend in Mongolia. We had the privilege of listening to all sessions of conference in English in the President’s apartment. When I was young, I loved going to quarterly (in the old days) stake conference with my parents. I remember the drive down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago to go to conference on the south side at University Ward. My father was on the high council and my mother played the organ.

Now I love the opportunity of learning and feeling the Spirit at zone conferences, district conferences, stake conferences, and general conference. At this general conference there were so many wonderful thoughts presented. Taking my idea from Sister Beck, I made notes of what I should do under three categories:

1) Spirituality – Increase faith and righteousness
2) Strengthen families
3) Love – Seek out and help others – Be representatives of the Savior

Many talks were on strengthening the family. I liked Elder Bednar’s idea for us as families to regularly read and talk about the Book of Mormon which testifies of Christ, to bear our testimonies spontaneously in our families, and to invite our children to act, not be hearers of the word only. This reminded me of the scripture:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26)
One landmark talk was Elder Oakes priesthood meeting talk on the priesthood ordinance of healing the sick. Since I can’t begin to cover all that was said at conference, you can find the talks at or at,5239,23-1-1207,00.html.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Update on March 28, 2010

Seniors Home Evening
Sunday evening March 14 we held our seniors family home evening at President Andersen’s apartment. We had postponed it a week hoping to first get our seniors back from Korea (the Eliasons and Atkins were still not back). Our topic was missionary work as found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, lesson 28. One thing I noticed on page 335 was that after Joseph testified about the organization of the church, he promised the people the blessing of receiving the Holy Ghost if they would repent and be baptized. Preach My Gospel, page 198, reads “An effective missionary teaches, testifies, and invites others to do things that build faith in Jesus Christ. This includes making promises that come from living true principles.” I’ve learned that both effective teaching and missionary work include 1) teaching key doctrine, 2) testifying of its truthfulness by the Spirit, 3) extending an invitation to action, and 4) promising blessings. These principles are the same for teaching a class at church as well as teaching by missionaries.

Elder Watson
Elder Watson, the first counselor in the Asia Area Presidency, and his wife came for a short tour of the mission. The senior couples (now including the Eliasons and Atkins) had a potluck dinner at the President’s apartment on Wednesday March 17 where we had an opportunity to visit with the Watsons. We shared what we do to help the work of the Lord here in Mongolia.

Zone Conference
Thursday was our day to attend Zone Conference in the Bayanzurkh building. The theme of the conference was faith. President Andersen said our goal in teaching investigators is for them to have a change of heart, to be like the Savior. The following steps lead to this change of heart.
1) Understand the gospel
2) Gain a testimony
3) Develop faith
4) Ultimate goal is to be perfect – have a great change of heart

Then he explained the kind of questions which will help for each step.
1) What do you understand about . . . ?
    How important is it to you?
2) How do/did you feel about it? Explain how the Holy Ghost works.
3) Will you show your faith in Jesus Christ by . . . ?
    Connect faith in Jesus Christ to commitment.

Elder Watson spoke about faith in Hebrews 11 and Ether 12. He told how President Andersen had personalized By Faith ... to his own life. I challenge all of you children and the grandchildren who are old enough, to write your own personalized By Faith. This would be a great home evening activity. It will give you the opportunity to think of how you’ve exercised faith in your own lives. It is testimony building. I’ll email you the personalized version which I wrote.

District Conference
The weekend (March 20-21) was the Ulaanbaatar East District Conference.

On Saturday and Sunday we had the opportunity to see Brother Duger and his wife Sister Lkhamsuren with whom we went on the temple trip to Hong Kong. It was a joyous experience and gratifying to be with them again. Sister Lkhamsuren was asked to bear her testimony of the temple at the Saturday evening adult session. She said they’d been members for two years. They strived to stay on the straight and narrow path so they’d be completely worthy to go to the temple and be sealed as a family. She said their lives had changed since they’d joined the church.

The Duger family live at least two hours out in a town called Baganuur. To understand the faithfulness of the saints in Baganuur, Sister Lkhamsuren told me (with a translator) that in their branch they have about 100 people at church each Sunday which includes 20-30 children in Primary. For Saturday’s district conference 60 adults came in 3 meekers from Baganuur to UB; they came in time for the afternoon leadership session and the evening adult session. A meeker is like a van in which they crowd people. 20 people were in each meeker for a 2 hour ride each way on Saturday.

They would have arrived home late on Saturday night. Then they left early on Sunday morning, again in 3 meekers, to arrive in time for the 10 am Sunday session of district conference. In addition to the inconvenience of the travel, the people are poor and it cost them money to travel.

The theme of the district conference was sacrifice. On Sunday a new district president, President Ankhbayar, was sustained. The previous president, President Tserenym, is going to attend BYU-Hawaii to finish school. President Ankhbayar’s mother was the first member in their family. His daughter is a missionary in Mongolia and his son will start a mission in May. President Ankhbayar is a very good man; he lives in the Sukhbaatar branch which we attend.

