We'll Harvest this Field from Sunrise to Sunset!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Understanding by Faith

Dear Family and Friends,

Last time I tried to give some historical context about my area, but I
messed a few things up, so this time I will give a more accurate

When the church released the first manifesto, renouncing the practice
of polygamy, a man named Lorin Woolley began to see an opportunity to
lead away a number of the saints. Lorin Woolley made a claim that
before John Taylor had died, he had set him and seven others apart to
continue polygamy and he was the last living person that had been at
that meeting. A few followed his deception and they named the group
the Apostolic United Brethren, we call them AUB for short, Because of
a charismatic leader many years later named Rulon Allred, it became
known as the Allred group. So the AUB broke off of the LDS church and the
FLDS broke off of the AUB. For many years the leaders of the AUB were
decided by process of seniority, just like the LDS church. However,
just before the late leader, LaMoine Jensen died, he appointed someone
to be the leader rather than allow the process of seniority to pick
the leader. The current leader's name is Lynn Thompson. Lynn Thompson
has been convicted of child molestation and was caught stealing
tithing funds. Because of this, many are leaving the AUB group. Some
are staying away from religion, some are forming another break off
group, and many are coming over to the LDS church. We are SO busy.

We have had a lesson almost every night this week, usually two. It has been
insanely busy, here are a few of the highlights.

This week we taught a young man named Garrett Weidow. Garrett is 20
years old and he has SO MUCH faith! He wants to be baptized but he
knows he needs a testimony of the prophet and the Book of Mormon
first. He knows this will give him direction and purpose in his life
and he has said that he wants that. We are so impressed with him, many
20 year olds would rather party than investigate which church is the
true church. In the last lesson we had with him, we focused on the
Book of Mormon and setting a goal on how fast he's going to read it.
Our member present, Brother Jackson, was so perfect. His testimony was
so needed and added a great perspective.

We also taught a young couple named Andy & Michelle, and their
children. Andy and Michelle live up in Pinesdale and they have been
getting sick of all the confusion that is going on up there so they
asked the missionaries to come and give the lessons to their kids so
the kids can realize that it's all about Christ, not who is right and
who is wrong. Up in Pinesdale, much of the teaching is about why they
are right and the church is wrong, not about Christ and his gospel,
yet another reason many are leaving the AUB group and coming to the
church. We prepared for this lesson with much study and prayer. One
cool part of this was that we wrote down a bunch of members we thought
would be good to bring with us for the lesson, then we prayed. After
the prayer we each pondered separately on who we should bring and we
both felt the spirit prompt us to bring the Chapman's. When we called,
they answered right away and said they could come. That NEVER happens.
Andy and Michelle have already had the first two lessons, The
Restoration and The Plan of Salvation. This time we were teaching the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. The lesson started out and went really well,
we focused on Christ and the similarities in belief between the two
religions (which are many). The lesson went really well, the Chapman's
were great, and the spirit was very strong. At the end of the lesson
Elder Angle felt prompted to ask if they had any questions, Michelle
admitted that she did have one. She asked, "Does Andy have the
priesthood?" This issue is huge up here. So many of these amazing
people have been healed after a blessing which only confirms their
belief that they hold the priesthood. I felt impressed to share the
story of the woman with an issue of blood who was healed by touching
the hem of Christ's garment and shared Christ's words, that it was by
her faith that she was healed. The Chapman's were truly very necessary
during this portion of the lesson. Their personal experiences were
perfect for the situation and they really helped Andy and Michelle
understand. More questions about priesthood power, authority and keys
came up. We all brought our knowledge to the table and shared it in an
effort to resolve all questions. Scriptures, experiences, quotes. It
was not easy, but we eventually resolved all concerns. Right at the
end we felt prompted to give them a quote that would help even more.
Joseph Smith said, "I will give you a key that will never rust, if you
will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of
the Church, you will never be led astray." They loved this quote, and
it was obvious that it helped quite a bit. It was a powerful,
spiritual lesson and an incredible opportunity to be a part of this
wonderful families growth.

