Elder Merrill's Current Address

Elder Merrill's Current Address

Elder Nathaniel Merrill
Philippines Baguio Mission
PO Box 7 (po box for letters only)
Brgy: San Vicente East
Urdaneta City, Pangasinan 2428

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Hello to everyone,
This week was a pretty fantastic week. We had a lot of marvelous lessons. We were able to teach a lot of people, we also were able to find a lot of people that seem sincerely interested to learn about the Restoration and the church. There are a lot of part member families in our area and we have started to teach some of them. It is so wonderful to teach the part members because a piece of the family already knows the truth. We have been able to find part members families in our area that are excited with what we have to share. We can share with them about Eternal Families, and how they too could become an eternal family, and be able to see firsthand the many wonders that comes with the true church. This week I did teach quite a bit. I worked with other missionaries two times this week, once with another fairly new Elder, and once with the Zone Leaders. (on a side note, there are two zone leaders in every zone. And they are companions. That is how it is done in every mission now I believe, but I know that in the past it was different.) When I worked with the Zone leader in my area, (Elder Tolman worked with the other Zone leader in their area) I was able to teach a lot. The Zone leader I worked with had a sore throat and didn't really want to talk very much. I was also the one who knew the area so he didn't know the individual needs as well as I did. He helped me a lot, but he wanted me to say all that I could before he said what he had to say. It helped me also just because of the quantity of the lessons I had to teach. He was also quite the teacher himself, I saw him say just what he needed to say in a very powerful, and very concise way. Later in the week Elder Tolman and I met with a new member family and told them about the Priesthood. It was of interest to me because as new members they were very truly interested. Sometimes less actives, or the nonmembers we teach don't really care that much. That family also really deep words. Elder Tolman didn't even know a few of the words they used. I learned a new way to say 'just a little bit', I also learned how to say summarized. I didn't catch some of the other words they said but they had a lot. All in all It has been a fantastic week. Sincerely,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill
P.S. The letter after F. doesn't work on this keyboard I had trouble tryin to phrase some thins

Monday, January 23, 2012

Less Active Lessons

I often write my emails home before I read emails I've been sent each week. Because of that I don't respond to anything written. But this week I read some emails already so I can answer some questions. I would also want to congratulate Elizabeth on her swimming and her poem. Also Jonathan for his basketball team's success.

What is the weather like? Well right now it is hot, humid, and rainless. It is the dry season, they tell me. It has rained only a few times since I have been here, but I have seen pictures, and heard stories about the rain. When we visit some members, we will ask if they have a book of Mormon, a common response is that they lost it in a flood. Elder Tolman has a picture of him in two feet of water because the road was flooded. I don't know what time of the year is the wet season, but I know that the hot season starts in March. Right now it is usually only in the 80's. This week I went on exchanges with a Filipino Elder. It is nice to work with Filipinos because they speak Tagalog better than they speak English, I learned a lot of new words, and he taught me how to cook Adobo, which is the Philippines national dish. I also got to see the ocean. My area is near the ocean, but I have never seen it until now. I also ate some strange things with this Elder. He would go to street venders and ask me if I had tasted something they were selling, and then he'd assure me it was good and buy me some.
I previously mentioned that we contact mostly less active members. Our mission President, President Jensen, gave us a pattern to follow in our teaching less actives. The First lesson we teach is always the Atonement of Jesus Christ, then we teach them as we would investigators, and go through the missionary lessons as needed to help them return. There are a vast array of less actives. There are some who after one lesson agree to come to church and haven't missed a week since, there are some who are very bitter about the church or who don't really have testimonies. Some people just dropped inactive after marrying someone of a different faith, there are a lot of possibilities. The privilege in teaching less actives comes in the fact that we get to help people with testimonies and the light of the gospel to not fall away. Those who are baptized have greater need to stay on the right path, because with greater light is also greater condemnation. Another advantage is that we teach the Atonement of Jesus Christ a lot. The atonement is very central to the Gospel, and although every missionary will teach it, they don't always focus on it. We focus a lot of study on learning about, and how to effectively teach the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We have to help remind people of the truths that they once knew. We use the Ordinance summary record, as well as the active members to help us find less actives. President Teh had an analogy about a tree and said that first you pick the low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruit are members who have the Melchizedek Priesthood, who have been endowed, or have been on missions before becoming less active. These are the people we try to go to first. They are those who often have strong testimonies about the church despite their less active status. I am always finding a lot of good things in the scriptures. I am finding things to help me, as well as to help those I teach.