March Birthdays
I believe the March birthdays have started. We’re trying to call all of you for your birthdays. Just with the grandchildren, McKenzie turned 19 on March 1, Rebecca and Reagan turned 10 on March 23, Chelsie turned 12 on March 26, and Skyler turns 18 on March 29. Everyone will be so grown up when we return.

I understand that for Chelsie’s birthday she determined to finish the Book of Mormon before she turned 12 – she finished it at 10 pm the night before. Then she desired to celebrate her birthday by doing baptisms for the dead. She had an interview with her bishop at 6:40 in the morning on her birthday before school and that evening the family went to the temple so she could do baptisms for the dead. Chelsie, we’re happy for your desire to choose the right.

Thursday March 25 we took Namkhai, the mission secretary, out to lunch to celebrate his birthday which was on Friday.

Saturday evening (March 27) was Sister Eliason’s birthday. The couples enjoyed going out to the Indian Restaurant for dinner.

Tonight (March 28) we had the assistants – Elder Christenson and Elder James and the office elders – Elder Sherwood and Elder Cappuccio over for dinner. They are all wonderful missionaries and we’ve enjoyed working with them in the office.

As a spiritual thought Elder Stephenson shared with us DC 123:17 “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” This scripture was very appropriate. We need to joyfully go about doing the Lord’s work, no matter what happens, and patiently wait for God to carry forth his work.

Saturday morning the President announced to the American missionaries that 20 more of them will be leaving by at least April 21. That means we’ll lose 33 missionaries on that date including those who’ve finished their missions. The American missionaries need to leave 45 days before our Deseret International Charities registration expires so we can try to renew the DIC charter. In addition the church is trying to find sponsors for the last 6 American missionaries so they can stay longer. I don’t believe the church has ever had sponsors for young missionaries before. This means the missionaries will be committed to spending time helping their sponsors such as teaching English.

We also need to hurry up and find a sponsor for ourselves or we’ll also be out of the country when the young missionaries leave in April. We’re hoping to be sponsored by Hospital 2.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Mission President for Mongolia, Kris J Mecham

The Church News published this short biography on our new mission president and his wife.(
On my Feb. 13 blog I only knew their names. (

Kris J Mecham, 56, and Stephanie Bessire Mecham, five children, Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission; Ashley Park Ward, Sandy Utah Granite South Stake. Brother Mecham serves as a gospel doctrine teacher and is a former bishop, stake executive secretary, high councilor, ward Young Men president and missionary in the Scotland Mission. President and chief executive officer, Deseret First Credit Union. Born in Blackfoot, Idaho, to Alvin John and Nina Anderson Mecham.

Sister Mecham serves as a ward family history consultant and is a former ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, counselor in a ward Relief Society presidency, stake 25th anniversary history compiler and tri-stake family history center director. Born in Rupert, Idaho, to Duane Merrill and Carole Ann Cahoon Bessire.

Expiring Registration Permits

In Mongolia we come with visas that are good for about three years. However, in order to stay here we must have a registration permit which must be renewed annually. Three of our couples came on a tourist visa receiving assurance from the Ministry of Immigration they would obtain a visa after they arrived in Mongolia. That did not happen. Their visas expired March 5 so these three couples left on March 2 for Seoul, Korea - the Eliasons, Powells, and Andersons (Choibalsan). The Atkins also had to leave with them because their registration expired.

To return, the couples are being sponsored by other organizations here in Mongolia so they can be registered. The Powells and Andersons are returning Sat. March 13. Hopefully the Eliasons and Atkins will return the beginning of next week.

Our young missionaries' registrations are also expiring. Thursday March 4, 10 of our American missionaries were transferred back to missions in the States to finish their missions. It was sad to see them go. Then on Tuesday March 9, 6 more Americans finished their missions - 4 flew back and 2 more will leave with their parents. This is making a big gap in the mission; they were all great missionaries. We only have 26 foreign missionaries (U.S. and other countries) left. Most of them will be gone by June unless something changes.

There is an article in Friday's (March 12) Salt Lake Tribune about Mormon missionaries leaving Mongolia.

Elder and Sister Clark who served as Deseret International Charities directors in Mongolia are back here to serve for another 18 months. They arrived the evening of Thursday March 11. Since they have visas, they were told they could enter the country, but they also need to find sponsors in order to get registered. They will work with the RM (returned missionaries) and PEF (the Perpetual Education Fund). Last night we had the privilege of having them to our apartment for dinner.

Tonight we will have a potluck at the Bayanzurkh building to welcome them and also to welcome the Powells and Andersons back from Korea.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Women's Day

Last Monday (March 8) was International Women's Day. At church the day before and on Monday everyone greeted the women with Happy Women's Day. Although it honors all women, I think Women's Day is similar to our Mother's Day. To celebrate Women's Day the Caldwells, Lassons, and we went out to lunch at Millie's Restaurant here in UB. They have American food.