The last lesson I think I'll have time to talk about this week was our lesson
with Joel and Marilyn Jessop. This family is amazing and we love them so
much. Like many other families I've talked about, they're ready for truth,
and a lot more ready than most. We took Brother Adam Allred with us, a
convert from Pinesdale that just got sealed to his wife and three daughters
in the Salt Lake temple. Adam is such a good man and he is so excited
for all the change that is going on in Pinesdale. Joel and Marilyn had
invited another woman in the community, Cary, to come hear the first
lesson. Cary is currently someone's second wife, but she is feeling like
she needs to get out. It only took about 5 minutes for Cary's greatest
concern to come out, "How have all these amazing miracles happened in
Pinesdale if not by the priesthood?" I was amazed to hear this question
because it was apparent that she already knew the Pinesdale group didn't
have priesthood, all she was trying to figure out was how these amazing
events had happened after prayer. We shared many scriptures including
James 5:14-15, which discusses the order of giving a healing blessing.
Even Joel Jessop helped us teach her, and he's not even a member yet! At
the end of the discussion, everyone understood that priesthood power,
authority and keys were not the same thing as faith. By our faith we are
healed, but the priesthood gives us the power and authority when under
direction of someone who holds the keys. This week I made a list of
about 15 scriptures about the priesthood for each of them to read and
will be giving that to them next lesson. Joel and Marilyn have shown so
much faith. They are just so ready to be baptized into the church that
holds all the priesthood keys of this dispensation, and is led by someone
who was "ordained by some one who has authority" (D&C 42:11).

I know that the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is God's church
on the earth. I know that the prophet Thomas S. Monson holds all those
keys and unde rnone other can God's true church operate. I know these
things by the Holy Ghost who has made them known to me after much
prayer and pondering. In the name of He who presides over this church,
Jesus Christ, amen.

I love you all!

Elder Thomas

The Zone
We thought these pictures were cool
Only in Montana

Monday, May 23, 2016

Miracles, Polygamists and a Baptism

Dear Family and Friends,

New Address:

Elder Neal Thomas
308 E 1ST ST Unit B
Corvallis, Montana 59828
United States

Oh. My. Goodness Gracious. I don't know how I am going to be able to convey the enormity of this week in writing, but i'm going to do my best.

First of all, my companion rocks. The moment he looked at me and said, "Elder, let's be EXACTLY obedient," I knew we were going to get along. It took about eight hours of driving to get to Corvallis from Billings. Elder Angle was waiting for me at the stake center in Stevensville. We headed straight back to the apartment and discussed our individual and companionship goals for the transfer. What a great way to begin! Elder Angle and I have agreed on almost everything related to missionary work and we are having so much fun working ourselves silly!

Also, our bishop rocks. Bishop Criddle is the most missionary minded bishop I have met or heard of so far in this mission. We had dinner at his house my first night there, Wednesday, and he got me so excited! He is very involved in the missionary work and incredibly helpful. It is obvious he has been through Preach My Gospel more than once. That night we tried to follow the spirit in everything we did and we both feel that we were exactly where we needed to be the whole night.

On Thursday we did weekly planning. Weekly planning was intense because there are SO MANY NAMES. This place has so much work going on and we have to work our heads off just to keep up with it. A little bit about this area: In our area is a little place called Pinesdale. Pinesdale is a community based on the Mormon religion, but it is not the Mormon religion. Those in Pinesdale are a group broken off of the FLDS religion which broke off of the LDS religion. They see The main body of the LDS church as the organizational part of the church, and they see themselves as the priesthood. They feel that polygamy should still be practiced and that only white people should hold the priesthood. They feel that because the LDS church does not do these two things that we lost our priesthood power. None of this phased me much because of two things.

First, Christ taught that by their fruits shall ye know them. The fact that many of their church leaders have been convicted of things such as sexually abusing their children, stealing tithing funds, forgery and many other crimes tells me that something is amiss. Many of those in Pinesdale are starting to feel the same way.

Second, many of the people in Pinesdale are sick of feeling confused. When we have talked with many of them they tell us that the main thing they feel when others of the group tell them they are feeling the spirit testifying of truth is just confusion. Just like the stupor of thought talked about in D&C Chapter 9.

Pinesdale is going through a mass exodus. Many of those who have been raised in this community have never practiced polygamy and many more are seeing the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers. One of these families is the Allred's. Charlie and Julie Allred were both raised in polygamist homes. They both have talked about how their parents were good people but that they know their beliefs are wrong. Charlie and Julie live in Pinesdale with their 11 year old daughter Jean, 9 year old daughter Anika, 6 year old son Quincy and almost 2 year old son Ted. About three months ago they began the process of being baptized and confirmed in the LDS church. This process is harder than for most investigators because they must have an interview with President Wadsworth and a general authority before they can be baptized, but they went through all the steps they needed to. I met this amazing family on Thursday and fell in love with each of them immediately. We went over there to have them try on the baptismal jumpsuits and to have a testimony meeting. It was amazing and before the night was over the 11 year old, Jean, had asked me to confirm her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Words can not express my excitement.

