Sunday, December 20, 2009

Update on December 20, 2009

On Saturday December 12 we had a farewell party for Gloria Wheeler who left Mongolia for the second time on the morning of December 16. We enjoyed having her back here in Mongolia for a couple of months.

At church on Sunday December 13 Wes was sustained as a member of the UB East District Council. He'd been called to this position about a week and a half before this date. When you are a missionary and are given a calling, you are sustained, but you are not set apart. Your missionary setting apart covers everything.

In the evening, 14 missionaries spoke at a departing missionary fireside. Firesides are held for new missionaries and for departing missionaries. There is a wonderful spirit at these firesides. 2 of the missionaries had left in November and 12 of them were leaving this week. This kept me busy with completing the farewell books for these missionaries.

As soon as the farewell books were completed, it was time to send the missionary allotments to Salt Lake. Before I can do this, I need to update the missionary transfers. Saturday Dec. 19 was scheduled to be a Big Transfer; almost every missionary was transferred. Thursday Dec. 17 we didn't get home until 9 pm and on Friday Dec. 18 we didn't get home until 10:30 pm because we were so busy.

When new missionaries arrive, President and Sister Andersen take the missionaries to Zaisan where Elder Maxwell dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel. Wes drove some of the missionaries to Zaisan early Friday morning. It was an extremely cold day. Wes is on the right holding a flashlight.

That evening there was another fireside for the new missionaries.

We concluded the week with a UB East District Conference on December 19 and 20. The Saturday evening session was held at the Bayanzurkh building. Sunday's session was at a conference center in UB. The Saturday evening session was on unity. Elder Lasson spoke on being of one heart and one mind and loving and serving one another. Unity is a commandment. We must have unity in branches and districts, among leaders and members, between husband and wife, and with family members.

"And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." (Moses 7:18)

Sister Andersen quoted Elder Eyring, "The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. . . . The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack." We need to reach out to each other - those not members, the person sitting by you - and make them feel welcome.

President Andersen quoted DC 38:27, "If ye are not one ye are not mine." Don't worry about opposition against the Church; it can't stop the work of the Lord. My only fear is lack of unity among the Saints. With a lack of unity, Satan is with us, not God. We need to look at ourselves and do what it takes to be more united with our brothers and sisters. We need to point in the same direction and use our energy to pull together.

"And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." (Mosiah 18:21)

The theme for Sunday's session was living the principles of the gospel. On Sunday the district choir sang for the conference. Their singing was excellent; we enjoyed hearing them.

On Sunday Elders Caldwell, Eliason, and Powell were also sustained to the UB East District Council. They want the American elders to help with leadership in the district. However this will require language translation. Elder Lasson has been 1st counselor in the mission presidency. This involves all of the five senior elders living in UB.

I also learned that the LDS Church's threefold mission has been expanded to fourfold purposes, but I cannot find any official statement on this. I do see news articles dated Dec. 10, 2009. The following are quotes from the internet.

The LDS Church's threefold mission has been as follows.
1) Proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.
2) Perfect the saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation.
3) Redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the Earth.
Source: Spencer W. Kimball, "Remember the Mission of the Church," Ensign, May 1982.

The new group of phrases will be described as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' "purposes," rather than missions, and will be spelled out in the next edition of the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions, due out next year, church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed this week. "Caring for the poor and needy," Trotter said, "has always been a basic tenet of the [LDS] Church." Elevating it to one of the faith's major purposes brings added emphasis.

Caring for the poor and the needy has long been preached in the LDS Church. In the April 1981 General Conference, President Kimball said, "We all have opportunities to render service to others. That is our calling and our privilege. In serving the needs of others, we are mindful of the words of the Savior: 'Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Update on Friday Dec. 11, 2009

Time is passing so quickly. It was just Thanksgiving and now it's almost Christmas. Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, which was also Mongolian Independence Day, we had our big Thanksgiving Dinner for all the missionaries near the city (UB). It was an enjoyable party, and I know the missionaries enjoyed the dinner. Sister Andersen's daughter Alice played the bells for a musical number.

We've had many blessings close to Thanksgiving time. The quarantine in Mongolia ended (Dec. 3). Yet despite the quarantine, spirituality increased in the mission. President Andersen reported that 1400 people received the sacrament in homes on the last Sunday of the quarantine (Nov. 29).

William received two job offers and now has an accounting job in Salt Lake City the first of the year and will be able to rejoin his family.

The President had dinner with the Minister of Education who informed him the three waiting couples can come to Mongolia on a 90-day tourist's visa, and he'd help them get regular visas. We're still waiting to see about having our young missionaries come to Mongolia. They will need to have regular visas before they come.

With the new couples arriving, the Whitmans returned to Hong Kong. We're sad to see them go. They've been such good friends and have accomplished a wonderful work in the mission - Sister Whitman being the mission nurse and Elder Whitman helping with the legal issues of obtaining visas. We had the Whitmans, Caldwells, and Lassons over to our apartment to visit and to tell them goodbye on Thursday evening (Dec. 3).

Saturday (Dec. 5) the Andersons (our CES couple who has been waiting since August), the Eliasons (our new doctor), and the Powells (our English teaching couple) arrived together in UB. We are so happy to have them here. Saturday evening we had another party to say goodbye to the Whitmans and to welcome the new couples.

Each of the couples in UB (President and Sister Andersen, the Caldwells, the Lassons, and us) have had the privilege of having the couples over to our apartments so we can get to know them better. The Eliasons came over Monday night, the Andersons came over Wednesday night, and the Powells came for lunch on Thursday. The senior couples are wonderful people and the cream of the crop.

Two or three days after the Andersons arrived and moved into their apartment, the President decided to send them to Choibalsan to be CES and leadership missionaries up there. The couple already there (another couple by the name of Anderson) will then go on to Selenge where there is a gap because the Laytons had to return to the States. We will look forward to seeing our new Andersons again at Christmas as well as the other couples from the countryside.

With the end of the quarantine we had a baptism at Sukhbaatar Branch on Friday Dec. 4 and church in the various wards and branches on Sunday Dec. 6. It was wonderful to see the members and the missionaries again. One of our missionary sisters, Sister Mansfield, had 10 investigators at sacrament meeting with her.

On the evening of Dec. 6, being Fast Sunday, we had our senior couples family home evening at our apartment. Our lesson was on testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days.

Without a quarantine I believe our month of easy going time is over - now we have Church on Sunday, home evening on Monday nights, English teaching and addiction recovery on Tuesday, English on Thursday, baptisms on Friday, and piano classes on Saturday morning as well as our regular office work.

Tonight we attended a baptism at the Songino building which is still in UB. I'd never been to that building before. Quite often I think Ulaanbaatar is only the few blocks from our apartment to the Bayanzurkh building, but it is a long city. This is the first time I'd seen a baptism performed in sign language. Also one of our missionaries Elder Khuder, who is very sick (not contagious) and for whom they're waiting for a hospital bed, came and baptized a girl. I was surprised to see him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Update on November 22, 2009

Swine Flu
I don’t know about the effectiveness of the swine flu quarantine, but I think it’s the only thing the government knows to do. Swine flu didn’t enter Mongolia until the middle of October. Within a month there were almost a thousand confirmed cases. To date there have been more than 1000 confirmed cases and 18 deaths. Mongolia has a very small population. There are only 3 million people in the entire country with one-half of the population in Ulaanbaatar. The population of Mongolia is about 1% that of the U.S.

