Saturday, March 14, 2009

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Saturday, March 7, 2009


Dear Family and Friends,                                                                   

 This week was a good one. I was on exchanges on the other end of the zone for a couple of days and then the rest of the week I was back in Mt. Vernon. One of the guys I’ve been working with for a while now had made more of a commitment to trying the church out a couple weeks and since then he’s been doing great. His name is Ralph and in the last two weeks, he’s seen his life get better as he’s been taking lessons and coming to church. He was always willing to listen, but not very interested, and in the last two weeks, he’s become solid.  He’s a lot happier and random things for him have lined up lately so he realized he’s doing a good thing. It’s been neat watching him see the blessings and his countenance change. But the best part was the last two days when he was baptized and confirmed. He even heard about Fast Sunday and fasted yesterday. He’s awesome. The blessings from living the Gospel have been so apparent in him. He’s happier and much more driven than when I first met him. Yesterday was the last day he could stay at his old place and yesterday a recent convert in the other Mt. Vernon ward took him in. It’s great.

 The sister missionaries in the zone are on fire and baptized three people the other day and a few hours earlier, a husband and wife were baptized in the same font. That day we had six people baptized in three baptisms throughout the zone and luckily I got to be at all of them. 

At church yesterday, after Ralph was confirmed at Sacrament Meeting, I saw Jesse and Mallory both in the congregation, as usual, but it hit me what an individual difference I had helped make for them. It was awesome. Jesse’s great. He’s at church every week, and Mallory’s dad has become active. We went to Ralph’s place tonight and he’s so solid. He wanted to make sure he fasted right. He’s happier than I’ve ever seen him, and he said he wanted to serve a mission. If he did, we could be out at the same time. He’s the man. 

Missionary work has blossomed my testimony. I’ve seen the powers of Satan every day working on those we’re teaching and on me, but the things I’ve seen the Lord do have been incomparable. Nothing that I’ll ever do will be as meaningful and impacting as missionary work. It’s the best. The more I lose myself in service, the more I grow and learn. The message of the Restored Gospel is so important. If we aren’t sharing it, we’re doing those around us a disservice that the Lord has placed in our path. (D&C 88:81: Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.) 


Thanks again for everything. I LOVE YOU ALL!


Elder Packer


Thursday, February 26, 2009

2-17-09--abridged tape

Hey Mom and Dad and Everybody,                                                          

 Our work is going good, really good.Wwe have seven people on date in four days. Not too shabby! And I think half of them will be baptized this transfer. We’re going to have to get them to church without fail for the rest of the transfer and they’re going to have to be baptized on March 7th, the last Saturday, which would be awesome because I want to baptize somebody on my birthday. I want to baptize 22 people on my birthday, but one will do. And then a couple of them want to make sure we do it because there’s a pretty good chance that Elder Dunn and I will be leaving the area. So I’ll be leaving, probably, because this will be six months that I’ve been in the same area, minus three weeks in Marysville. That got a couple of them to want to be baptized cause I told them “I’m going to be leaving on the 10th, ya gotta get baptized.” And they’re like, “All right, I’ll get baptized.” It was great.

 It’s tough in Mt. Vernon because the majority of people we work with are transient and low income, which isn’t rare for the mission, because the more humble people are more receptive. We try tracting the regular areas, not like the upper-class areas because those are pretty hard, but we try tracking the medium areas, about half-way up the hill and usually aren’t able to get a whole lot there. It’s kind of sad that even the middle-class people aren’t willing to listen.  There’s a lot of churches around here too, and I’d say about 75-80% of them are anti. So if they belong to another church, chances are they’re already heard the speel in a different way. So it’s kind of tough, but we’re getting better at it. We’re getting more effective than I’ve ever been. We’re able to have longer conversations at doors.