Life is good, I love you all. Love,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Transfer

This week starts a new transfer. I wasn't transferred, and neither was Elder Tolman so our companionship will stay the same. Although our companionship is the same there are changes in the zone, a lot of Elders were transferred into Agoo, and our district is very different now. Elder Tolman and I hope to make this next transfer as good as possible, and if we can, even better than the last transfer was. Our tiny branch on Sunday was very full as we had many of the people we taught this week attending Sacrament meeting. It was very exciting for us. Sunday night we had dinner at a member's house. They made food they don't usually make, just for us. They gave us each a fish to eat. The Philippines had an area leadership training Saturday night. We saw it by broadcast, but President Teh and his councilors spoke to all the Philippine church leaders. The Philippines is the 4th largest country in terms of members of the church and has had the fastest growth of any nation in its first fifty years of church membership. This is the 51st year since the church came to the Philippines, actually it was Gordon B. Hinckley who dedicated the Philippines Area back in 1961. They said the only problem is that sometimes there aren't enough active Priesthood holders in an area to support the number of people. He spoke about the great importance that the Priesthood leadership has in the church. He gave an interesting proverb, I think it was Proverbs 29:18, but it says when there is no vision, the people perish. It reminded me of the 2X4 plan of President Shaw, that is the vision of the Stake. So then President Teh announced the Philippines vision, or goals for 2012. The five points were to Feast on the words of Christ, Strengthen Families, Establish the Church, Save the Rising Generation, and Save the One. He elaborated on exactly what each means and the specific goals for each one, I won't because of space and time, but Elder Tolman and I decided we are going to start teaching President Teh's points to members when we have dinner appointments or when we are invited to Family Home Evenings. The Philippines has two temples and a third on the way. Did you know there was a Temple being built in Urdaneta Philippines? Well the groundbreaking will be in the next few months or so. The Urdaneta Temple is in the Baguio mission. That's why the mission is in the process of changing to the Urdaneta mission. The boundaries will remain the same but because of the soon to come Temple the name will change. Exactly when I don't know, but when the groundbreaking happens all the Baguio missionaries will likely get to attend. I felt better this week with my Tagalog. Before, when I heard someone speaking, and couldn't understand it, I would say to myself, "They must be speaking Tagalog", but now when someone speaks and I don't understand I think "They must be speaking Ilocano". Although that might not sound that exciting, I feel like I can understand very well what goes on in Tagalog. Although speaking and understanding are a little different. I can't speak as well as I understand, but of course I do speak just well enough to say what I need to say. We have tried to get the members in our branch excited about missionary work. A ward in the Philippines lives or dies on its effectiveness in missionary work. Many members are a little nervous about sharing the Gospel, or inviting their friends to listen to the missionaries. We like to teach the members from 2Nephi 32. We can share verses 2-5 about how they have received the Spirit and can always have it with them, and as they study the scriptures and pray they will better feel the Spirits promptings, and that as they listen to the Spirit they need not fear because the Spirit can show them all things which they must do.
Elder Merrill

P.S. Also I know that the package you sent has arrived. The Zone Leaders told me that they picked it up when they were at the mission office for transfers, I just haven't picked it up from them yet. But I will get it before Valentines Day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Returning Members