I think a lot of the concern about swine flu is due to the country’s limited health care resources. Flu vaccines have not arrived yet, and there is no Tami Flu. Also the health care facilities are not equipped to handle an epidemic.

The schools in Mongolia had a fall holiday; it was extended two weeks for the quarantine. Students 6th grade and up are returning to school on Monday (Nov. 23). We still cannot hold Church meetings or have big gatherings or events which children will attend. We will resume Addiction Recovery meetings this Tuesday. However with the loss of momentum, I’m not sure how many will come to the Addiction Recovery meeting.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Although there is still a quarantine, we decided we could feed our missionaries on Thanksgiving Day since there are no children involved. We’ll have the missionaries immediately come into the building so it doesn’t look like a large crowd is congregating. Thanksgiving Day on Thursday is also Mongolian Independence Day. We will serve Thanksgiving Dinner around 12:30 pm to all of the missionaries in Ulaanbaatar and Nalaikh. I believe we’ll feed about 100 people. No turkey; we will substitute pork.

Food assignments were passed out to the senior couples. Wes made 8 dozen rolls yesterday (I believe 3 people are making rolls). We also cooked 2 large pork roasts as part of our assignment, and Wednesday I’ll make 3 pans of jello.

It’s hard for us to realize it’s Thanksgiving and almost December. The months keep rolling on. We have been on our mission 7 months out of the 18 months.

We still are not having any success with visas for new American missionaries. We were promised a letter last Monday, but they’re stalling and we haven’t seen the letter.

Senior Couple Activities
Last weekend (Fri. Nov. 13) we had the Whitmans come over and play Ticket to Ride with us. A previous missionary couple had left the game here. On Saturday (Nov. 14) the senior couples got together and played games. Sister Andersen made great caramel corn. If you want the recipe, let me know.

Wednesday the Woolseys from Hong Kong who are with Deseret International Charities were in town so we all went out to eat at an Indian Restaurant near the Bayanzurkh building.

Yesterday we went to a Christmas craft show at the American housing. I bought a couple of Christmas items so I’d think it is Christmas here. In the evening we and the Caldwells were invited to the Whitmans for a pleasant evening with a dinner of wonderful Mexican soup.

Sacrament Services
Last Sunday and this Sunday we held a sacrament service at the Caldwell’s apartment. They turned their furniture around so it looked like the room was set up for a meeting. These small meetings are wonderful and filled with the Spirit. The Bouldin family joined us (he works at the U.S. Embassy). They have a 14-year old son who passed the sacrament to us. Wes gave a talk on forgiveness with stories illustrating the principle.

Elder Whitman gave a talk on Gen. 3:15 / Moses 4:21, “... He (Jesus Christ) shall bruise (crush) thy (Satan’s) head, and thou (Satan) shalt bruise his heel.” Bruising a heel is not fatal, but crushing a head is. In the atonement Satan bruised Christ as Christ took upon himself our sins (Isa. 53:5). But as a result of the atonement Christ will overcome sin and vanquish Satan (Rom. 16:20 and Heb. 2:14). Thus the creation story in Genesis is the first Biblical prophecy of the Savior’s atonement.

Missionary Work
Although we can’t attend our Sukhbaatar Branch and meet with the people in the branch, the missionaries are teaching many lessons. Some lessons have been taught in our apartment. By having the missionaries teach in our apartment we can feel the spirit with which they teach. It has been a blessing for us.

There is a new group of 20 Mongolian elders and sisters starting their mission this coming week. They will enter the Manilla MTC on Sat. Nov. 28. Because of the quarantine we won’t be able to hold a new missionary fireside this coming Tuesday night.

President’s Family
President and Sister Andersen’s daughter Alice has come to visit with her 3-month old baby boy. She’s been here a week. Her husband came in today, and they’ll be here one more week. It’s fun to have a baby in the mission. Last Tuesday I had the privilege of babysitting Josiah for a couple of hours while Sister Andersen and Alice went out.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Update on November 8, 2009

Church Sunday Nov. 1
A week ago at Church everyone was wearing a mask because of the swine flu scare. They passed out masks at Church, and the branch president reminded everyone to wear masks the following Sunday. Wearing masks is a very Asian thing to do. Even if as Americans we may not think masks are effective, the President said it is a matter of obedience to wear them.

In looking down from the stand I saw everyone wearing white masks with a few pale pink and blue masks thrown in. The priests administering the sacrament happened to be wearing black masks. It’s the first time I’ve seen priests administer the sacrament with black masks on; it looked very strange. The masks go from under the eyes to under the chin.

Welcome for Whitmans and Andersons
Saturday Oct. 31 we had the Whitmans over for dinner to welcome them here. On Monday Elder and Sister Raymond Anderson returned to serve another mission in Mongolia. They were able to come because they already had a visa. They had gone home for two months and returned to serve another mission for at least 18 months (they are planning on staying for 23 months). Elder Anderson served a mission as a youth and this is their fourth mission as a couple. They served a full-time mission for two years in a cannery. They served a mission in Croatia. Now this is their second mission in Mongolia.

On Wed. Nov. 4 we had a dinner in President Andersen’s apartment to welcome the two couples. The next day the Andersons flew to Choibalsan which is 377 miles or 606 kilometers east of UB.

Brownies Week
Last week was cupcakes week. This week was brownies week. We made 4 13"x9" pans of brownies. One pan was for the dinner for the Whitmans on Sat. Oct. 31, two pans were for the singles home evening at Sukhbaatar on Monday night, and one pan for the senior couples welcome dinner on Wednesday night.

Government Restrictions
Schools have been closed in Mongolia for a couple of weeks. As of last Wednesday the Church was closed in Darkhan and Erdenent and no youth under 16 could attend Church. Also our building was to be locked at 9 p.m. (as though swine flu only came out after 9 p.m.).

On Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 4) the government came out with a pronouncement that there are to be no public meetings in the country and no market places are to be open except for those that sell food. This restriction is to last at least two weeks. As a result we have had a quiet week since then with English classes, piano classes, addiction recovery, baptisms, seminary and institute, and all Church meetings cancelled.

The President is concerned about keeping prospective baptisms and members progressing in the gospel with the shut down. The missionaries are to concentrate on visiting and teaching new members; they are to teach a lot of lessons.

The bishops or branch presidents may authorize priesthood holders to administer the sacrament in their own homes. However there are not to be large groups, and members are not to be assigned to go to a given home for a sacrament meeting.

Saturday evening the sign language sisters, Sister Tsetsegmaa and Sister Azzaya, came over to our apartment to teach a lesson to a young girl who was baptized a year ago. It was interesting to watch them talking in sign language. Sister Azzaya translated for us from sign language to English.

Sunday afternoon Elder Michie and Elder Cardinal came over to administer the sacrament to 3 young people: Chintuya, her cousin, and a young man I don’t know. It was such a small group. It shows the significance of the sacrament is in the ordinance and covenants themselves; it does not require a large number of people and talks.