Then on Wednesday (March 10) the six of us went to a musical concert at the Wrestling Palace which is right at the corner down from the mission office. It was a benefit performance, and we enjoyed going.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

McKenna's Baptism

We missed the privilege of attending McKenna's baptism Saturday March 6. We are proud of her. We enjoyed seeing pictures of her baptism.!/album.php?aid=10796&id=100000551706828&ref=mf

Friday, March 5, 2010

Zone Conference - Obedience

Wed. Feb. 24 was Zone Conference for us. There were zone conferences held on Wed., Thurs., and Fri. in different areas of the mission. The theme for the conferences was obedience. As usual we had to be prepared in case we were called on to give a short 3-4 minute talk.

The following are remarks from President Andersen on the subject of obedience.

Without a sufficient level of obedience you won't have joy. Why do I care so much? If you are disobedient, you won't have joy. Satan is a great liar. He will tell you you'll be happy if you're disobedient; you need to be obedient to be successful.

You must decide to be 100% missionaries. The way of the mission and the way of the world will always separate. As with Joshua say, "As for me and my [companion], we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). Protect your companion. You can be as the Sons of Helaman, "Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness" (Alma 57:21). You will be blessed by doing so.

The President then summarized some of the mission rules. To be obedient in big things, you must begin by being obedient in little things.

1) Wake up at 6:30 am and keep the morning schedule, particularly personal and companion study.

2) As missionaries you say many prayers each day. Say your prayers on your knees with your companion - morning, before study, after study, evening, when teaching.

3) Lock your heart. Leave it with God until after your mission.

4) Use the phone according to the mission rules.

5) Honestly use your allotment. It is sacred money to be used only for food, travel, and other approved items.

6) Don't listen to inappropriate music.

7) Do not go on exchanges with other missionaries without permission.

8) Never let anyone else into your apartment without permission.

9) Don't take any stupid pictures that will embarrass the church. Remember who you are all of the time.

10) Always, always be with your companion - always within sight and sound.

11) Always dress as a missionary unless there is a special need.

12) Use appropriate language; some words should never be used.

13) Only use the internet to email your family. Do not email anyone else.

14) Don't ever respond to others in anger.

Start with a desire to be obedient. God has promised you miracles. Protect each other like the Army of Helaman. As with Nephi in 2 Ne. 33:15, "For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey."

Tsagaan Sar (Feb. 14 - 16, 2010)

Tsagaan Sar
For Tsagaan Sar, before church on Sunday (Feb. 14) Elder Alder and the missionaries in our district took us to the home of our Sukhbaatar branch president, President Batjargal, and his wife Pujee. We enjoyed going to their home. Then we went to the home of Sister Shurra and her son Tuvshingayar. I believe he will be going on a mission soon.

Our sacrament meeting didn't start until 2 pm. For church on Tsagaan Sar all the wards and branches in Mongolia only held sacrament meeting like they do in the U.S. when Christmas Day falls on Sunday.

After church we visited the home of Sister Badamkhand and her sons Elder Khuder and Battsagaan and their sister Tamiraa. We visited their home last June when we first came to Mongolia. Elder Khuder is still a missionary but inactive because of health problems (he's been undergoing dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant). Battsagaan has had a call to serve as a missionary in New Zealand for some time, but his visa has still not come. (It came Friday March 12 - boy was he excited; he'll leave Mongolia Wed. March 17.)

On Monday (Feb. 15) all of the senior couples were invited to Baatar's home at 9 am in the morning. I believe there were 12 of us there plus a translator. Baatar speaks limited English. Baatar drives for us on our errands in Ulaanbaatar. We enjoyed seeing him in his home as the head of his family with traditional Mongolian clothing. His family had gone out of their way to prepare a special meal for us.

On Tuesday (Feb. 16) at 2 pm we went with President and Sister Andersen to a home (Sister Chagdgaa?) where the daughter Battsengel had just returned from a mission to Arizona.

Then on Wednesday (Feb. 17) Batbold, the 2nd counselor in the mission presidency, invited all the senior couples to his home for Tsagaan Sar. His meal was not as traditional, but we were served many courses of excellent food.

Tsagaan Sar seems closest to our Christmas in importance and the emphasis on family. Before Tsagaan Sar many families prepare hundreds of buuz to prepare for company. For a centerpiece they have either 3 or 5 breads arranged with candy or dried milk products on top. See the pictures.

I like their traditional greeting; you feel honored with it. Next Christmas I'll have to greet you with their traditional greeting. When you leave, you are presented with a gift.

As though we hadn't eaten out enough this week, we went to dinner on Sat. February 20 with the Eliasons at a Chinese restaurant.

