Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MTC Week 3

A hoy-hoy, familia:

Wazzup? Everything is still great here at the MTC. The food is really good (‘cept the spaghetti cause the noodles look like tapeworms...sorry I had to say that mom) but everything else is great. The Spanish is coming along slowly but surely--I hate conjugating verbs so much!!! But hopefully I’ll get it. They started us with investigators and it's pretty stressful ‘cause the language is hard to say sometimes and all the teachers have a different way of teaching and they say to teach their way. But other than the language and learning how to teach, those are really the only stressful parts.

I told you guys I joined the choir and nobody else in the district, except one other elder, wanted to do choir. So me and that Elder (Elder Leechman) went early to go sit in the choir seats to sing at the devotional. Turns out there were no choir seats left so we decided to sit a few seats from the front row. And, lo and behold, Elder Christofferson came to speak to us at that devotional. The coincidences were uncanny.  He was raised in PG and went to Salta on his mission and his main message was, no joke, word for word:  "It's all good"....Yeah, it was pretty much amazing. 

On another apostle note, Elder Nelson came and spoke to us for Thanksgiving and that was cool. Oh, Thanksgiving was really great. We did a little service project were we made first-aid kits and then we had our sack lunches and then we got to watch the movie “17 Miracles” and for a special treat they gave everyone.....popcorn....grrrr!  But other than that, I loved Thanksgiving.  

My companion is named Elder Tyler Zulauf. He is from Norco, California and he loves basketball and sports which is great ‘cause I hate sports. But really we do get along just great. His personality reminds me of Doug. Like, he’s  just a cool, funny guy and we get along great. I told you before his dad died just a little bit before his mission which is really sad but he knows that he'll see his dad again and he is really an optimistic guy.  For all I know he is doing ok. I forgot to tell you this but the second day at the MTC Elder Zulauf was really sick from nerves and stress and stuff (who wasn’t sick, really) and President Claybaugh asked me to give Elder Zulauf a blessing. I was really nervous ‘cause I’ve never given a real blessing before but I gave him a blessing that he'd get better and he did. Kind of amazing how great the priesthood is!

I got the Cokes and the cinnamon rolls and the cookies, gracias! Everybody in the district LOVED them!  Well, that’s just about all this week’s events. Just super busy and, at times, hair-pulling stressful. But it feels good to be here. I still miss you guys so much. They played  “As I Have Loved You” for one of the devotionals and I just about died. But you know, 2 years will go by just like that!

I love you guys so much.  Thank you for all the letters and packages and your prayers. Keep praying for me ‘cause this week is gonna be a hard teaching week! I will write you guys some letters today and send home some printed pictures so look forward to that. I love you guys so much and I’m so thankful for all of you in my life.

Si se Puede!
Con Amor,


Friday, November 25, 2011

MTC Week 2

November 22, 2011
Hola, Mama y Papa!
Como esta?

I’m doing great here.  It is week 2 and slowly the plot of Groundhog Day is becoming more and more applicable to me (ha-ha) but in a good way. It’s Thanksgiving this week (like I said in the e-mail) and there’s a lot of hullabaloo going on about it here at the MTC so we will see what happens.  I forgot to say in the e-mal but thank you for the package with the cookies and tasty treats.  An Elder (the one who I swear is autistic and is like the weird girl from "House Bunny") every night is always awkwardly shuffling his feet and building up the courage to ask me if he can have a cookie. I’m way nice to him but I think he thinks I will tear him apart if he wants a cookie.

Man, oh man, thanks for the letters and words or encouragement and comfort.  I looooove getting letters!  I have the district record of getting letters, it’s the best!  Keep ‘em coming.  We’ve had a few devotionals (one on Tuesday and on Sundays) but we haven’t had a speaker I’ve known yet.  One speaker whose name was President Harris (I can’t remember his first name, sorry) but he and his wife gave some of the best talks I’ve ever heard.  They talked about that “it’s all good” and his experience as a missionary.  I loved it. 

I joined the choir and for this devotional, lo and behold, we are singing…”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.  Score!  That was so cool that the choir sang that song in the ward.  I really love the lyric, “Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I constrain to be.”    It is so true.  Even though we have trials, we have even more blessings.  All the lyrics are great in that song.  Mom, I am glad we share that.
But to answer the questions from your ‘Dear Elder’ letters (which I got right after I read your e-mail) I am sleeping well.  I have earplugs for Elder ---------’s (Rachel) insane snoring and I take a melatonin every night.  And I am having a bunch of weird dreams, they are really specific, like for instance I had a dream that I was at the MTC and were having a garage sale and Tim an Eric were there.  Oh, and on the plus side, I slept talked in Spanish, horrible sleep talk Spanish but that’s a good thing!  I don’t know how I remembered that but I did, ha-ha.  And my clothes are working out great.  I love ‘em!  And the schedule is crazy.  We have permanent classrooms and  nice, Greg Otterstrom kind of teachers but there’s sooo much Spanish all the time. It’s scary to teach lessons Spanish it because I sound like a combo of Peggy Hill and “The King’s Speech”  but it will work out.  When I’m done at the MTC I’ll send you the schedule to show you how crazy it is. 
I have seen a few kids I know but not a lot of people I know that I could say “Hey, remember me?”  Colby Nelson, one of my best friends in elementary school, is here and I say “hi” to him now and then but that’s about it.  As for things I need:  I would love some real, caffeinated, devils-nectar Coke!  And every now and then some treats like Reese’s or Sour Patch stuff but Doug and Jen sent me some snacks and also Brian and Carly sent me some snacks too.  Also Blaine and Alicia sent me a nice card and both Blaine and Brent sent me “Dear Elder” letters.  Could you tell them “thank you sooo much” for me?  Oh, and tell Brent that I remind myself a lot here at the MTC of the inspiring words he once told me: “Russ, just deal with it!”  I don’t know why Helen Keller gets all the fame for quotes but Brent doesn’t get any credit for that one.  Oh, well. Ha-ha. 