Missionary transfers occurred a week early on Sat. Oct. 31 instead of the scheduled day Sat. Nov. 7. The President felt impressed to do so although they’d never had transfers early before. The government declared all train rides cancelled within the country as of Sat. Nov. 7. There would have been problems if the transfers hadn’t occurred a week early.

Senior Family Home Evening
Sunday evening the senior couples gathered for our monthly family home evening at the Lasson’s apartment. With the Whitmans and Gloria we had 11 people present. We also had the privilege of having the sacrament administered at our home evening. After the sacrament our lesson was from the Joseph Smith manual, lesson #37 on Charity, the Pure Love of Christ. Each couple was assigned a bullet point to discuss. Our thoughts were on how we can enlarge our hearts in love towards others.
Charity, the Pure Love of Christ

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Update on October 29, 2009

Lunch at Batbold's
It's past time for me to update my blog. Going back through my calendar, I see that on Monday Oct. 12th President & Sister Andersen, Elder and Sister Lasson, and Wes and I were invited to lunch at Batbold's apartment. He is the 2nd counselor in the mission presidency. He also works for the mission taking care of missionary apartments and other emergencies and being a driver for the mission. We enjoy knowing him. He is going to come to California when we return home and Wes will take him fishing in the ocean. He has never seen an ocean. (Mongolia is a land-locked country.)

His wife served a wonderful lunch with several courses. It made me nervous that she didn't set a place for herself and sit down, but maybe that is the way they do it here.

Their apartment is lovely. It is on the 10th floor of an apartment building. Brother Batbold has decorated it beautifully. The apartment has an American style kitchen with lots of counter space. He and his son did all of the work themselves. The elevator in the building wasn't working. They had to carry all of the building materials and furniture and appliances up 10 flights of stairs. They ordered all the furniture, wallpaper, kitchen cupboards, and appliances from China.

Gloria Wheeler
Gloria Wheeler returned to Mongolia on Tues. Oct. 13 for about 2 months. She is working with the university here in Mongolia, where she taught last year on a Fulbright scholarship, to get it accredited by a U.S. accrediting agency.

1st Khoroo in Ulaanbaatar
On Thurs. Oct. 15 Wes and I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the 1st Khoroo (a neighborhood group) and tell about the DIC programs (wheelchair, wells, neo-natal resuscitation, and vision) and present a boy with a wheelchair. I was impressed with this group which was trying hard to help people in their own khoroo with their special needs.

UB West Stake Conference
The weekend of Oct. 17/18 was the first stake conference of the UB West Stake since its organization last June 7th. It was an Asia Area broadcast covering 17 stakes and 16 districts. I really enjoyed the broadcast. Two weeks in a row I was able to hear messages in English (General Conference and then this area broadcast).

The speakers were Elder Watson of the Asia Area presidency, Sister Dalton of the YW presidency, Elder Oaks, and President Uchtdorf. Sister Dalton spoke on obeying with exactness.

Elder Oaks spoke on the unique features of the Church. 1) The Church was established by Jesus Christ. 2) The Church contains the fulness of his doctrine. The central message is the atonement of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is a 2nd witness or testimony of Christ and his atonement. 3) The Church has the power of the priesthood. We have a prophet who has the keys for revelation for the entire Church. The Church is restored Christianity.

President Uchtdorf spoke on many subjects. He said the Church is united despite political boundaries. We're united in our testimony of Jesus Christ. We are never alone in the Church. Just as it's been said, it takes a village to raise a child, the Church is like a world-wide village. We help and strengthen each other. He said he was grateful for members' prayers and dedication to the Church. This is a strength to the Church and to the communities in which the members live.

He spoke to the young men. He told them the Lord has a work for them to do. They are to prepare. They are to study Preach My Gospel, particularly chapter 3. They are to read, ponder, and pray. Preach My Gospel should be used for family home evening. They are to decide now to go on a mission and to commit themselves to Heavenly Father. There are many good people to be loved and invited so they are no more strangers. This is a great and marvelous work, a modern miracle.

Ask yourself what am I doing to a) increase my faith and b) strengthen my marriage and family. Prayerfully reflect and ask the Spirit to guide you. Listen to the Spirit. The promptings of the Spirit will be specific to you. The Lord has promised you will be taught from on high if ready according to the Lord's timetable. You must follow the promptings you receive.

It is hard to focus on what is most essential. Life is distracting. Set goals in terms of outcomes. The gospel of Jesus Christ will give you a clear focus. Evaluate where you are in your journey back to your Heavenly Father. Where do you need course correction?

Always share the gospel message with family, friends, and neighbors. In Romans 1:16 the Apostle Paul said "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Your testimony becomes stronger by sharing it. Share your joy with your spouse and your children. Set a good example for your family. Labor diligently for your and your family's conversion.

He concluded:
1) Hold a current temple recommend.
2) Study the word of God daily.
3) Speak with your Father in prayer daily.

Farewell to Dr. and Sister (Timothy and Nedra Anderson)
On Saturday Oct. 24th we had a farewell party for the Andersons. They left on the morning of Wed. Oct. 28. It was sad to see them go. They're a wonderful couple. Dr. Anderson was continually kept busy with the medical needs of the mission and other people who needed care. Sister Anderson was continually involved in doing good to others.

We are still having a problem getting visas for new missionaries to come in from the states. We have 3 couples and 13 young missionaries waiting to come. This Sunday will be a fast by the missionaries to soften the hearts of government officials so we can get visas for the waiting missionaries. Family, we'd like you to join with us this Sunday in fasting and praying for the visas as well as for Wendy Rae and Travis.

A couple, the Whitmans, serving a mission in Hong Kong, arrived the same afternoon on Wed. Oct. 28 to help in this mission for a month. They came under a tourist visa. Elder Whitman was a former dean at the B.Y.U. Law School. He will be helping Soyolmaa work on the legal aspects of the visa problem. His wife Sister Whitman is a nurse. She is stepping in to fill the gap left by the release of Elder Anderson. Today was her first day in the office and she was busy all day with medical problems.

Cupcake Week
Monday evening was our evening to go out and help with the singles family home evening. The youth teach the lesson and conduct the games themselves. All we do is provide refreshments. We brought chocolate cupcakes and served the remainder for Addiction Recovery on Tuesday night. In Addiction Recovery it was step 2 (hope) of the 12 Step program. We had 10 people in attendance besides the staff. Thursday night for English, since it's close to Halloween and they know something about it, we did some Halloween activities and again had cupcakes, this time with orange frosting.

Transfer Day
Saturday morning (Oct. 31) will be transfer day again for the missionaries. Supposedly it is a small transfer, but there will be a lot of changes. Since the American missionaries haven't arrived, some proselyting areas will be temporarily closed down.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chinggis Khan's 2 White Horses

This video was shown on TV sometime in the past to make fun of Mormon missionaries. Chinggis Khan had a pair of 2 white horses. Since the missionaries are often white and they go everywhere together, they are called Chinggis Khan's 2 white horses. The music accompanying the video is the music the Mongolians sing when they refer to the Mormon missionaries as Chinggis Khan's 2 white horses.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Elder Oaks' BYU-Idaho Talk on Religious Freedom

13 October 2009 Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks speech given at BYU-Idaho on 13 October 2009.

(Section II talks about religious freedom in Mongolia.)