On Friday March 5 we had the opportunity to go to dinner at the house of Gansukh and his mother. She also presented us with gifts just like for Tsagaan Sar. One of the gifts was a bag of many bones with which to play all sorts of Mongolian games.

Work in the Office
Work in the office came to a standstill with Tsagaan Sar. On Thursday (Feb. 18) Mongolian missionaries arrived from the Manila MTC. They spend about 19 days in the MTC and attend the Manila Philippines Temple while they are there. This meant a transfer on Saturday Feb. 20.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Instructions for Tsagaan Sar

Tsagaan Sar is the big new year's holiday for Mongolia. It will last from Sunday February 14 through Tuesday February 16 and on.

At our staff meeting they gave us some ideas on what to expect and what we should do when we visit someone's home during Tsagaan Sar.

Instructions on appropriate behavior when going to a home for Tsagaan Sar

When entering a ger, go to the left.

Greet the eldest person first. If there is a couple there, greet the man first and then the woman. He/she will be sitting on the north or the furthest position from the door. Amar bain yy (peace).

Facing him/her, put your hands under his/her elbows like you are holding him/her. The older person will put his/her arms on top of yours. Likely you'll press each of your cheeks against his/hers. The oldest person may kiss you. He/she will ask how you're doing. Saikhan shinelj baina uu? (Are you having a nice white month?) Saikhan.

Have money in hand. Give it to the oldest person.

The husband will greet first. Each of you give money.

When you greet, you have to be wearing a hat. Also if your sleeves are folded up, you should unroll them before greeting.

Hold a 1,000T bill and give it to the oldest person. The denomination of the bill goes up the closer you are to the person.

If you don't see someone clearly older, you don't do this.

After you greet the oldest person(s), sit down and wait. Younger people will come and greet you. You will put your arms on top of theirs when they greet you.

If the seated head of household recognizes you as older or equal in age, that person will stand to greet you. If the person doesn't put his hands under your elbows, you do it to that person and give the person money. If the person does it to you, you don't give the person money.

The President asked if there is anything you shouldn't say or do. (For example at a funeral you don't say how are you.)

Table. Before you touch anything with meat, you must take a spoon of white rice or something white. Sometimes rice is with raisins. Sometimes with milk. May be candy. Must be white. Be sure your hands are clean. May put the rice on your hand if you don't have a personal spoon.

If not church members, they will hand you tea with milk. It is rude not to take it. Just take it and set it down and don't drink it.

If they offer it with 1 hand, take it with 1 hand - right hand with left hand under it. Never use left hand.

If they pass you snuff, smell it (don't take lid off), and pass it on. Lid should be a little bit lifted - space between bottle and lid. Admire bottle. Receive bottle with palm up; pass on with palm down. Lids on side; won't be upside down.

Stay until hot buuz or bansh (boiled variation of buuz) is on table.

When you leave, the host will give you a small gift.

Airag - fermented mare's milk. High and low alcohol. Not temple recommend question. Personal decision. (South Pacific - similar to decision on Kava.) Shouldn't encourage people to drink it. Even if not drinking it, bring it to your mouth.

Namkhai says you don’t need to do that. Take it, dip your right ring finger in it, and flick it in three different directions. Then return the drink.

More Do's and Don't from Our English Class
Don't be angry.
Don't say bad words.
Couples don't greet each other.
Pregnant women don't greet each other - otherwise their babies will change sex (a girl baby will become a boy baby and vice versa).

Wear new clothes (people often do this).
Eat buuz and lots of food.
Give gifts.
Play traditional Mongolian games.
Get up before sunrise and watch the sun rise.
Early in the morning walk in the snow and make footprints.
Leave your house (ger) from one direction and return to it from another directions. Each person in the house goes a different direction (the newspaper tells which direction to go according to the birth year).

New Mission President Announced for Mongolia

The Church News today announced that our new mission president for the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission will be Kris J Mecham on July 1st.

In looking at Google he is a CEO of Deseret First Credit Union and chairman of the board of directors of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Hong Kong

We had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Hong Kong Temple with 10 church members. The Mongolians traveled by train, but we needed to go by airplane because we don’t have visas for China. The Mongolians apparently don’t need a visa to cross China, but they were still questioned upon leaving China and going into Hong Kong. Traveling by train took 3 days each way, but flying took 1 day including a long layover in Beijing. We arrived in Hong Kong the evening of Thursday January 21.

Friday morning Bernard Pang over finance for the Asia Area met us outside the Hong Kong Temple, took us into the mission office, and drove us to the Area Office building on Hong Kong Island. He showed us around the Area Office to meet people. We met Elder Perkins and Elder Pratt from the Area Presidency, Elder and Sister Whitman who spent over a month in Mongolia last November, Elder and Sister Gibbons who had previously served a mission to Mongolia, and others. That day we discussed mission finances and IMOS, the new internet mission office system.