On Sunday they were both baptized and confirmed. I don't understand fully the reason it happened on Sunday. It was one of the most incredible and unique experiences I have ever experienced. An astounding 190 people showed up to the baptism, many of which came from Pinesdale. The spirit was so strong and both talks were by Pinesdale converts who boldly and beautifully bore their testimony of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers and the purity and peace found in the true church. Elder Angle got to baptize Jean and when the time came, I was able to confirm her a member of the church. What an incredible experience, to have the Spirit place words in my mouth and to see how promising and bright this young girls future was. After the blessing Jean stood and began shaking the hands of those in the circle. When she got to me I reached out my hand for a handshake but instead got a big 11 year old hug. It was not fair for her to make me cry like that in front of everyone.

I'm afraid I don't have time to write about the multitude of other miracles we saw this week, but hopefully I will have more time next week.


Elder Thomas

A clever idea Elder Angle had. We left one but didn't take one :) 
Can you spot the Book of Mormon?
A cute little grass couch an investigator had in their yard
I always get the prettiest areas in the mission.
We saw these cool cars when we dropped off the truck at the auto shop this week.
THE ALLREED'S (Charlie and Julie are the parents, Jean has brown hair, Anika has blonde hair)

Monday, May 16, 2016

I'm being transferred??

Dear Family and Friends,

What a great week! It's hard to imagine a week that could be bad when
you start it off with a trip to the temple. It was so nice to hear the
covenants we make in the temple again. The spirit is always so strong
in the temple and answers to questions come so easily! We left there
walking on air.

This week we didn't have to shovel elk poop, which was a huge plus.
Instead we got to do yard work, I love yard work! We spread mulch over
the paths that were getting grown over with grass. The best part was
that we got to talk to a lot of people! None were interested but it is
always fun to have a conversation with a kind person!

That night we also helped the elder's quorum with splitting and
stacking a cord of wood. I love the members in this branch! They are
the absolute best. After we did that service they fed us until we
could barely move. Members really like doing that to missionaries.

The best day this week was Saturday. Biking weather is finally here so
we rode our bikes everywhere we went in Columbus. It was such a great
day! The first house we went to, a young boy answered. He said we
could come back the next day, he seemed very familiar with the
missionaries. The next door we knocked on was a young woman named
Mandi Leeper. Her young son knew who the missionaries were and as we
walked up to the door he called out, "hey missionaries! I'll go get my
mom!" When she came out she smiled and greeted us enthusiastically. As
we talked we learned that she had a Book of Mormon and she had read
from it. We also learned that she did want to meet with us but had
just gotten married and would need to talk to her husband first. We
went to another house and the woman who answered told us to come back
later that night. The next place we went, we got to talk to an elderly
couple that really loves talking to missionaries but they aren't too
interested in learning the lessons. We had a cool conversation about
religion with them. We're praying that their hearts soften and
they gain a desire to learn. Finally we went back and knocked on the
door where he woman told us to come back. Her husband was home now and
they came out on the porch to talk to us. They had so many questions
and we could barely keep up with everything they wanted to know. We
eventually had to go because it was getting late but they really want
us to come back!

I have spent a ton of time and energy trying to get the work in this
area moving. I love the members here and all those I've had the
opportunity to teach. I know I was called to Red Lodge and Absarokee
for a reason and I'm gonna leave that place better than I found it. On
Sunday we got transfer calls, I am getting transferred to Corvallis
Montana. My companion will be Elder Angle, who came out with me. I
love Elder Angle, he is a good kid and he reminds me of Nephi. He is
the district leader up there in Corvallis and everyone tells me I'm
going to love it! I'm really excited. Just to make me even more sad
that I'm leaving, Eliza,that less-active we taught, Mitch Johnson, the
investigator we were going to go hiking with, and Adam & Christina
have all started coming to church! We also went and contacted that
last person who told us to come back and though we caught the family
around the dining table, he asked us to please come back. Saying bye to
the Fowler's and the Mccally's was hard because I have grown very
close to both of them, they're our respective branch mission leaders.
The work is moving here and I am ready to find out what work the Lord
has for me in Corvallis!