To illustrate the importance of basic human rights in other countries, I refer to some recent history in Mongolia, which shows that the religious freedom we have taken for granted in the United States must be won by dangerous sacrifice in some other nations.

Following the perestroika movement in the Soviet Union, popular demonstrations in Mongolia forced the Communist government to resign in March 1990. Other political parties were legalized, but the first Mongolian elections gave the Communists a majority in the new parliament, and the old repressive attitudes persisted in all government departments. The full functioning of a democratic process and the full enjoyment of the people’s needed freedoms do not occur without a struggle. In Mongolia, the freedoms of speech, press and religion — a principal feature of the inspired United States Constitution — remained unfulfilled.

In that precarious environment, a 42-year-old married woman, Oyun Altangerel, a department head in the state library, courageously took some actions that would prove historic. Acting against official pressure, she organized a “Democratic Association Branch Council.” This 12-member group, the first of its kind, spoke out for democracy and proposed that state employees have the freedoms of worship, belief and expression, including the right to belong to a political party of their choice.

When Oyun and others were fired from their state employment, Oyun began a hunger strike in the state library. Within three hours she was joined by 20 others, mostly women, and their hunger strike, which continued for five days, became a public demonstration that took their grievances to the people of Mongolia. This demonstration, backed by major democratic movement leaders, encouraged other government employees to organize similar democratic councils. These dangerous actions expanded into a national anti-government movement that voiced powerful support for the basic human freedoms of speech, press and religion. Eventually the government accepted the demands, and in the adoption of a democratic constitution two years later Mongolia took a major step toward a free society.

For Latter-day Saints, this birth of constitutional freedom in Mongolia has special interest. Less than two years after the historic hunger strike, we sent our first missionaries to Mongolia. In 1992 these couples began their meetings in the state library, where Oyun was working. The following year, she showed her courage again by being baptized into this newly arrived Christian church. Her only child, a 22-year-old son, was baptized two years later. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country. A few months ago we organized our first stake in Mongolia. Called as the stake president was Sister Oyun’s son, Odgerel. He had studied for a year at BYU-Hawaii, and his wife, Ariuna, a former missionary in Utah, graduated there.[iii]

[iii] The information about events in Mongolia was obtained from correspondence with President Odgerel and from Mary N. Cook, former senior missionary and wife of Richard E. Cook, the first mission president in Mongolia.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Update on October 11, 2009

A lot of the events recently have involved other senior couples in UB although we only have four couples left in UB now, plus the President and his wife. The Lassons are in charge of Deseret International Charities and also English teaching until the new couple arrives. The Caldwells are in charge of Employment Resources. Dr. and Sister Anderson are over medical care, but will be leaving soon. We’re the Office Administrators.

On Tuesday September 29th there was a wheelchair ceremony at the Children’s Center under the joint sponsorship of the Red Cross and Deseret International Charities. Deseret International Charities is the Church’s humanitarian organization. In fact the Church is in Mongolia under the Deseret International Charities charter.

Although both groups sponsored the event, the wheelchairs came from the Church. The Church sent an order for 750 wheelchairs to be distributed here in Mongolia. Elder and Sister Lasson are the DIC country directors and were in charge of the program. We went to the ceremony with the Lassons and Caldwells. There is a great need for medical care here.

The missionaries were involved in unloading the wheelchairs and putting the wheelchairs in storage at the Red Cross and also at the Khan-Uul church building. Then a district of missionaries came to the ceremony to help set up the wheelchairs and to put people into the wheelchairs. Some people were carried in to the ceremony by family members.

See about one man's need for a wheelchair. Alcoholism is a blight here in Mongolia. We're involved in addiction recovery which is a very needed program.

Tuesday afternoon we'll meet with the governor's office from our khoroo to tell about our addiction recovery program. After the ceremony we went to Millie’s for lunch, a restaurant which serves American food. The following evening we went to dinner at the Caldwells and had the opportunity to visit with them.

On Saturday October 3rd we went to a performance of the Khoomei-Taiko Ensemble at a theater in the Khaan Bank with the Lassons and Caldwells. It was a program combining Mongolian and Japanese music. It was interesting, but I prefer programs with just Mongolian music. A lady played a Japanese koto who was very good.

On Sunday October 4th Elder and Sister Stroud who were CES missionaries in Mongolia a year ago gave a fireside. In Mongolia all you have to do is to announce a fireside in the morning at Church, and the room will be packed with people for the fireside in the evening. The Strouds came back for a sealing at the Swiss Temple of Richard Huy from Germany and his wife Baagi.

Tuesday October 6th was Zone Conference. The theme was “Enduring to the End,” and again we were prepared in case we were called on to speak.
Enduring to the End

The President’s birthday was on Sunday October 4th. We decided to surprise him with a birthday breakfast on Wednesday October 7th. It was a very nice breakfast, but I am not sure a surprise is such a good idea. His wife told him there was an emergency downstairs, and he went barreling down the stairs with his heart pumping. When he walked into the room, we yelled Happy Birthday. I think it took a while for his heart to settle down. There are many emergencies in our mission. When he got back upstairs from the breakfast, he found that a missionary had jumped out of his second story apartment window and broken his foot.

Yesterday (October 10) and today (October 11) we were able to watch General Conference with other senior couples and expatriates in the President’s apartment. Here in Mongolia, General Conference is watched a week later after they get a DVD from Salt Lake.
We really enjoyed watching all of the sessions of Conference. Yesterday Sister Caldwell made cinnamon rolls during the Priesthood session. We enjoyed them together after Priesthood meeting. Today between sessions we had a potluck dinner with wonderful food.

For me there seemed to be two main themes to the Conference: 1) learn to receive personal revelation and follow the promptings of the Spirit, and 2) love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Then there was Elder Holland's strong talk on the Book of Mormon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Update on September 27, 2009

Last week was a busy week. I created 10 farewell books for the missionaries who left the mission. Then 18 new Mongolian missionaries arrived in the mission from the Philippines MTC. We still have American missionaries waiting to come because they can’t get visas. The American missionaries have been temporarily reassigned to other missions. Last week was also a Big Transfer as well as time to send all of the missionaries’ allotments to their debit cards.

Friday Sep. 25th we decided to take a trip before winter sets in. A week before the temperature went down to 28° F. and there was snow on the ground. Friday we went to Terelj National Park, the birth place of Chinggis Khan. The pictures will give you an idea of what we did. The weather was overcast, but it was still a nice day. We rode camels and Wes rode a horse. I was able to get on the camel because it came down for me, but I decided I wouldn’t be able to get on a horse; it was too high even if Mongolian horses are shorter than American horses.

We saw Turtle Rock, a rock formation that looks like a turtle, Then we went on to the Meditation Temple. I think the Buddhists chose locations with impressive views for their temples. We climbed 115 steps. On the way back we saw the 100 Lamas Cave. The opening looks small, but 100 Buddhist monks were saved from Stalin’s purges by hiding in the cave.

On Sunday at Church we told a couple of missionaries we were going to go home and have tuna noodle casserole. That sounded good to them so Elder Whittle and Elder Byambadorj joined us for Sunday dinner where we had tuna noodle casserole, green beans, jello, cornbread, and apple crisp with ice cream. This is not our normal eating. Often we just have a bowl of soup for dinner.