At noon Elder and Sister Whitman took Bernard and us to lunch at a Thai restaurant. The food was very good. Later in the afternoon the Whitmans took us to the Central Building which is very tall where we could see views of the city. There are many tall buildings in Hong Kong. What surprised us were the tall hills in the background.

Hong Kong is an impressive city. It is very modern and very clean. There are many people. It looked familiar. Watching the people looked just like seeing people in California. Hong Kong is a dual language city – Chinese (Cantonese) and English because of the English occupancy. Every one is very friendly and helpful. If you appear lost, they go out of their way to help you. There is always someone who can speak English. I think less than half speak English, but many do.

There are many buses. The buses that go from one area to another are double decker buses. Between the buses, the subways, and the taxis, you can very easily live there without a car. We added money to an Octopus card. That way we didn’t need to fish out the exact amount of money every time we took public transportation since they don’t give change.

From the Area Office building we walked with the Whitmans to their apartment. It was interesting walking through a wet market. Various foods were on display for sale next to the sidewalk – fruits, vegetables, and fish, including live fish. It is called a wet market because every night the sidewalks and streets are hosed down. The Whitmans work in the Hong Kong Temple on Friday nights. After eating supper with them, we rode a bus with them back to Kowloon Tong where the temple is located and attended an endowment session in English at 7 p.m.

Saturday morning we went back to the temple and attended an endowment session at 9 a.m. in Chinese. Then we participated in sealings of couples officiated by President Yip from Ukiah, both in English and Chinese. We were happy to see President Yip; we hadn’t seen him since he left Ukiah three years ago.

At noon we walked to the Festival Walk mall and ate lunch at McDonalds, following by attending another endowment session at 2 p.m. in English. At that time we didn’t realize there was a grocery store on one of the lower levels of Festival Walk so we went to Lok Fu to buy a few groceries. Then we went back to the patron housing to wait for the people from Mongolia to arrive. They didn’t arrive at the housing until 11 p.m.

The old patron housing across the street from the temple has been torn down and new patron housing has been constructed, but it is not available for occupancy yet. The church has rented two apartments next to each other several blocks from the temple. One apartment had bunk beds for 10 women, and the other apartment had bunk beds for 10 men. The apartments left much to be desired.

Hong Kong is extremely humid; nothing dries. The patron housing did not have a dryer so I didn’t wash anything because I didn’t think it would dry. Hong Kong was also overcast every day we were there although the weather was pleasant. We didn’t see the sun until Saturday. We did a lot of walking in Hong Kong.

When Wes and I arrived at the patron housing there was a couple Jay and Dana Thenlin who are teaching English in China through a BYU program. In fact at the end of the week a conference was held in Hong Kong for all of the English teachers in the BYU China program. Helen was also at the patron housing who is teaching English independently in China.

In addition there was a lady from Beijing by the name of Christine. At some time in the past she applied for admittance to attend a university in the U.S. She was admitted in Utah. I don’t remember the first school she attended, but then she went to the University of Utah. Eventually she went to BYU and graduated from there and joined the church. She works as a freelance translator in Beijing. She uses half of her income each month to go to Hong Kong once a month and attend the temple.

Our group from Mongolia consisted of the following people besides us.
Duger (Дүгэр), his wife Lkhamsuren (Лхамсүрэн), his 11-year old daughter Lkhagvamaa (Лхагвамаа), and his 9-year old son Dalaitseren (Далайцэрэн).

Bayardelger (Баярдэлгэр), his wife Oyunchimeg Оюунчимэг), his 2-year old son Munkhdelger (Мөнхдэлгэр), and his mother-in-law Jugder (Жүгдэр).

A 25-year old girl Uranbileg (Уранвилэг).

The tour guide Odgerel (Одгэрэл), called Ogii.

They were a great group to be with. On Sunday morning we attended a sacrament meeting on the first floor of the temple – some floors are for church meetings and other floors are dedicated as part of the temple. A lady in the ward translated the meeting from Chinese to English, and Ogii translated it from English to Mongolian for our group. We only stayed for sacrament meeting because the Mongolians would not be able to understand the rest of the meetings. In our room we held our own meeting which lasted about an hour where we went around the circle and everyone shared his own thoughts and testimony.

Monday is a day the temple is closed. Brother Chan, a worker in the Hong Kong temple, took the group on a tour of Hong Kong. Apparently he has taken every Mongolian group who has come to the temple on a tour; that is very generous of him.

We took the subway and walked along the Arcade of the Stars, we crossed the bay on a ferry, we went up in the Central Building to view Hong Kong, we went to the Area Office building, and we took a bus climbing up a hill to Victoria Peak, the highest point overlooking the city, to view more of Hong Kong. When the Hong Kong Mission was opened in 1949, Elder Matthew Cowley opened the mission with a prayer on Victoria Peak.