 We have this thing called “standards” in the mission which is the Seven Standards of Excellence and it’s certain things you’re supposed to achieve every week and every transfer and it to make sure the mission is going well and it’s a way to rate ourselves if we’re making standards. Fun Five, talk to 10, that’s number one. Talk to 10 is for two companions, but since we have 3 companions, it’s talk to 15 for us. The second is seven hours of tracting at least every week. The third one is teach 20 lessons a week with at least seven having members present, and for it to be considered a lesson, it has to have a prayer at the end and it has to cover at least two principles and last at least 10-15 minutes, so you can do them on doorsteps, but it’s tough. But it happens a lot. We get three lessons a day, usually with a member present, or at the end of the week we’ll take Priests (16-18 year-old boys) out and we’ll just go tract or to teaching appointments and get like for member appointments in a day. Seven is one baptism per missionary per transfer. Number six is two new people on date every week. Number five is one investigator to Sacrament Meeting who’s progressing, meaning they’re keeping their commitments. They need to have one per missionary at Sacrament Meeting every week. And then number four is find five new investigators every week. A new investigator is someone who has been taught a first lesson and they have a return appointment. So if you do those things then you hit standards, and we want everybody in our whole zone to hit standards every week because we have one of the best zones and all the areas are great and so we kind of push towards that. We made standards the last two weeks. 

Elder Larsen is legit! He is one of the best missionaries out here. He’s really humble too, which is the great part. He’s a good zone leader. One of the things we did—cause we have one of the best zones in the mission and we should be the highest performing zone this transfer. And so we made this thing called…it’s kind of like Moroni’s Title of Liberty. We have a Title of Faith in the mission that says we’re going to baptize 1000 people and we had a whole zone conference about it and we talked about how we could do it and set out sights higher and everybody in the whole zone signed this big sheet that had 1000 baptisms on it, and that was like our mission Title of Faith. And we did a zone Title of Success. We had things like working hard, being obedient, having faith, making a specific sacrifice this transfer to reach your baptismal goal on top of being obedient. And we had everybody in the whole zone sign it and we gave each companionship one to put in their apartment so when they wake up they can be like “yah, alright.” So that was cool.

 Elder Dunn is a good missionary and is really motivated to work hard and be obedient and have success.  He’s really positive. He’s from some city next to Poway in San Diego. But he’s a good missionary.

 The ward’s good. We had a Young Woman’s fundraiser the other day to help all these girls be able to go to camp and they auctioned off all these desserts everybody had made and they were going for $20 and $30 and they were making a lot of money. It was great.

We invited two investigators but neither of them showed up, but we stayed for a while and we were sitting in the back and every family that was there had these little silent auction things with their names on it on like a popsicle stick, so they could hold it up during the auction, and we didn’t have one, so I grabbed this big heart off the table (it was on the Friday before Valentine’s Day) and I wrote “The Elders” on the heart and I took a fork and poked it through the bottom of it. A lady gave us $20 a while ago and we’d spent $12, so we had $8 and I said, “Elder, we’ve got $8 and we’re going to start auctioning, but we’re not going to start at $2.” So at $8 we’d put our heart up and then somebody would go to $15 right after that, so we never actually won anything. And then after that we started holding our car keys up and they all cracked up. It was pretty funny. And then because of our efforts, people would start bidding, and they wouldn’t really want them, but then they would just bring them over to us. There was this platter of chocolate covered strawberries and somebody won and brought it over—it was awesome. Then we got a cake and a pie and another cake. So we had four platters of dessert out in front of us and there was Elder Dunn, Elder Larsen, me, Elder King and Elder Simmons from the Mt. Vernon 2nd Ward. We’re all there just chomping down. It was great!

 There’s a girl who’s 14 in the ward who comes to church every week. She goes to girls’ camp. She in Young Women in Excellence, she bears her testimony, she gives talks. She’s not a member though because her mom won’t let her get baptized until she’s 18. The mom has a big-time chip on her shoulder because she got a divorce from her husband who was a member and so it’s her against him, and if her daughter gets baptized then he wins. So she’s being very childish about it. Missionaries have tried getting her there in the past, but the mom flips out the harder the missionaries try, so we’re just talking to the daughter and talking to the fellowshippers and playing it cool and fasting and praying for her and hoping that her mom softens up cause we heard news that she was softening up a couple of weeks ago. We’re hoping that as we do these things, we can help speed up that process and get her baptized before we leave. If her mom said “OK,” she could get baptized the next day and there would be no questions asked, so we’re going to work hard towards that.