I love you all very much!

Elder Thomas

Sister Green was taking pictures of us when we stopped by this week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mother's Day

Dear Family and Friends,

This is a weird preparation day. Today we are going to the temple
which means we have preparation day today, Wednesday, instead of
Monday. It started out great, we woke up at 6:00 instead of 6:30 so
that we could get everything done, but then we locked ourselves out.
Even better, the members we live with are gone! We spent the next two
hours trying to break in but we couldn't find any windows open, any
credit cards, and I wasn't able to find sufficient tools to pick the
lock! We finally got in the house at about 8:40, therefore, I have no
time to write this email, but I'm going to try my darnedest!

Service wise, the story of the happened at Yellowstone Wildlife
Sanctuary. When we walked in and asked for Tom, they informed us that
he didn't work there anymore. We don't know why, all we know is he's
gone. From now on, we were going to be doing different kinds of work,
animal care. We were introduced to Mallory and she took us to where
they keep the elk. Our job that day was to clean out the space where
the two elk had been trapped all week because of renovations. It was
quite horrid, standing on and shoveling a weeks worth of elk
deification into a wheel barrow was interesting... hopefully I will
never ever do it again.

A woman in the Red Lodge branch is battling cancer and has had quite a
few chemo treatments now. This last week they held a large benefit
auction for her. This auction was gigantic. All the local tourist
shops were in on it, as well as local artisans and craftsman. Such
beautiful things were donated! It was amazing to be a part of and so
much money was raised.

I gave a talk on Mothers on Sunday and cried. It was embarrassing, b
the spirit was very strong!! Lastly, I got to talk to my family on
Mother's Day! It was amazing. I got to see my beautiful, amazing
mother and talk to her face to face! I love her. She has blessed my
life more than I can say.

I am out of time! I will write more next Monday!

Elder Thomas

My district!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Working With Others

Dear Family and Friends,

Being a missionary is all about work, not just by yourself, but with a
plethora of other people! This is a major theme I've seen throughout
this last week.

Obviously, the first person I must learn to work with is my companion.
It is very hard to get along with a companion who doesn't want to
work, but you can always love them. I am lucky to have a companion who
likes to work and will work as hard as he can! Elder Harper is a good
man and we have been working so hard this week.

We also worked a lot by providing service. We worked with Tom at the
Wildlife Conservatory again this week! Tom, in my opinion, looks like
a jolly ol' lumberjack with his trim beard, red cheeks, overalls and a
constant smile. It is so much fun to work and laugh with him. I really
want to teach this guy, he'd make a great Mormon! So many people here
would be so blessed by the gospel and they are so close to living it
already. They just need to allow us to give them the rest! Like Rae
Ellen, the woman who is in charge of the thrift store we serve at. She
spends her whole day helping people and she is so good. We would love
to teach her as well. When providing service we talk about the gospel
as much as we can but sometimes they just aren't prepared yet.

We are also working with the members. The goal is to help the members
become more involved and more comfortable with missionary work. We are
going to be role playing the first lesson with members and resolving
their concerns about member missionary work. So far the members have
accepted it really well and we have seen their faith and excitement
grow as they have though about sharing the gospel with their friends.
I can't wait to see where this goes! Already, a young woman in the Red
Lodge branch wrote her testimony in a Book of Mormon and went out of
her way to give it to her friend. I'm very proud of her, that takes a
lot of courage.

We finally contacted a referral we have been trying to contact for a
long time but he turned us down in the kindest way he could. Lynn is
still very kind to us but avoids the topic of the Book of Mormon. We
weren't able to visit Patty because their work was closed. We want to
talk to Patty! I know you are all probably a little tired of hearing
the same things, but Adam and Cristina are on ANOTHER TRIP! These two
are travelers and it is so hard to ever catch them at home, but we
aren't going to stop trying.

I love you all very much! This work is not easy, but it is worth it. I
know that Christ died for us and suffered for our sins. I know because
of his sacrifice we can find greater joy in our lives and we can live
forever with our families forever. What a message worth sharing!

Elder Thomas

1. SNOW???
2. Brother Ames in the Absarokee branch has some cool sword replicas.
The day after we got snow, it all melted. This place is more bipolar than Utah!