Tuesday morning was the first day the group went to the temple. We began with a meeting with President Heaton at 8:30 a.m. in the morning. Then the 6 adults were able to receive their own temple ordinances (Ogii has been to the temple before). I believe the endowment session was in Mongolian for them. I babysat the children on floor 1 in the Primary room so the children would be available to be sealed to their parents.

Later on they brought the children upstairs to the 5th floor, where the sealing rooms are, to be dressed in white and be sealed to their parents. Temple workers watched the children at this time, and I was able to go in and see the sealings. It was wonderful seeing the couples sealed to each other and the children sealed to them.

The Mongolians spent the day in the temple doing temple work. They attended the temple every day through Saturday that week. Oyunchimeg’s mother, Jugder, had problems getting around and did not attend the temple every day. When Jugder stayed in the apartment, she watched Munkhdelger. Lkhvamaa and Dalaitseren were able to watch themselves in the Primary room.

We were able to attend the temple every day we were there although on a couple of occasions we were also with the children.

The design of the Hong Kong Temple is interesting. The temple is accessed from the front door, and you go up an elevator to the third floor. Other areas of the building are accessed from a side door. If I have this right, floor B1 has rooms for a ward and also a lunch room which can only be accessed by people attending the temple. Floor B2 is partially a baptistery, and the other part is a FHC. Floor 1 has a chapel and rooms for a ward. Floor 2 has apartments for the temple president and the mission president. It also has the mission office. Floor 3 is the main floor of the temple and has offices and the men’s dressing rooms. Floor 4 has the women’s dressing rooms, two ordinance rooms, and the celestial room. Floor 5 has the sealing rooms. It is difficult to get around in the building because elevators only go to certain floors so people who do not have a recommend to go to the temple cannot enter where they should not. Since the temple needs more room, the mission president’s apartment and the mission office will be moved across the street. The mission office was very small.

The temple, as is Hong Kong, is Chinese and English with headphones for about 8 languages to accommodate the people who come to the temple. The people come from the Asia Area plus visitors.

There are three church areas in Asia – the Asia Area, the Asia North Area (Korea and Japan), and the Philippines Area. The Asia Area has over ½ of the world’s population. It covers the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The 10 missions in the Asia Area are Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission, China Hong Kong Mission, India Bangalore Mission, India New Delhi Mission, Indonesia Jakarta Mission, Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission, Singapore Mission, Taiwan Taichung Mission, Taiwan Taipei Mission, and Thailand Bangkok Mission.

Tuesday evening a lady and her 12-year old son came to the housing from China. The son did about 100 baptisms each morning for about 3 days. The son’s name was Fengzijie. They were from Paniu, Guangzhou in China.

Wednesday afternoon we walked the girl Lkhagvamaa and her brother Dalaitseren around the Festival Walk mall. It is a very fancy mall. It has many floors. We even walked through a toy store and got them food at McDonalds. They live in a ger in Bagnuur. Hong Kong is so different from their experience I don’t know what they thought of everything.

On Thursday we went with the Thenlins who took Lkhagvamaa and Dalaitseren out to lunch at an Italian restaurant. The food was a little spicy for the children. We rode a bus around Hong Kong Island to see the city. Wes wasn’t feeling well this day; he’d passed a kidney stone the night before, so we just rode a bus.

Thursday evening a girl Poongothai.G (Hima), who was married two days earlier, her new husband, and her parents came to the temple from India. It appears she goes by one name as they do in Mongolia, but the initial is from her father’s name and changes to the initial of her husband’s name when she marries. In Mongolia the initial stays the initial of the father’s name.

She said she was married by the government and now she is going to be married by God. We communicated in English. In the temple the girl listened in English, but the parents and her husband listened in Tamil. The parents and girl have been members of the church in India for about 13 years. The mother said she has been a Relief Society president for 10 years. The girl has been a Primary and Young Women’s president. They said every state (27 states) in India speaks a different language; they communicate between the states in English. They were from the district of Coimbatore and the state of Tamilnadu. They are in the India Bangalore Mission.

Friday we met with Elder and Sister Kau again and with Bernard Pang to discus mission finances and the new mission program IMOS. We appreciated the information we received from them. Sister Kau gave me prints of a picture she’d drawn of the Hong Kong Temple. Friday night Bernard took Wes and me and Elder Kau out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the mall. I think the name of the restaurant was House of Canton. The food was wonderful. We loved the food in Hong Kong.

The church members in Hong Kong are very kind to the people who come to the temple. They gather large bags of clothes and let the people in the patron housing choose what clothing they would like. They even provided stuffed animals for the little boy. Lkhagvamaa needed shoes and found a pair of shoes in the bag as well as clothes. This was really nice of the church members because the people who stay at the patron housing do not have much.

Before we left, Sister Goo, the temple president’s wife, presented bags to Lkhvamaa and Dalaitseren with goodies and toys. Lkhagvamaa’s bag also had a dress in it for her.