This week was a good week. Most recently on Sunday we had a district conference. Elder Valdez of one of the Quorums of the Seventy came and spoke (I don't know which Quorum, but I checked the Ensign and his picture isn't in it so it's not the first. However there is a Filipino in the First Quorum of the Seventy, his name is Elder Teh. He is the Area President of the Philippines Area, and he happened to be in Baguio to speak with President Jensen the day we arrived and so I got to meet him.) Elder Valdez is from an area where they speak pure Tagalog. That means that he has a better accent and also has larger Tagalog vocabulary than a lot of people here. He used words that my Companion didn't know sometimes. He talked about families and the importance of building a strong family bond. Aside from Elder Valdez, President and Sister Jensen spoke, as well as the District presidency in the Agoo district. I am not exactly sure how church organization works, but I am pretty sure that until a district becomes a stake they are under authority of the Mission President over the area. Also on Sunday night, my companion and I were walking with nowhere to go because our last appointment of the night had just fallen through, and our way to somewhere we saw a member and so stopped to talk with him. This member is one who a month ago was less active and hadn't been to church in a really long time. We started teaching the family and inviting them back to church. We saw this man out going to visit another family who he had noticed wasn't at church earlier. He told us he wanted to share the message of Elder Valdez with this other family. It was such a rejoicing feeling in my soul. Here he had come from being less active to fellowshipping and inviting others to come back. The focus of the Baguio is to rescue, I think I said that before, but I don't think I mentioned that the reason that is so is because Elder Teh said the entire Philippines is to focus on the rescue effort. It is good to see Returning Members. There are a lot that just fell through after they were baptized. We've taught people that haven't been to church in years but will admit that they still know the church is true. Often they are actually excited to see us and are glad to accept our invitation to return.
In the most recent district meeting we had, one of the missionaries going home soon presented a checklist for good missionaries written by David O. McKay. In my district there are 3 missionaries going home this transfer. There are only 4 companionships, and there is one missionary of each companionship going home except for mine. But, David O. McKay created this checklist that until now I have never seen before. He would ask questions to the missionary. Most of the things are standard and you hear a lot from different places and times as you prepare for a mission, but there was one in particular I have never heard said before. David O. McKay asked the question "Are you memorizing at least one scripture a day?". My response is; "No... Should I be?" So I decided that I am going to memorize at least one scripture a day. Today is day 6 in that new found task.

I am glad to hear once again that Everyone is doing great. I love you all,
Love, Elder Nathaniel Merrill

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's a Brand New Year

I think that I will probably send some pictures of the Philippines. I am not sure when, but there is a photo shop that I can print pictures. ( Said photo shop can also take professional pictures quite cheaply and other missionaries said they are going to get pictures with their companions there as well, I don't know) Speaking of pictures, I don't have any. I didn't bring any, so the only pictures I have are pictures that people have sent to me. I wouldn't mind getting the Christmas card either, I believe you said it was the wave picture. Christmas in the Philippines was fun, but New Years was crazy. The Branch President here told me before hand that it is comparable to war. They no one has real time, they all just have personal watches, so at about 11:45 they start setting off fireworks and yelling Happy New Year. The fireworks are loud and continuous until well past midnight. There is no break in sound and it really does sound like a war, they also can use all the fireworks that are illegal in Utah. It is much louder than any New Years in Utah, and apparently that is pretty consistent all throughout the Philippines. Elder Tolman didn't wake up.
Elder Tolman and I had a good week this week. We were to meet most of our goals. We are teaching quite a few lessons each week. It's good to practice the Piano before your mission because you will be asked to play a lot. Because my companion is the district leader, we have to go to do baptismal interviews, we also usually go to the baptisms. At the baptisms, they ask me to play the Piano, every time. There hasn't been a meeting since I've gotten to Agoo that I haven't played the Piano. While I am sure there are better piano players in the Baguio mission, I am the most competent in our zone. This week at a baptism one sister wanted to do a special musical number. When she found I could play the piano, she wanted me to play for her singing. So I ended up sight reading a song for a special musical number.
We did exchanges this week and I worked with Elder Domdom. Elder Domdom is a Filipino missionary, he is about to go home and is a really good missionary. We worked in my area. Because we worked in my area I was really the leader here. He didn't know who to teach or where things were located, he also didn't know where we could go when scheduled appointments fell through. It was the first time that I really had to do everything. It was a good day, I was also a little nervous, but we got a lot done. This was also the first time that I really worked with a Filipino for an extended period of time. I worked with someone who knows Tagalog a lot better than they do English. It was a little weird though, to be with someone who wants to learn English, he wants to speak English to me to practice his English, and I in turn want his help in Tagalog. He would sometimes ask me questions about English, about the best way to say a certain sentence, it was kind of different for someone to ask me a language question. (Sometimes in the Missionary Training Center the Samoans would ask me English questions as well.) I also had an interview with the mission President, President Jensen this week. President Jensen said something to me, something that he probably says to a lot of American missionaries, but I decided I should take it to heart. He said, almost in passing, that someday in the mission I would start to think in Tagalog and it would come easily to me. A few days after that interview I was thinking about that. I was thinking about how cool it would be to eventually think in a different language, then I decided I might as well do my best to help that along. I made the decision to whenever possible, whenever words run through my head to make an effort to think in Tagalog. Obviously I can't do that completely, and of course I have to make an effort, but it has helped me. I find I become increasingly aware of words that I do not know, I also am better prepared to start speaking Tagalog if I didn't have English running through my head only a moment before. I made the rules that if I am writing in my journal, or doing personal study that I wouldn't try to think Tagalog, but any other time of day I should make that effort. (Writing because I write in English, and that would be hard indeed. Personal study because I am reading in English and it would probably detract from my reading, and slow it down a lot, and my study wouldn't be as productive) That's is what I've been doing the last few days now. Have fun in 2012! I love you all. Love,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill

Sunday, January 1, 2012


This has been a good week in the Philippines. I went on several exchanges this week. Me being a new missionary combined with my companion being a district leader means that the mission leaders are very excited to work with our companionship. Me so they can check my progress and my companion so they can help train him on being a district leader. This is his first time being a district leader. We worked with one of the Assistants to the Presidents last week, and this week we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders. I went with an Elder named Elder Shultz from San Diego and worked in his area. (By the way, the Agoo zone is a little strange. Almost half the missionaries in our zone are going home after this transfer (7). Also, every missionary assigned to Agoo city is American. There are 3 Companionships in the city and all 6 missionaries are American, also including another new Elder who was in the MTC with me, so I see him a lot.) While I worked in the Elder Schultz's area, I got to teach a little bit differently than before. He has more investigators than we do, and they have been talking to the missionaries longer so I got to teach lessons that I haven't taught in the Mission field yet. Elder Tolman and I teach a lot about the Restoration and Joseph Smith, and a lot about the Atonement and repentance, but with Elder Schultz I got to teach about the Plan of Salvation and about Commandments. It was good. Because of the exchanges I spent the night at the Elder Schultz's apartment. Next to that there lives a rooster, that likes to crow in the middle of the night, I don't know why, but I was somewhat tired the next day. My apartment is a little nicer than his, we have a shower, granted the shower only has cold water, but it is a shower. He has a bucket. So I got to shower with a bucket, it was exciting, kind of makes you feel like you are really in the Philippines when you shower with a bucket, he also told me that most areas in the mission I will probably only have a bucket. Since I mentioned my apartment, I haven't actually moved in to my real apartment. When we got to the mission they were re-doing our apartment, so we got a temporary one for the first week. We have passed 4 different finish dates that we were told we could move in. We go visit our soon to be apartment everyday though. It has been painted in very bright colors, and every room is a different color. The colors are very bright. We talk to the painters and sometimes get appointments to go teach their families. We talked to a born again Christian preacher the other day, he didn't want to listen to what we had to say but we did talk to him for a while. He did say that he likes our church, he also mentioned a few churches that he really doesn't like. An interesting thing about teaching in the Philippines is that we really cannot use the Bible. The LDS church doesn't have a Tagalog translation of the BIble, and the King James Version is not a very good translation so we rely solely on the Book of Mormon. There are some Bible scriptures we use that are found in pamphlets that are produced by the church, and also some parts in the Book of Mormon where Jesus says the same thing he said in the Bible, but overall we only use the Book of Mormon. We really only use materials produced by the church in our teaching. Another thing that I've found in teaching is that many people here do not know their religion. They know what church they belong to and a few Bible stories but that is it. Also, when people know a Bible story, they feel the need to share it when you mention something that is related. One time someone knew the story of Judas betraying Christ, and anytime we mentioned apostles of Christ he started telling the story. The children are very excited for Christmas here. Little kids Carol every night. They go from house to house caroling. There aren't very many houses that have Christmas lights, but there are a few. I think that lights may be hard to afford, some people we teach don't have lights at all, only candles. There is a large Catholic Church in Agoo, Our Lady of Charity, that has a lot of Christmas lights up. It is an impressive display, there are some lights I have never seen in the States, but it still isn't as good as Temple square. My companion and I think we are going to go and visit the Church on a P-day, it is quite large. Anyway, Merry Christmas. Love
Elder Nathaniel Merrill