 I went on exchanges with Elder Kinzer, one of the guys in my room from the MTC -- it was great. Last week he put nobody on date, he taught seven lessons, he found three new investigators, pretty low numbers, so he definitely didn’t get close to making standards, and then the day I went out with him, we were still on a bike and we were walking around tracting and we taught five lessons with two recent convert less-active lessons, so seven lessons total.  We found three new investigators and we put one guy on date, so it was a great day and he was amazed at the potential of his area. I’m like, “you can do this every single day. You can hit standards, no problem, and if you can get five lessons in a week that’s great” That’s better than our area. We rarely get over four. So that was cool to go out there and help him out. He’s still kind of struggling. And then there’s another young companionship in Anacortes that we’re going to go on exchanges with. We’ve gotta help our zone.

 I forgot to mention that I had a really cool experience the other day. I was tracting with a Priest and we were knocking on all these doors. We had been knocking on doors for 40 minutes and nobody had really been interested. We’d given pamphlets out, we’d stretched out conversations for like five minutes, trying to give them lessons. We were kind of giving up realizing they just wanted to close the door, and we hadn’t had much luck at home, and a lot of people weren’t home, so we knocked on a couple more doors and then nobody answered and I was trying to focus on being positive at the door. I was having to work for it. So we walked away from a door and I said, “Alright. One of these next houses is going to be money. It’s going to be great.” And we got all excited about it. “Yah, it’s going to be sweet.” And then right after that, this garage door opens up at the house across the street and this dude is standing there and we walk over to him and we said “Hey, we’re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we want to share a message about Christ with you.” And he’s like, “Yah, sounds great. I’d be happy to have you guys over later.” And so we got his contact information and we’re going to see him this week. He seems really cool and really solid. So it was awesome. It was awesome!

 I went to the San Juans last week to help out a senior couple who didn’t have a lot going on, and we put a couple of people on date and saw some people and taught some lessons. But it was snowing out there. I went out there and thought it was going to be like sugar cane and gumdrops and children dancing, and it was snowing, and we were in a trailer park. And it was still good though. We were kind of ill-prepared for the snow. We walked around getting snowed on. It wasn’t the first time it happened and it won’t be the last.

 Thanks for the letters. Thanks for the support. I love you all. Thank you all for the support. Thank you for encouraging me to go on a mission. This has been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve learned more than I ever have before. Even if it were to end today. If this mission were to get shut down and I went home, I would be a different person. This has been great. I’ve grown a lot and I’ve grown to appreciate the Gospel and my upbringing more because of it. 

 But thanks for everything. I appreciate everything. Camille: good luck with those babies. I know you’re getting pretty close. And Sam: good luck with those babies, and Connie: good luck with those babies, and Jeff: good luck with those babies. Everybody else: good luck with your current endeavors. Good luck with Lakeshore Dad. Sounds like you’re working hard on that. I hope it works out. Hope all your hard work pays off. It will.

 Thanks everybody and GO GET ‘EM!

 Love, Elder Packer


Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Dear Family and Friends,                                                               

 The mission is going well. It seems to get better every week. We had transfers last week and it couldn’t have gone any better. A lot was going to happen there: a new Assistant to the President was gonna go up. I would get a new missionary to train, and I would also get another companion. I would also have a lot of changes to the zone so there was a lot in the air. My companion, Elder Zirker, turned out to be the new Assistant which wasn’t too surprising. My new missionary I’m training is Elder Dunn from Rancho Bernardo/Poway, CA. He’s a good one, and I got hooked up again with Elder Larsen as my co-ZL/trainer. He’s from Brenster, Nebraska and is a full-on cowboy. He’s been out for 14 months and almost went as the new Assistant, so he’s a really solid missionary. So now there’s three of us. It’s great.

 We had a really good meeting with the President and were excited to get our zone to be the highest performing in the mission. That’s our rough goal. We have one of the best zones so it’s doable. We’re working on giving the vision to everybody and getting them motivated. I’m pretty sure it will be the best transfer so far. Elder Larsen is one of the best missionaries I’ve ever seen and like Elder Zirker, he’s taught me a lot already. Training helps too. I’ve learned a lot from Elder Dunn.