Elder Whittle took the recipe home so he could made tuna noodle casserole himself. When he had been at dinner the previous Sunday with all 10 of the Sukhbaatar missionaries, he liked Dad’s rolls so he took home the roll recipe and made rolls. With all 10 of the missionaries we had roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, raspberry jello with cherries, and cake and ice cream.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Patriarch for Mongolia

Mongolia has its first patriarch. His name is Brother Batbayar from the Selbe Ward in the Ulaanbaatar West Stake. The Ulaanbaatar West Stake is the first and only stake in Mongolia and was organized just last June 6, 2009.

Update on September 13, 2009

Elder Pratt, second counselor in the Asia Area Presidency, and Elder Ho, an Area Seventy, came to visit the mission on Labor Day weekend. The senior couples were able to meet with them at President Andersen's home on the evening of Sunday Sep. 6th.

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. They have it easier than Brigham and Heber; Brigham and Heber didn't have Skype.

He referred to DC 100:1: "Your families are well; they are in mine hands." The Lord protects your families by your service to Him. Prayers and tears and much fasting and temple rolls help bring children back. We should never stop loving and accepting our children and grandchildren.

Elder Ho even with his traveling on Church assignments 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. It is 6:30 am Sunday morning in Vancouver, Canada and 9:30 pm Sunday evening in Hong Kong.

William, this is how you can hold family home evening with your family when you are in California and they are in Utah.

Monday Sep. 7th on Labor Day we traveled with Brother Batbold, second counselor in the mission presidency, to bring the Laytons down from Selenge to Ulaanbaatar. It was about a four hour ride each way. We enjoyed being out of the city in the country where it is still green and pretty. Along the way we saw camels and yaks.

Selenge is only about 15 minutes from the Russian border. As we were getting closer to the border town, Brother Batbold had us put our camera under the car seat out of sight. We drove to where cars were waiting in line to cross the border. Looking into Russia, we saw that it looked the same as Mongolia. Later we understood that there is another crossing nearby where you can get a pass and step into Russia.

Having to put the camera away reminded me of 48 years ago when I was arrested and detained by Czechoslovakian soldiers for taking their picture and also getting my camera confiscated.

The first picture below shows the clearing dividing Mongolia from Russia; Mongolia is on the left and Russia is on the right. The second picture is of a church in Russia.

We brought the Laytons to Ulaanbaatar so they could return to the States. Elder Layton's health has been declining. In the city he learned his kidneys are failing. The Jacksons have been serving in Ulaanbaatar. He learned he has cancer on his nose. Because of these couples' medical emergencies, they are being released. They returned to the U.S. on Wednesday Sep. 9th. We will really miss them. They served so well here in Mongolia, and we enjoyed their friendship. Tuesday evening at President Andersen's apartment we held a get-together in honor of the Laytons and the Jacksons.

On Thursday Sep. 10th our English classes began again. We teach English to young adults in the Bayanzurkh building from 6 - 7 pm on Tuesday and Thursday and English to doctors and nurses at Hospital 2 from 3 - 4 pm on Monday and Wednesday. This is in addition to Addiction Recovery from 7 - 8:30 pm on Tuesday and piano from 9 am - 12 pm on Saturday. Because of construction work at the hospital, we do have another week or two before the Hospital 2 classes begin.

Sunday evening Sep. 13th we enjoyed having the Caldwells over for dinner. We cooked roast beef for dinner for the first time since we've been here. We had discovered a Settlers of Cataan game in the seniors' closet, and we showed them how to play the game.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mongolian Nativity

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Death of Travis's Father - William Tyler Littleton

Travis we are so sorry for the loss of your father. We love you very much.
- Joan and Wes

William Tyler Littleton, 63, formerly of Lodi, died Aug. 30. He was born Mar. 3, 1946 in Stockton. Mr. Littleton lived in Ocala, Fla. and worked at Stennis. He attended Diamondhead Community Church. He is survived by wife, Lori Littleton, of Ocala, Fla.; son, Travis Black, of Utah; daughters, Tami Jameson, of Roanoke, Va., Tina Thomas, of Utah, Wendy Roessler. of Austin, Tex., and Jenny Tibbetts, of Utah; sister, Darlene Basore, of San Diego; and 11 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his father, Eugene B. Littleton; and mother, Mary Ella Smead.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Evergreen Chapel. Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the Evergreen Chapel. Cherokee Memorial Funeral Home is assisting family with arrangements.

Published in LodiNews from September 3 to September 10, 2009.

William Tyler Littleton, 63, of Ocala, FL passed away on Sunday, August 30, 2009 in Mobile, AL.

The visitation will be on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 from 3:30 pm until 6:00 pm at Edmond Fahey Funeral Home in Bay St. Louis, MS with a service at 6:00 pm. His body will be sent to Cherokee Memorial Chapel in Lodi, CA for visitation from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm on Wednesday, September 9, 2009. Interment will follow the 1:00 pm service.

Edmond Fahey Funeral Home in Bay St. Louis, MS is in charge of the arrangements.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Zone Conference Sep. 1, 2009

Tuesday was zone conference for two missionary zones at Bayanzurkh. The announcement was made to the missionaries that Elder Lasson will be the new first counselor to President Andersen in the mission presidency. Elder and Sister Lasson arrived in Mongolia one month ago. He will be great in this calling, but he will also be very busy between the mission presidency and overseeing Deseret International Charities and the teaching of English with his wife.

At the beginning of the zone conference all of the missionaries arise and recite D&C 4 in unison, both in Mongolian and in English. Then they recite My Purpose, again both in Mongolian and English.

My Purpose
Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

The missionaries were reminded that when they were set apart as missionaries, they were set apart from the things of the world. They were reminded that obedience to the commandments and to the mission rules helps us to be better. The importance of teaching from the scriptures was emphasized.

Each zone conference always has a theme on which all of the missionaries are to be prepared to give a short 3 minute talk. A few missionaries may be called on at a zone conference to 1) share an experience in the past week where they accomplished their missionary purpose, 2) give a talk on the assigned topic, or 3) bear their testimony on things they've learned by the spirit at this zone conference.

The assigned topic was adversity. Wes and I both prepared talks. Wes' talk is not written down, but I wrote my talk so I'm attaching my talk.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Update on August 23, 2009

President Andersen has been at a Mission Presidents' Seminar in Hong Kong this past week. The office has been quieter.

Wes finished the audits for Sukhbaatar, Khailaast, and Chingeltei branches. The Asia Area has the reputation of having 100% of their audits finished and turned in on time by the end of August each year.

This week's addiction recovery was step 4: Truth. Participants are to review and write a moral inventory of their lives, listing their strengths and weaknesses, being honest in what they write, and seeking guidance from the Holy Ghost.

Reviewing your life
"I invite each one of you to thoughtfully review your life. Have you deviated from the standards that you know will bring happiness? Is there a dark corner that needs to be cleaned out? Are you now doing things that you know are wrong? Do you fill your mind with unclean thoughts? When it is quiet and you can think clearly, does your conscience tell you to repent?