You mentioned in one of your emails that it has been cold in Utah. It has not been cold in the Philippines. It probably hasn't gone below 80 degrees. Some missionaries complain about humidity, I don't really mind the heat or humidity (it's like Hawaii). However I did get cold one night. That is because I got sick and had a fever, so that doesn't really count. And in case you are now wondering, I am doing just fine. I was sick for a day and am better now. Emails aren't too bad of a way to communicate. I like everything I get to hear from you guys, I also get them faster than anything else. I really do like letters though. Letters are all sent to the mission office, so I don't get them until someone from the office comes to visit our area, which they said should be about every two weeks. They did mention that if you send a package that it is easier to do the customs report on your end in the United States. I think we need to pay to do it, I am not sure they just said that it should be done in the States. I wrote some letters too, but they will take a while to get there, actually I don't know where to mail them yet either. Other missionaries tell me that mail into the Philippines from the States is pretty good, but they say going out it is worse. They said that my mail will take 2 weeks to 2 months to arrive, he said that sometimes, his letters are received in different order than he sent them.

The food in the Philippines has been alright for me. I just eat what is given me. I don't always know what it is. The Filipinos always want to give me more servings then everyone else though. I'm American, so somehow that means I eat a lot more than they do. Usually we make our own food each night, but sometimes we have dinner appointments. Last week I was talking to some members, and didn't really completely know what was going on. They asked me a question and I gave an answer, I don't really remember what my answer was, and I don't think I ever understood what the question was, but then they said "Great you can eat dinner with us." My companion congratulated me that I got us a dinner appointment, but I hadn't even known what I was doing. They served us tuna fish and rice. I played the piano again for Sacrament meeting. It turns out there is one member in the ward who can play the piano, but he isn't good at sight-reading so on Sunday when he finds out what songs will be played he plays the ones he can, and the ones he doesn't know I get to play. This means that I get to play all the hard Hymns. It's fun, I am only an ok sightreader but am happy to help out the ward. The little kids here are really fun. I don't usually know what they are saying, but that's ok. The kids don't seem to understand that I don't speak the language very well. When talking to an adult, they will speak slower and help me, if I ask them to repeat what they have said it is slower. The children will just repeat what they said at the same speed. Often there is a large crowd of children and they are all speaking at once. They really like Americans because they don't see many whites so they all want to talk to me. They also assume that because I'm American I must know Kobe Bryant, or Shaquil O'neal. I have been asked that many times. I have also learned that many kids don't speak Tagalog as their first language. The first language here is Ilocano. ilocano. Everyone can speak Tagalog, but they will often say it first in ilocano until they realize you don't know ilocano. Sometimes when members find out I am a new missionary they will say something to me in ilocano and then watch me struggle to figure out what they said. After I become concerned that maybe I don't know Tagalog at all, they will say it again in Tagalog and say they were just kidding with me before. After Ilocano, there is also a few other dialects sometimes spoken, but Tagalog is the national language, so everyone knows enough to get around. Actually my companion says that occasionally the American missionaries can speak better Tagalog than members. That isn't very often though.

