Sunday, January 26, 2014

Monday, January 20th, 2014

We are going to go visit the world’s northern most ice hotel today, which should be cool quite literally. It is getting a lot lighter here. The sun can even be seen from some parts of town for an hour each day. It is not providing much warmth yet though. I still have not seen the northern lights, but I think I will soon. Elder Hurst’s Dad is a math professor at BYU Hawaii. Elder Hurst wants to be a chemistry professor though. We are actually co-senior companions, so it switches every week. We went to visit Tromso this week, which is actually quite a large city with an important university, for a zone leader-training meeting. Elder Badger, who I was in the tripanionship with, was in Tromso for six months and has told me a lot about it, so it was pretty cool to be able to go there. The next day we drove to Hammerfest, which is the northern most city in the world. It is actually quite a bit warmer there, but it is super windy. Hammerfest used to have its own branch, but over the years almost everyone moved away, so it is now the Alta\Hammerfest branch. It has been really cold here the past couple of days, but we are surviving.

There are a lot of really cool people here, and I think we have a lot of potential to help the branch grow and to support the members. Our branch president and ward mission leader are both converts themselves of about six or seven years, so they are both very excited to help the work go forward. I know that we have found and will continue to find the people who are prepared as we are humble and reliant upon Heavenly Father.

This past week we have been trying to focus more on addressing the importance of families and using family history in our work. The gospel provides our families with such inexpressible blessings that I think it is often difficult to even recognize most of them in our lives since it is all we have ever known. The work of sealing families together for eternity is one of the purposes of the church's existence. There is no more important work than this the work of salvation and of helping our family reach exaltation together, which is the only way we can attain it. That definition of a missionary, one who spends a short time away from one's family so that others can spend eternity with theirs, really hits the nail on the head in my mind.

One thing we have been trying to do, and something I think we all should try to do, is to be more Christ-focused. Without Christ, we have no hope, we have no light and we have no chance of overcoming the weaknesses, difficulties and infirmities that we face. With Christ, we have nothing but hope. He is the light and the life for us all. We need to use the atonement in our daily lives to receive the strength that we simply do not have ourselves. I know that we all can be perfected through Christ and receive a fullness of joy with Him and His Father and our eternal family and that is true for everyone. That is the message we must share. That is the message that will bring peace and joy to the entire world.

One of the most beautiful things that the gospel does is to teach us what it really means to be human. We are each a beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Parents who has a divine potential and destiny. I think when we really have that knowledge and internalize it, it should change absolutely every aspect of our lives, particularly the way we view ourselves and the way we view others. That knowledge provides the understanding that each and every one of us truly does matter. The fact that Christ came and suffered in order to give us the ability to overcome our sins, weaknesses, trials and heartaches through His grace, is a tremendous testament of that truth. Each of us is precious to Him, and He knows, understands and LOVES each of us perfectly. I think that understanding helps us certainly be able to forgive others as well as to be able to forgive ourselves. The word of the week is en drøm=a dream. Happy Birthday Martin Luther King Jr.!

Elder Ankenman

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Monday, January 13th, 2014

It is a lot colder here than anything else I have ever experienced, but I think the Norwegian saying that there is no bad weather just bad clothing is fairly true. I would still say that there is at the very least better weather. Good clothing does help. We also are not outside too much generally because we have a car to get around and have been able to have quite a lot of appointments, which has been a blessing. We try knocking on doors quite a lot, and we also have a lot of people who we visit and teach or who have said that we can try to come and visit. It actually gets pretty light sometimes because the snow is so reflective, which is pretty cool. The woman we live with named Linea is quite old, but she is incredibly active and helpful with the work. Her son Geir also lives there. He is super into music. His favorite Beatles song is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which he likes to play and have me sing. It is not a song I thought I would ever sing on my mission, but I cannot complain.

People here are generally quite kind and open. I think there is certainly a lot of potential in the area. The branch is certainly eager for growth, and the members we have are incredible. We had twelve people in church yesterday including four investigators. We have investigators from really cool countries. We have investigators from Norway, Ukraine and Rwanda. We have a Nepali family in the branch that we are trying to help come out to church. This week we are going to visit Tromsø for a training meeting and also Hannerfest another day, so I am excited to see some new places.