“For your peace now and for everlasting happiness, please repent. Open your heart to the Lord and ask Him to help you. You will earn the blessing of forgiveness, peace, and the knowledge you have been purified and made whole. Find the courage to ask the Lord for strength to repent now” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 103; or Ensign, May 1995, 77).
Para Olympics in Mongolia

Thursday morning most of the seniors (Lassons, Caldwells, Stevens, and Elder Jackson) went to the Para Olympics. It is a wonderful event. Elder Jackson, in the name of the Church, sponsored the event and bought the trophies and plaques.

We were impressed with the participant's effort and abilities. What we learned from watching them is that you just need to face the right direction and keep going. Also we learned not to coast when you get near the end; keep going.

A large group of our L.D.S. single adults came and helped with the event; we were proud of them. We understand in the afternoon they tied a string from a blind runner to one of our single adults so the runner would stay on course. But a single adult sometimes had trouble keeping up with the blind runner.

Stake Conference in Ukiah
This Sunday morning before church we were able to listen to the Saturday evening session of stake conference in Ukiah, California on the internet. Because some areas of the stake are a long ways away, this was an experiment to broadcast conference to the outlying areas. We enjoyed seeing the people and hearing the talks. Among the speakers were President and Sister Bunker, the new mission president for Santa Rosa, California, and President and Sister Hunter (son of President Hunter), the Oakland Temple president.

The Sunday morning session broadcast will be broadcast at 1 am this Monday morning. I'm not sure we'll be up for that session.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Update on August 16, 2009

In the office this past week we were happy to have the mission budget completed and turned in to Hong Kong. Saturday Aug. 15th was transfer day for the missionaries. Many missionaries were transferred. Because of missionaries who just completed their missions, we have 16 mini missionaries serving right now. This gives us 178 young missionaries. We have about 200 missionaries including the seniors and President and Sister Andersen. The number will increase in September with about 34 new missionaries - 13 from the States and about 21 Mongolians.

Tuesday night was Addiction Recovery step 3: Trust in God. In step 3 we make a decision to open ourselves to God and surrender our entire lives—past, present, and future—and our will about our lives to Him. Step 3 is an act of agency. It is the most important choice we ever make.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. It is a hard doctrine, but it is true. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him (Insights from My Life, Ensign, Aug. 2000, 9).
Reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved (2 Nephi 10:24).
Sunday after Church we enjoyed having our 10 Sukhbaatar missionaries over for dinner - Elders Whittle, Byambadorj, Jargalsaikhan, Amgalan, Fawcett, Munkhbayar, Balsansambuu, a mini missionary, and Sisters Zolboo and Uugantuya. We ate pulled pork on homemade hamburger buns, homemade potato salad, homemade coleslaw, watermelon, and homemade chocolate cake with ice cream.

The conversation flowed nicely. Some of the Mongolian elders speak a little English. Between our English, their English, their Mongolian, and continuing translation by Elder Whittle we communicate with each other.

President Goo, the president of the Hong Kong Temple, came to Mongolia; Mongolia is in the Hong Kong Temple district. Brother Yip from Ukiah is a counselor to him in the Hong Kong Temple presidency. President and Sister Goo arrived Friday night, drove 4 hours up to Darkhan Saturday morning to speak at a 10 am fireside, drove the 4 hours back to Ulaanbaatar, and spoke at a 4 pm fireside for endowed members. Sunday night he spoke again at a fireside in Ulaanbaatar.

The Goo's are Chinese, but their home has been in Hawaii. Sister Goo said as they were raising their children, they went to the temple a lot; they had weekly Friday night dates to the temple. The temple is her sanctuary where she feels the presence of Heavenly Father and knows he loves her. The temple has great power to bless our lives. We need to teach our children the importance of the temple by our good example. The temple is connected with the Savior's atoning sacrifice. Without temple ordinances, his sacrifice is in vain; we cannot move onto eternal life.

In Mongolia where members cannot attend the temple frequently, they need to have the temple with them in their hearts; they need to remember the feeling they had when they received their own endowment. Every day walk uprightly before the Lord and keep your covenants. Then you will have the temple inside of you.

President Goo taught that the new and everlasting covenant is the fulness of the gospel. It includes the temple covenants and ordinances. Eternal marriage is the crowning ordinance of the temple.

President Goo referred to DC 109:8, 15, and 24. We can organize and prepare ourselves by having daily personal prayer, daily scripture study, weekly family home evening, attending our Church meetings, keeping the command- ments, and building the kingdom. Verse 15 tells us the Lord will bless us by granting to us a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and verse 24 tells us the Lord will establish us for all eternity.

DC 109:24 was referred to in a talk by Elder Bednar at April General Conference. President Goo emphasized three words: honorably, name, and standing. 1) Honorably - obey, trust, give glory to, respect, conduct affairs with integrity. 2) Name - to hold a temple recommend. 3) Standing - length of time or duration, not changing, immovable, high reputation, frequent attendance; constant continued use of recommend.

President Goo recommended that members who cannot yet go to Hong Kong to receive their endowment ask their bishop or branch president for a practice temple interview to prepare themselves to go to the temple. For members who have already received their endowment, he said they should always keep their recommend current even if they can't travel to the temple; there are many things they can do to promote temple work including family history.

Elder Bednar at Conference quoted Brigham Young, "Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Update on August 9, 2009

Outgoing Pouch Mail Discontinued
We received notice on Monday that outgoing pouch mail has been discontinued. That will be a disadvantage, particularly to senior couples. People can still send a folded sheet of paper with the pouch address and a stamp to the mission. However, anything we send to the U.S. other than official correspondence will have to go through the Mongolian post office. That will be more costly, slower, and less secure.

We still continue as busy as ever with our responsibilities for the office, Monday night YSA home evening, Tuesday night Addiction Recovery, Friday night baptisms at the Chingeltei building (3 branches: Sukhbaatar, Chingeltei, and Khailaast), Saturday morning piano classes, and Church. We need to bring refreshments to the Monday night home evening and the Tuesday night Addiction Recovery. In September we will again add two English classes on Tuesday and two English classes on Thursday. Some day I'll enumerate our office responsibilities; we're too busy doing them right now to list what we do.

Last Monday night (Aug. 3rd) we attended the YSA home evening. Afterwards they usually have an activity, but this time there was no activity. They were hurrying home to read their mission calls. Three members had received calls, one to New Zealand, and two to Mongolia. Later I learned they were all going to be together to read their calls, and we could have joined them, but we didn't understand that at the time. Elder Battsagaan, at whose house we had previously had dinner and attended family home evening, received the call to New Zealand. His English is already pretty good. His father was an English teacher.

Thursday night we had the pleasure of inviting Elder and Sister Lasson to our apartment for dinner. New couples are invited to the apartments of all the senior couples in UB to welcome them and for us to get better acquainted. We are no longer the newest couple here; we've been here three months.

Friday night we had a fast for the missionary work here in Mongolia. There has recently been a lag in the work. Also the fast was for Elder Godfrey who has only been here since July 2nd. He started having problems in the MTC, and they are getting much worse here. He is in constant pain; the medical people think he has fibromyalgia. He so wants to serve his mission, but unless he gets better, it won't be possible. We ended the fast after the Friday evening baptism.