I don't know if you watched the Christmas devotional or not. For you I think it was last week, we watched a rebroadcast Yesterday. In it President Monson mentioned 3 stories he always reads around Christmas time. They aren't all in the missionary library, so I can't read them, but I thought Dad or Elizabeth might enjoy them if they don't already know about them. The stories are a Christmas Carol by Dickens, The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke and of course the Story of Christ's Birth from the Gospel of Luke. He talked a little bit about the stories and how they encourage people to be giving, especially around Christmas. President Monson said that to keep Christmas in our hearts this season is the gift we should give the Savior. I have to give a talk in church next Sunday. They asked me to give a talk on Christlike attributes, in Tagalog of course. My companion and I have been talking to a lot of people on the street. We are opening an area, and don't really have many investigators, so we talk to everyone on the street about the church. It's really quite good. It helps me with Tagalog as well. We have been teaching a lot about the Atonement of Christ. We teach mostly inactive and part member families, and the Atonement is a universal message that can benefit everyone. I am getting better. I can contribute to the lessons and be of more help to my companion than before. It's hard not being able to say everything I want in Tagalog, but the universal language that everyone understands is the Spirit. I know what I am saying is true and I am learning to say it more effectively each day.

Elder Merrill


So I have been in the Philippines now for 5 days, I guess today is day number 6. The Philippines is 15 hours ahead, I think, I am not exactly sure about that. All I know is that I live each day before you do, and work at a different time than you do. The Philippines is good. The first few days we stayed in Urdaneta, where the mission home is. We did this until the transfer day, which was Friday. I wrote you a letter on one of those first days, but you will probably get this e-mail first. I don't remember what I put in that letter anyway. I met my mission President, President Jensen. I really like him, he is a good man. We also met the Filipino missionaries coming to the field with us. They are coming from the Manila Missionary Training Center, and because they didn't need to learn Tagalog they have only been on a mission for 3 weeks instead of 2 months like I was. President Jensen talked to us about some of the mission goals and focuses. He also shared some spiritual thoughts with us. He shared the scripture in 1 Peter 3:15 that says to be ready always to give a response. He talked about how as missionaries we need to always be ready to say something. It reminded me of the scriptures in John 14:26 and Doctrine and Covenants 100:6 that say the Holy Ghost will bring things to our remembrance and that in the very hour of our need it will be given to us. The connecting thought that I had is that if we are always ready and willing to testify and give testimony about Christ that the Holy Ghost will help us, but we still have to be ready. Also that one of the best ways to be ready is to have the Holy Ghost as a companion, that way you are not alone and can receive the help mentioned in the scriptures I wrote earlier. After President Jensen shared his spiritual thought on being ready always to testify, he called on 3 missionaries to bear their testimonies.

I thought I was going to get a Filipino companion, but it turns out my companion is from American Fork. My companion's name is Elder Tolman, he has been in the field for about a year and is also one of the district leaders in our zone. I am in a city called Agoo. We are opening a new area there. After the transfer meeting on Friday, we rode in a jeepney to Agoo. The jeepney was very crowded and it was a long ride. The first night in Agoo we didn't do too much, we found where stores were and bought food, but the next day we worked quite a bit. Because we are opening a new area, and because Elder Tolman was previously in a different zone, we didn't know any members around where we lived. We managed to find out who the branch President was and so we went and met with him. The Branch President actually speaks pretty good English, best I've heard so far. The Branch President told us about a few less recent converts and less active members we could go teach. We also met the ward clerk, who then volunteered to come with us to teach some lessons. We taught 3 lessons that night. We also gave a blessing to Sister Visitacion, a recent convert whose family we taught about temples who was sick. That first night for me was tough. I was still super tired, and a little overwhelmed by the Tagalog, so I didn't do very much in the lessons. I was still able to bear testimony about what we were teaching.