There are a few fundamental elements of the restored gospel and church that have been on my mind a lot. They are the importance of personal revelation and guidance as well as revelation and guidance given by priesthood authority. Both aspects of guidance are indeed essential for living the gospel of Jesus Christ. We were invited to attend a baptism of another church this weekend. They observe with exactness and of course without prophetic authority to interpret and understand the bible. They for example believe that Saturday is the Sabbath day. As I have been thinking further about that, I am so thankful for the assurance with which I can know truths because of the witnesses of the spirit and the prophets and apostles to guide us. Without revelation there is indeed no way we can know spiritual truths. Fortunately, revelation is open to us as we seek it and as we study it. Restored priesthood authority is something that no other church has besides the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is truly a blessing to be able to enjoy the blessings that this authority brings to us. The blessings of the gospel are exactly what we wish to share. I know we will all receive heavenly help as we try to do so. The word of the week is åpenbaring, which means revelation.

Elder Ankenman

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I got to Alta on Friday. I am really excited to be here. We live with two members, a mother and son. They are really awesome. The son loves music, especially the Beatles, and the mother is very kind and loving. They are so strong in the gospel as well. A lot of people are away on vacation, so I actually have not met any other members yet, but I have heard quite a bit about them. I am very excited. I think we often have twelve or so in church, which is more than I might have thought. We have a lot of people who we are trying to work with, so I am very excited for what is to come. Eldste Hurst is a very kind and caring companion as well as a dedicated missionary. I am grateful to be able to serve with him. It actually is not that cold here yet, but it is colder than Oslo was. One thing that is really cool is that the sun never comes up. There is still variance of light in the day, which is quite noticeable, but nothing has a shadow.

We are the only missionaries in Alta. Our area is technically all of Finnmark County, but we pretty much only work in Alta because it is the biggest city and the others take so much time to get to. One thing that is also really different is that we have a car now. There are not very many areas in the mission that do, but it is definitely useful. The closest other missionary area is Tromsø, which is just barely south and west of us. It is a much bigger city, and they have four missionaries right now. There are only five branches of the church in Northern Norway: Boddø, Mo i Rana, Narvik, Tromsø, and Alta.

It is a tremendous blessing to be where I am. I feel a lot of good things are in store. People seem very kind and open here, so I think we will be able to help a lot of people receive the gospel and the joy that comes from it.

We celebrated New Year's Eve at the Rasmussen's apartment as a district. The fireworks were incredible, and we got an awesome view of downtown Oslo. I know a lot of good things are in store for this new year. We never quite know what the future holds, but it suffices me to know that Heavenly Father is watching over us. It requires patience on our parts, but I know it will be far more than worth it. The word of the week is godt nyt år, which means happy New Year!

Elder Ankenman

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Monday, December 30th, 2013

We had our transfer call yesterday, and I will be serving in Alta with Eldste Hurst, who was with me in the MTC and a very good friend of mine there. Alta is the northern most missionary area in the world and the northern most branch of the church in the world, so that is really cool. It will be unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I am thrilled! When I heard my name in Alta after Eldste Hurst's during the call, I literally got up and screamed like a little girl. I am really excited for my first transfer. It will definitely be a dramatic change though. Eldste Linge served in Alta, so I have heard quite a few things about it.

One thing I have learned is that pure love is the foundation of everything Heavenly Father and Christ do for us and of everything they want us to do for each other. I have seen this in Oslo. I am really grateful for the time I have had in Oslo. There have been tons of incredible people who have touched my life and taught me a lot. I will certainly miss them, but I know there are good things to come. It really is such a blessing. I am very excited for the future of the church in Norway, even in a small place like Alta. The Norwegian words of the week are å reise, which means to travel and en fly, which means a plane. I hope you all continue to do well, and that you can feel of Heavenly Father and Christ’s love for you.

Elder Ankenman