 Things are good. The days are getting longer. No more sundowns at 4:15, so that’s good. I’m busier than ever and more driven than ever, so I haven’t got a whole lot of time to write this. The power of the Atonement is real and powerful. Tony and Jesse who were baptized last Saturday have been described as “totally different people” by their friends, and I have seen big changes in them even hours after the baptism. It’s amazing.

 My favorite, besides of course baptizing people, is throwing out the commitment to them. It’s interesting. Even if they don’t accept it, they appreciate the offer. One guy I had to work with for about 10 minutes just to get the pamphlet in his hand and he didn’t accept the challenge, but before we left, he said “thank you” to us. You never know whether or not they will do it. They feel something and appreciate it most of the time. I’m trying to throw the commitment out to at least one person everyday for the rest of my mission. It feels great.

 Thanks for the letters. It sounds like the babies are doing well in Utah.

 Hopefully you’re not working too hard Dad.

 Hopefully you’ve ridden since I left, cough, cough, Jeff.  It’s safe to say leaving a dirtbike in a garage for months without riding it is an unpardonable sin. There’s a riding area across the valley from where I live so I see guys hauling bikes out there all the time and, surprisingly, I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I’m sure the calling has something to do with that.

 By the way, that letter was great, Derek.

 You’re almost a full-on mom, Camille. Jeff, you’re gonna be a dad. That’s nuts. Awesome!

 Thanks for the care packages everyone.

 I didn’t get any flooding in my neck of the woods. Snohomish got it bad, but Mt. Vernon and Marysville were safe.

 Thanks again for the letters and everything else.


 Elder Nathan Packer

WA Everett Mission

16124-35th Ave. SE

PO Box 13390

Mill Creek, WA  98082-1390


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                   

Sorry for not getting a letter out last week. The last two weeks have been busy. Zirker and I have probably driven 1200 miles around the zone and down to Everett and Mill Creek for meetings since we got transferred. I didn’t realize so much driving was involved in this position. I’ve been able to get to know the Zone better and all the missionaries so I’ve enjoyed it for the most part. I didn’t realize how good of an area Mt. Vernon was until I left it. With about half as much time in our area to work as before we’re able to get as much done as just about anybody in our zone. It’s great. Elder Zirker lives to tract which is good because aside from our on-daters, we are in a big-time finding mode. He likes to work so things are going well. He’s been out for 18 months so I’m learning a lot from him, and he’s hilarious so we have a good time.

We’ve got two baptisms coming up this Saturday with some good guys—Tony and Jessie. They’ve turned their lives around from being in the homeless lifestyle and it’s exciting seeing them taking the right steps.

I’m still meeting with Brian but it’s been hard getting him out to church, so he isn’t progressing a whole lot. Last week I gave his son, Jonah, some lemon juice because I heard if you dipped cigarettes in it and smoked them, it’s nasty. So Jonah was all over it. We made a secret handoff and a couple hours later I got a call from Brian all upset saying he wants to invite us over to dinner so he can feed us a bunch of food full of laxatives that we can wash down with lemonade. At first I thought he was really mad and that I’d screwed up, but he was joking. I guess it worked, he said it was really bad and he couldn’t figure out what it was, but then Jonah started laughing at him and threw us under the bus. Good times.

So since Zirker and I have both put on some mission weight, we’ve gone healthy. So we got a bunch of produce from the market and made this shake to kick the whole thing off. We put some spinach, lettuce and a carrot in the blender and made up the swampiest concoction. It looked like chunky swamp water full of algae, but we put it down and we’re never gonna do it again. My stomach was moaning all day and it wasn’t pleasant. I’d like to think it added a few years to my lifespan, but even then it wasn’t worth it. We make fruit shakes now with a lot of blackberries—it’s great.

Deception Pass is in the zone so I drive over it a couple times a week and I’ve got some photos I’ll send soon.

Thanks for the letters—everybody who’s written me—thank you. I’m not the best at remembering to get back, but I’ll try.

All’s well. I’m being blessed.


Elder Packer