Saturday our last day in Hong Kong after an endowment session and sealings in the morning we went out to Stanley Market to look at nice souvenirs. We were also going to see the Big Buddha, but it was too late in the afternoon by the time we got there.

Sunday morning we left Hong Kong to return to Ulaanbaatar by way of Beijing. We were at the airport by 7 am for a 9 am flight, but they’d already given away our seats; they probably overbooked. Instead we left at noon. They gave us Hong Kong dollars to make up for the delay. Actually the delay was fine with us because we preferred spending time in the Hong Kong airport instead of the Beijing airport.

The office elders, Elder Whittle and Elder Sherwood, kindly picked us up at midnight Sunday January 31. When we landed, the pilot announced it was -30° C (-22 ° F) in Ulaanbaatar. Hong Kong had been about 24° C (75° F), a difference of 54° C or 97° F.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Update for Christmas 2009 and New Year's

Christmas is coming and there hasn't been time to think about it. Monday night (Dec. 21) getting home after 8:30 p.m., I decided to stay up late and bake goodies for Christmas plates. Among my Christmas plates we made one for the stair lady in our apartment building. The stair lady is a lady who acts as a guard for the building and lives under the stairs on the first floor.

For Christmas all of the senior couples and all of the missionaries, except for a few who live way out, came into UB for Christmas. The senior couples all arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wes picked up Elder and Sister Richard Anderson from the airport on Wednesday and invited them to come over to our house for dinner.

On Tuesday December 22 we received word in the mission from the Minister of Immigration that our waiting 18 American missionaries can get visas and come to Mongolia. This is great news, but since then, the lady under the Minister of Immigration has been stalling us again.

In anticipation of Christmas Day, Wes and I had dels, traditional Mongolian clothing, made by Adiyabold's mother. He is the first counselor in the stake presidency. We only purchased the material on Tuesday, and she had the dels finished by Thursday.

Mission Conference
Thursday December 24 was an all-mission conference; the theme was sacrifice and consecration.

This year over 100 missionaries have been called to serve missions from Mongolia. That is over 1% of the membership of the church in Mongolia. The saints here are fulfilling Elder Maxwell's promise of Mongolia becoming a beacon light to other nations. The entire church would have 200,000 missionaries if they were as faithful as Mongolians.

The following instructions were given to the missionaries by President Andersen. Missionaries are going 2 x 2 to support each other and to protect each other. Missionaries are never to be alone. They are to be with their companion at all times - within sight and hearing. There are no exceptions. Missionaries are to arise and retire at the same time. Their responsibility to care for their companion is to the Lord, to the mission president, and to the companion.

We must live so God is among us. The city of Enoch was a Zion. We need unity within our districts and zones. If we have charity, we forgive others, we expect the best of others, and we are content. Pray for one another.

Elder Hoffman, an assistant to the President, who is now leaving the office to open a new mission district in Bulgan, spoke about consecrating ourselves and giving all we have to the Lord, about having our eye single to the Lord.

Matt. 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

DC 4:2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

He quoted 2 Ne. 32:9: "But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."

We need to do the work his way. We need to pray for guidance. We must forget ourselves and become missionaries. We need to sacrifice and consecrate ourselves. We will then receive blessings from God.

One girl in giving a short missionary experience told about a family who was joyfully accepting the gospel. She and her companion were afraid to teach the lesson on tithing because the family was poor and had been chopping up their front stoop to have wood to stay warm. When they taught the lesson on tithing, the family said, if God gives us things, we'll be happy to return to him 1/10 of what he gives us.

President Andersen concluded by telling the missionaries to search their hearts and see if there are things they need to change. He quoted President Kimball, "So much depends upon our willingness to make up our minds collectively and individually that present levels and performance are not acceptable, either to ourselves or the Lord." He said DC 4 talks about being called, and then the rest of the section talks about becoming: heart, might, mind, and strength and the attributes of the Savior.

To truly become missionaries, three things are necessary: sacrifice and consecration, charity, and being full of urgency. As missionaries we need to let go of things in the world, not necessarily bad things, but things keeping us in the world. In the temple we covenant to sacrifice all things; it is not required except on a mission. If we think of giving up things as sacrifice, we probably don't have the right spirit.

1 Corinthians chapter 12 talks about spiritual gifts. Verse 13 tells us to covet earnestly the best gifts. Chapter 13 tells us the best gift and the more excellent way is charity. If you pray for charity, you will be filled with this love (Moro. 7:48).

A missionary who is full of urgency doesn't just feel that he should be working hard, but he feels the importance and immediacy of the work. We must thrust in our sickle with our might (DC 4:4).

As missionaries, pray for the vision of who you can become and of the work you can do. When you are truly a missionary, you are obedient. You become like Christ - full of love. The greatest miracle is the miracle within each of us.