Three people were baptized. A young girl Bolormaa was baptized from Sukhbaatar; another girl and a young man from the other branches were baptized. The other girl baptized was a sister of the missionary, Elder Galmandakh, who baptized her. There is a tradition at baptisms here. After the new members are baptized, when they return to the chapel they are called on to stand up at the pulpit and bear their testimonies to those present. There were about 70 people at the baptism.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Update on August 2, 2009

On Friday evening July 31st we went to Nailaikh Branch (40 km away). The Caldwells bring dinner to the 10 missionaries whenever they have a baptism. The baptism for that day was cancelled, but the Caldwells still brought dinner. We were invited to go with them. Nailaikh was the first branch we attended when we came to Mongolia. We enjoy getting out of the city and going to the countryside.

We also stopped at the huge Chinggis Khan monument (54 km from UB). From the top of the building, the monument of Ghinggis Khan and his horse is 40 m high. It was completed in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the Great Mongol State (2006).

On Saturday night (Aug. 1) we had a farewell party at the Bayanzurkh building to say goodbye to the Clarks. It will be hard to see them go just as it was hard to see the Hitchmoughs leave. Both couples were an integral part of the mission and accomplished great work. The Clarks did humanitarian projects with Deseret International Charities; Elder Clark was also first counselor in the mission presidency. The Hitchmoughs worked with the English program and addiction recovery. In addition Elder Hitchmough was on the district council, and Sister Hitchmough was active with service projects.

About midnight on Saturday a new couple arrived from Cottonwood Heights, Utah, the Lassons. They are a wonderful couple and will be a great addition to Deseret International Charities and missionary work. At the senior couples fireside, which was held at our apartment on Sunday evening (Aug. 2), the lesson was on Redemption for the Dead. During the discussion I realized how outstanding all of our senior couples are. They have raised fine families with children and grandchildren and have been active in the Church and in leadership positions and in family history and temple work; they have done all the things faithful Church members are asked to do.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Flowers in Mongolia

When we first arrived in Ulaanbaatar in May, people were planting flowers in anticipation of summer. The flowers bloomed two months later in July. Here are pictures of the flowers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The First Decade of Mormonism in Mongolia

BYU Studies lists the Doctrine and Covenants lessons for this year's Sunday School Gospel Doctrine class. For lesson 26 "Go Ye into All the World, and Preach My Gospel," there is a reference to the BYU Studies article, "Nothing Less Than Miraculous": The First Decade of Mormonism in Mongolia. Click on the link and download the article to read about the first decade of the history of the church in Mongolia.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Update on July 26, 2009

Last Tuesday we attended Addiction Recovery at Bayanzurkh. It was the 12th week or 12th step, and 7 people were ready to receive certificates (only 5 of them were present). Beginning next Tuesday with Elder and Sister Hitchmough gone, Wes and I will need to open and close the meetings and preside at the meetings. We have a teacher (a facilitator), a class president who takes roll, and a translator.

Wednesday and Thursday was the senior retreat for the senior couples in the mission. 10 couples plus our guide Jangar went on the outing. Elder and Sister Jackson were not able to go because of an emergency in the mission.

Tuesday we wondered about going the next day because it poured and hailed in UB. However, Wednesday morning started out beautiful. We began by going to the ruins of the Manzushir Monastery, about 60 km south of Ulaanbaatar. It is located in the southern entrance of Bogd Khaan National Park. The monastery was established in 1733 and housed 300 monks. The monastery grew to consist of 20 temples and had an artificial lake in front of what was the main temple. In 1932 all of the halls were destroyed in 5 days by the Communist purges. The pictures show the ruins of one temple. Another temple has been restored. When we entered the temple, we were told we had to go to the left in a clockwise direction. In the pictures when you see blue, blue represents the sky and is used to designate sacred places. Sacred places are usually high in the mountains.

From there we drove to Hustai National Park, about 100 km west of Ulaanbaatar. From the monastery we had to drive back to UB and then on to the park. We slept in a ger. It was like going camping and sleeping in a cabin. Shortly after arriving, there was a tremendous downpour of rain. These gers are placed on cement circles. President and Sister Andersen found their ger surrounded by water, but it quit raining and the water subsided by dinnertime. In the evening we played a group game of Guesstures.

The next day we drove through the park to see the Prezwalski horses. They are wild horses native to Mongolia, but the horses became extinct here. They have been brought back from zoos throughout the world, and now there are about 320 Prezwalski horses in 3 locations in Mongolia. 40 foals were born here this year. In appearance they are white around the mouth and have stripes on their legs. The mane has short hair, and their body has different shades of buckskin. Prezwalski horses have two more chromosomes than domestic horses.

As we drove to Hustai National Park, part of the driving is on dirt roads. There can be one or more roads. If a driver doesn't like the road, he'll drive on the grass and soon another road is formed.

As we were driving there was a covey of quail on the road in front of us. An eagle swooped down in front of us and just missed getting a baby quail.

When we returned to UB, we put back on our missionary clothes and had a pizza party at the President's apartment where we told the Hitchmoughs and Clarks what we remembered and appreciated about them and wished them goodbye. The four couples from the countryside were still with us. The Hitchmoughs fly back to Canada tonight, and the Clarks will leave a week from Wednesday after the new couple, the Lassons, come to take their place.

Saturday morning I taught the piano class again. In the afternoon Sukhbaatar Branch held a birthday party to recognize all those who had a birthday from January through June. They also honored the Hitchmoughs who were leaving. It was a very nice social and lasted from 3 to 4 hours. They began with a spiritual part of the program which included testimonies. Elder and Sister Hitchmough were asked to bear their testimonies. Then for the social part the youth performed a cute skit where they reenacted Elder and Sister Hitchmough meeting each other. For a game they had Mongolian Karaoke. One of the elders in the branch Elder Amgalan has a very good voice and won first place.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Update for July 19, 2009

Last week was busy as usual between office work, family home evening at Sukbaatar on Monday evening, the addiction recovery program on Tuesday evening, attending the National Theater again on Wednesday night with the Caldwells and Hodges (in UB from Erdenet) who were celebrating birthdays, attending a baptism at the Chingeltei building (where the Sukhbaatar branch is held) on Friday night, teaching piano classes Saturday morning, and having all the missionaries in the Sukhbaatar branch to dinner on Sunday.

Rain, Rain Everywhere

On Friday afternoon four of us couples decided to take an hour in the afternoon and drive to a Buddhist monastery in Ulaanbaatar. It kept raining harder and harder. The gate to the monastery was closed so we turned around and went back. The rain was very deep everywhere.

The news reported there were 25 deaths as a result of the rain, 7 in Ulaanbaatar itself. Of the 7 deaths in UB, 4 were children with 3 children from one family. 126 families in UB had their gers destroyed by the rain and flash floods. According to the news, the government will pay 1.4 million ₮ to replace each lost ger. Now that might sound like a lot of money, but it equals $1000 each. (

Tithing Lesson

Relief Society on Sunday was interesting. The lesson was on tithing. The teacher put sample budget figures on the board with much class discussion. I was interested in what the figures were.

She projected an income of 280,000 ₮ a month. Our branch is in a ger district. There are 3 people in the teacher's family with 2 grown children. Sister Hitchmough sitting next to me said if the teacher earned that, for a lot of them it was a good salary.

*I've heard that a lot of Mongolians own their own land as a grant from the government, but I figure for those that don't the rent might be the cost of putting a ger on a piece of property.