Sunday was good. It was fast Sunday, I was asked to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting, something I fully expected to be asked to do. It was good I was the first one to bear my testimony in the meeting. A lot of people in the Philippines desire to know English, so when they bore testimonies they would say English words in the midst of Tagalog. For the most part, they are not very good at English. I was also asked to play the piano in Sacrament meeting, I should have, but really didn't expect that. They asked me to play some songs I have never played before, so I sight read them. I made some mistakes, but the piano was a little out of tune so I don't think it was even noticed. The less active members that we talked to on Saturday also all came to church, and our one investigator as well, so it was good. My companion says we should focus on less active members, because there are a lot of Filipinos who become less active, this is true of the entire country. The district we are working in actually used to be a Stake, but there are many inactives. My companion said that as we focus on less active we will get a lot of refferals, and also find many part member families. He says it's not hard to find people to teach in the Philippines, so that focusing on the "rescue effort" we will still find many new investigators, as well as help strengthen the current members. This is the suggestion of Mission President Jensen for the entire Baguio mission. Sunday night we went and taught more lessons. We went with the Branch Presidents wife and taught some less active members. I felt a lot more at ease, and contributed more to the lessons. Instead of just bearing a testimony after my companion taught, I helped teach. I explained about the atonement of Jesus Christ and how much it blesses our lives. It seems people lose sight that the atonement blesses our lives each and every day. I was able to talk about the atonement, how it blesses our lives, and how only through the atonement can we become clean.
Every Filipino meal consists of rice, and something else. Sometimes the something else is good, other times it's not so good. That is what I've observed so far about Filipino food. My Preparation day is now on Monday, as you can probably guess by my emailing now. Life is good. It hasn't been to difficult adjusting. I love you all and will write again next week.
Elder Merrill


Thank you all for the packages I've received this week. They have been great. I now have a lot of candy and am sharing with my roommates. Also thank you for the Christmas present, I'll have you know that I have not opened it. I also haven't packed yet, so we will see how much space I have.

This week was an interesting week. It is our last full week so some things in our schedule changed. We had "In Field Orientation" yesterday, which is supposed to better prepare us for the actual mission field. It took all day. So we have Preperation day today, Saturday, instead of Friday. The other big change this week was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is unlike any day in the Missionary Training Center or any Thanksgiving I've had. It was nice to have Thanksgiving right before leaving. For Thanksgiving there was a devotional, as well as a humanitarian aid project we worked on. At the devotional they selected two missionaries to speak, one of them was Sister Ycmat from my district. She spoke to the missionaries about tender mercies of the Lord. The other missionary spoke mostly about how thankful he was for the missionaries that found him. Following the missionary speakers, Sis. Wendy Nelson spoke. She spoke about doing things after the manner of God and not of man. She gave an example of the Nauvoo temple and how the architect wanted a different style than Joseph Smith directed, but Joseph Smith insisted on the Lords way. She also told a story about Elder Russell M. Nelson trusting in the Lord and doing the things God told him to even though it was against the wisdom of man. One of those was to leave his prominent career to become an apostle. The last speaker was her husband Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He talked to us about giving thanks, an appropriate subject for Thanksgiving. He told us about the word Alleluia, which means Praise to God. He talked about the many hymns and shouts of praise in the scriptures. He told us of some miracles in his life, and ways that he personally gave thanks to God. He showed that everything we are is because of God and he deserves our thanks every hour of every day. He said that he does his best each day, and then thanks God for everything that has been done, because God ultimately made everything fall in place. He told us about his first few years as an Apostle, where he was new and inexperienced in his calling. He told how much each day he had to be thankful for and about some of the ways he could see the Lord each day in his life. He told us about special prayers of gratitude he has given, and that after great blessings we need to give a special thanks for them. It was really powerful. He was a very amazing and spiritual speaker.

As missionaries we did a Mission wide service project. We made relief kits for suffering people in South Sudan. My district didn't actually make them, we helped set up beforehand, take down afterwards, and during we were the human conveyor belt for the boxes to be moved. It was a good change from the normal service at the Training Center. Usually we clean classroom buildings, but this service project better helped the people of the world. We are done teaching our progressing investigators. We finished a few days ago. We took a language assesment last Monday to see how we've progressed. Because of these things we've had a lot of study time to read and learn the scriptures. Thanksgiving we didn't have any classes so we just studied. Actually we were allowed to watch 17 Miracles too, the MTC presidency encouraged us to go watch it in the gym so we did. But there was a lot of time for studying as well. From here out I have nothing scheduled at the Training Center except for "Study Time" and "Prepare for Departure". I know it won't take me long to pack, it just won't, so I have a lot of study time. I don't have too much time left, but I also want to mention that we had another awesome devotional on Tuesday and Fireside the previous Sunday. Both excellent talks. Tuesday was D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, I wish I had time to tell you about his talk as well, but I instead I choose to talk about the Thanksgiving devotional.