The mission conference was great, but it didn't seem like Christmas. I would look at the calendar to see what date it was. Thursday evening on Christmas Eve the senior couples had fun getting together in the President's apartment for conversation and treats. I brought meatballs. You can't buy ground pork here, but I bought some pork and the Caldwells ground it for me.

Friday was a wonderful Christmas Day. It had three parts to it - a Christmas devotional in the morning, a Christmas dinner and talent show at a local restaurant, Ikh Mongol, owned by Richard and Baagii, and then in the evening an outstanding performance by the stake choir. The choir also sang in the lobby of the Chinggis Hotel on Wed. Dec. 30.

Friday Christmas morning we arrived at the church at 7:30 a.m. We began by practicing bells for the devotional. We've been practicing every morning at 11 a.m. for a couple of weeks. From 8:15 to 8:45 I played Christmas carols for the devotional music. For the devotional we had talks, music including 3 bell Christmas carols played by the senior couples, and then we watched the First Presidency Christmas devotional.

In Elder Powell's talk he referred to inviting others to come unto Christ and be baptized as inviting them to access the power of the atonement in their lives immediately - not only to be forgiven from their sins, but to receive comfort from their pains and suffering. When the Savior appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection, his first teaching to them was on baptism (3 Ne 11:21-41). Baptism enabled them to access the power of the atonement which had just been performed for them and for all of us (3 Ne 11:11, 14).

From the church we went to the restaurant. Wes didn't go to the dinner and talent show. All of a sudden he was turning white. I believe his blood sugar had dropped.

The missionaries had a wonderful time and enjoyed getting together and the entertainment. I'll post some pictures, but you may also see pictures taken by the Lassons at

Senior Conference
Saturday (Dec. 26) we had a senior conference and a senior Christmas dinner. At the conference President Andersen reminded us of the unique position of the church in Mongolia. It is the largest Christian church here and that helps account for the attention we get from the government. The example we set makes a great difference.

The President quoted DC 58:26-28.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

When good people are put in that position, they are so busy, they are blessed and gain their reward. Our senior couples come back to Mongolia because they are agents unto themselves and do good.

The couples were then given their assignments - some changes were made. Addiction recovery will be moved from us to Elder and Sister Powell.

Senior Turkey Dinner
We went back to the Ikh Mongol restaurant for a turkey dinner at noon. The turkey tasted good. I wished I had a spoon to eat the gravy on my plate.

In the evening we wanted to know if anyone had enough energy left for games. President and Sister Andersen came to our apartment, and we played Alabama dominoes (Elder Clark's version).

Sunday (Dec. 27) we attended church at Sukhbaatar branch. We know it was Wendy and Travis' anniversary, but we couldn't reach them on Skype.

Tuesday (Dec. 29) was Wes' and Jim's birthdays. We did reach Jim since Cheryl and Jim were visiting at Suzanne's house for Christmas. Happy Birthday!

Thursday we went food shopping with Baatar because we were told the stores would be closed on New Year's Day. People send cards to each other for New Year's; it is an important holiday for them. When we returned from the stores, we saw a group of young boys wearing Santa outfits. It seems the Mongolians have adopted the fun parts of Christmas and added it to their holiday. They think Christmas and New Year's are the same thing.

In my English class in the Bayanzurkh building before Christmas, I showed them the Christmas story using pictures from the internet. Then we read together Luke 2. I wanted them to have some idea of what Christmas is really about.

The young missionaries were told to be inside by 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve to avoid drunks. Drinking is part of the Mongolians' New Year's Eve celebration.

New Year's Eve the couples went over to Bayanzurkh for treats and some fun group games, courtesy of Sister Powell. I made cheese balls. Dad made divinity, but he didn't quite like how it turned out.

Last night on New Year's Day we attended a Returned Missionaries Ball at one of the ward buildings. It was very fancy and nicely decorated. The girls wore beautiful dresses, and the boys wore suits. The ball was for single and married returned missionaries. There were a lot of people there. We were impressed with their dancing. The church here in Mongolia appears to be built upon the returned missionaries. All of the members of the stake presidency and the district presidency were there. They're all relatively young.

Tonight (Joan's birthday) we were invited to Elder and Sister Eliasons for dinner. Elder Eliason is our mission doctor. We had a pleasant evening visiting with them. Sister Eliason made a birthday cake to celebrate Wes' and my birthdays.

At the end of the year we are thankful for our many blessings. We are thankful for our wonderful family, their good lives, and their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are thankful for our wonderful friends. We are thankful for our membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are thankful for the opportunity we have to serve the Lord in Mongolia. We are thankful for all of your prayers for us. Please tell the grandchildren particularly, thank you for your prayers.

Missionary work takes a lot of energy. I've had some falls, and one day a car backed into me and I fell over. We know your prayers help and protect us. We love you and are grateful for you.