Obviously their standard of living is not our standard of living. As Americans we don't live like they do, especially when we buy canned goods and American food. The sisters in the class discussed the cost of a bag of flour and other essentials for living. They knew exactly what everything should cost. A very cute Mongolian girl Sister Batchimeg, who had just returned from a mission to Australia, sat beside us and translated. She said the 112,000 ₮ would really be a very low amount to spend for food. The numbers above don't add up to the 280,000 ₮ so I guess there is leeway.

As an example of income, the translators earn 2,500 ₮ ($ 1.79) an hour). With a 40 hour week that would be about 433,333 ₮ ($ 309.52) a month, more than the above example. Our housekeeper is paid even more, 4,000 ₮ ($ 2.86) an hour. I don't know why housekeeping should bring in more money than translation, maybe because they're working for Americans.

Saturday morning I took over teaching two piano classes because Sister Anderson (Dr.) is going to teach piano out at Chingeltei. I'll have to see how the classes work out without a translator because Sister Anderson was paying the previous translator a lot, and I'm not willing to pay that much. Sister Anderson is very generous, but it is way over the going rate for translators. There were a couple of sisters in the office today who wanted to learn to play the piano. I suggested they come to the class on Saturday (I don't know if they will be allowed to use their time to do so), but that way since one of them speaks minimal English, it could help.

Saturday afternoon looking for lightbulbs we went to a furniture store for the wealthy; it was very nice. The prices are way too expensive for the average Mongolian. There is a disparity in income here.

Three branches meet in the Chingeltei building where our Sukhbaatar Branch meets. The branches are good-sized. Our branch had around 170 in attendance on Sunday, more than Ukiah II Ward has seen recently. There are 10 missionaries, who work in the branch, 8 elders and 2 sisters, plus several branch missionaries.

After church Sunday the 10 Sukhbaatar missionaries were invited to our apartment for dinner. 2 of them didn't come, but we still had a total of 12 people for dinner with Elder and Sister Hitchmough and us. (Next Sunday will be the Hitchmoughs last Sunday in UB.) In order to serve that many we had 6 sit at the table and 6 sit around the coffee table. We served spaghetti, French bread (which Wes made), canned corn (which no one ate), cake baked by Sister Hitchmough, and ice cream. It was a very pleasant get together and provided us with a chance to get to know the Sukhbaatar missionaries better. They are good missionaries. We ended with scripture reading, a spiritual thought, a hymn, and prayer.

So I'll remember their names later, the missionaries who came to dinner were Elder Purevsukh, Elder Whittle, Elder Adartseren, Elder Amgalan, Elder Fawcett, Elder Smith, Sister Unurjargal, and Sister Uugantuya. (Here are pictures, but some are a little dark.)

Mongolia's Nine White Banners "Yoson Kholt Tsagaan Tug"

I've been wondering about the nine white banners that I saw at Naadam. "Mongolia’s Nine White Banners or 'Yoson Kholt Tsagaan Tug' are the main symbols of Mongolian national unity, freedom, power, justice, brilliance, and peace. In the 13th century, Chinggis Khaan established the Great Mongolian State and initiated the nine white banners as symbols of ceremony. Mongolian people have been honoring the banners ever since.

"The nine white banners are made up of the tail hair of a thousand stallions from each of the provinces in the country. The white and tawny colours, as well as the horse hair, are symbolic of the power and strength of the state."


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Update of July 12th

Last Sunday evening (July 5th) was our senior missionaries Fast Sunday family home evening. It is enjoyable to have a gospel discussion in English. The topic was JS Lesson #33 on Spiritual Gifts. Each couple was assigned one of the bulleted sections at the end of the lesson to discuss. The home evening was held at the Caldwells who served us banana cream pie for dessert.

Our part of the lesson was the gift of tongues which is evident with the young missionaries here. "For it shall come to pass . . . that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter." (DC 90:11)

Besides material in the lesson manual I added the story of President Joseph F. Smith when he was a young missionary.

"I needed the gift of tongues once, and the Lord gave it to me. I was in a foreign land, sent to preach the gospel to a people whose language I could not understand. Then I sought earnestly for the gift of tongues, and by this gift and by study, in a hundred days after landing upon those islands I could talk to the people in their language as I now talk to you in my native tongue. This was a gift that was worthy of the gospel. There was a purpose in it."

Dr. Anderson spoke on his thoughts as a doctor and as a Melchizedek Priesthood bearer on the gift of healing and gave us a handout on his reflections on the subject.

There is an Elder Tsotgerel in the mission who has been very sick. His kidneys failed. If he were an American, he would be immediately sent back to the States, but being a Mongolian there is no place for him to go. He has nephrotic syndrome which occurs in 1 out of 100,000 people and has a death rate without treatment of 60%. Dr. Anderson found a Mongolian nephrologist who proved ineffectual. The doctor didn't recognize the disease and just wanted to do more tests. The treatment is a high-dosage of steroids which has its own side effects.

Dr. Anderson did start him on the steroids, and a mission fast was held for the elder. At the end of the fast, Elder Tsogtgerel was to choose someone to give him a blessing. He chose Dr. Anderson. Dr. Anderson said he hadn't broken his fast yet and prayed before giving the blessing. Elder Hadfield was the interpreter. Elder Tsotgerel was promised he'd get better. First he got worse, then he gradually got better. His retention of fluids from the nephrotic syndrome has gone down although his face is puffy from the steroids. Dr. Anderson feels this is a miracle in the mission.

What I learned is that we must show gratitude for every slight improvement even if we aren't healed right away. "And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with." (DC 46:32)

With the July 4th celebration last weekend and the Mongolian Nadaam this weekend there have been families of the president and of a few senior couples here in Ulaanbaatar. President Andersen's two sons, their wives, and two little grandchildren have been in town. The Jacksons' family has been here. The Laytons had two daughters here, and the Hodges had a son here.

Nadaam (July 11, 12, 13) is the biggest festival of the year for Mongolians. The Service Center people will have next Mon., Tues., and Wed. off work. It is the 88th anniversary of the Mongolian people’s revolution and the 803rd anniversary of the Great Mongolian State. It is a festival of the 'manly games' or the three major traditional sports in Mongolia: wrestling, horse racing, and archery.

To see the photos in full screen instead of seeing a small slideshow, click on the picture, choose View All, and then select Slideshow.

All the missionaries in Ulaanbaatar had tickets to the Nadaam opening ceremony on Saturday (July 11th). We also had tickets to two events on Sunday, but we gave those tickets away. On the way to church today at Sukhbaatar, Elder Hitchmough still had tickets left for the closing ceremonies today. He gave them to the taxi driver along with the money and made the driver very happy.

The seniors were in the covered seating, and the younger missionaries were in the uncovered bleachers. Again there was a slight amount of rain. Mongolia is supposed to be dry, but this year there has been a lot of rain.

The opening ceremony would have been great, but I couldn't see much. We were on the lowest row, but people get coming in and standing in front of us and wouldn't move. Dad was able to see to get good photographs. I believe the organizers oversold the tickets. After the opening ceremony, some people began to leave. We watched the wrestling for a while, but then we went home and turned on the TV. That was a much better view of the wrestling. We didn't see the archery or horse racing.