All the Elders and Sisters in my district are really excited, and nervous, and scared about going to the Philippines. I don't remember exactly what my new mission address is. It should be in my call packet, which I'm pretty sure is at home and available for you to look up. If you can't find it, I will send you a letter from the Philippines anyway and you can get it then. Be sure to tell everyone what it is when you get it.


This past week there have been a couple really good devotionals. We had Tad R. Callister come and speak on Tuesday. I think Elder Callister gave a good talk in the most recent general conference as well. Elder Callister spoke to us very plainly about the apostasy of the gospel. He went through and gave 10 reasons why we know there was an apostasy. It was very informative, and he also brought the Spirit. I am going to mention two of the points he brought up. He brought up the fact that the manner of prayer has been altered since Christ's time on the earth. He pointed out that Christ showed how to pray, and said to pray to the Father in His name, not through patron saints or anyone else, but always through the name of Christ. Elder Callister also brought up the fact that prayers shouldn't be memorized as this is insincere. He told us that in war the enemy will try to break the line of communication from the soldiers to the General. Likewise in our day Satan has tried to corrupt the true order of prayer such that we don't pray to our Father in heaven. It reminds me of the scripture in 2 Nephi 32 that says we must pray always, for the evil spirit teaches us not to pray. The second point I really liked from Elder Callister was that Christ's church bears his name. He showed that no church on the earth had the name of Christ in 1829. The first church since the time of Christ to bear his name was in 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized. It reminded me of another scripture in 3 Nephi where they are disputing what to call the church, and Christ tells the 12 apostles to call it the Church of Christ. An interesting point Elder Callister brought up was that Martin Luther told his followers they were to be called Christians, and not Lutherans. Martin Luther wanted his followers to understand that they follow Christ, and that Luther was just another man. Because we follow Christ, our church is called the Church of Jesus Christ. Everything we do is in his name, not the name of any prophet or man, but in the name of Christ the Son of God.

On Sunday there was another wonderful speaker. Richard Heaton, who oversees missionary work and preparation at the Missionary Training Center, spoke to us. Brother Heaton spoke about tithing. He spoke about tithing because he was asked to by the leaders of the church. He said too often missionaries do not teach effectively the law of tithing. He made a very bold statement about tithing. He said "The best way to tell if someone is enduring to the end is if they are full tithe payers" Brother Heaton said tithing is not a principle of giving money, but rather a principle of faith. We need to have the faith to pay our tithing. He quoted Malachi 3:10 which says we will be given more blessings than we can receive if we faithfully pay our tithing. Part of the reason I include this in the letter home is because as a missionary I don't pay tithing. I will need to teach it to investigators, but don't need to pay it. It is you, my family and readers of this letter that need to pay tithing now. Brother Heaton told us that we should want to pay tithing, and be glad we get to, not dread it or see as something we have to do. He also made the statement to us missionaries that we need to marry someone who is fully committed to paying tithing so that we can better endure to the end.

I have a great Branch Presidency here at the Missionary Training Center. My Branch President is President Stott, he is a great man, he is very spiritual and knowledgeable about missionary work. What is funny is that neither he, nor his counselors speak Tagalog. We do our Sacrament talks in Tagalog and the Presidency doesn't understand us. Our talks are for our benefit to practice Tagalog, and for the benefit of other missionaries in the congregation. I spoke for a while with Sis. Stott, and she said that she knew Grandma Merrill. She asked if my Grandma was a teacher and if she was Mrs. Merrill. I guess Sis. Stott worked at the school or something, I don't completely remember what she said. Anyway I thought it was a neat connection and decided to mention it.

This week I got my travel plans. Most missionaries going to the Philippines fly to Hong Kong and then to Manilla, but I am flying in through Seoul South Korea instead. I am going to leave on Nov. 28th. It is so very exciting to be leaving the training center. It will finally be real. I am so excited, the church is true and I know it. I can't wait to share the gospel with people in the Philippines.