Again, I love you guy’s letters, I appreciate the talk ideas that, in the future, if I’m asked to speak on that again I’ll apply them.  Oh, and I got a letter from Grandma and Grandpa Allphin via Dear Elder.  Could you tell them “thanks so much and that I love them so much”?  I said in my e-mail I was going to try to write some other letters today but I don’t know if that is going to be possible.  I’m sorry.
Well, I think I should wrap up this letter.  I love you mom and dad.  I miss you so much and I know being apart is hard but it’s all good.  We are doing great things.  I can start to see, through the letters you guys send me, that the Lord has already granted and is starting to grant us blessings.  You guys are so amazing and I appreciate your prayers so much.  I can feel the peace from you guys prayers all the time.  Well padres, yo amores (I love you) and I hope all is well.  May you have a great Thanksgiving and a Happy 21st Anniversary.  I love you mom, I love you Dad. 

Con amor,
This was a hand written letter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A hoy hoy, mi famila!

Como estan? It has been so great to hear from you guys this week. I love all your letters and words of encouragement! They are great you guys are amazing! Thanks for the letters every day grandma! I’m known in my district as "Allphin (pronounced All-feen) the letter machine" haha I love getting letters! So I was really paranoid the letter I sent to you guys last week didn’t make it to the house ‘cause it was so awkwardly bulgy but it sounds like you guys got it.... hopefully haha! Man, oh, man it's week 2! And boy this week has been...pretty much like the movie Groundhog Day but we're working harder. We are teaching a new investigator and it is HARD! Me and Elder Zulauf were tripping over words and it was so painful but we at least accomplished our purpose which is to help others come unto Christ. And we have to teach this investigator even more this week so keep praying for me! Have the spirits of the animal kingdom or what ever Natalie was talking about to watch over me and protect me.

Today I’ll try to write and send each of you guys a letter! So get ready for that sometime this week. But as far as the MTC goes there’s nothing really going on this week though, we still have the worst roommates of all time. The boy version of Rachael who is a die- hard Canadian who showers 4 times a week and will never shut up and always snores.  And the boy version of the weird girl from House Bunny who has all the weird ideas that everybody thinks is crazy plus he looks like an elf with a cold. I try to love them the best I can and I’ve never given them any crap so I’ve gained some tolerance towards them. But someone in my district, one of these days, is going to throw a chair at them—it’s only a matter of time.

It's Thanksgiving this week! So far the plan I heard for Thanksgiving is that we do some humanitarian project and have sack lunches and then have a special devotional with a special guest...my vote is that Lady Gaga is coming but we'll have to wait and see.  Oh, and also for a thanksgiving package, I’m pretty set as far as the food packages I got (thanks Cary, Brain, Molly, Doug, and Jen for the packages! They were awesome) but I would love a real caffeinated Coca Cola...yeah that’s right it's the devils nectar but I would love some if that’s cool!

I just realized that today we are going to the temple the day before your anniversary Mom and Dad! How cool is that? Really that is a cool temple (even though everyone that works there looks like they want to punch me in the face) I still like it and appreciate it. It's not the same going to the temple without you guys, though. I miss you guys so much! I’m so grateful for your guy’s example of being the greatest family on earth. And even though it's tough being away from home, I know it's a good thing to be out here and that you guys back home are being blessed so much. I'm doing fine! It’s hard work but I’m fine! And excited to learn! (Again I cannot emphasize how tough it is) but I can learn it! Keep praying for me that I’ll learn everything I need to know (I know you guys already do :)...I love you guys so much and I hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving! I know the Lord is looking after us. S'all good!

Con Amor,

Russ :)

P.S. Carly! Happy Birthday (on the 19th, haha) I love you so much!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Third Letter From the MTC

November 15, 2011
Hola Familia!

Como esta?  Estoy excellente!  (Just have Carly translate all the Spanish haha). Sorry I’m writing via handwritten letter.  The laundry here is nuts!  I swear there’s like 50 people in the laundry room and there are only 6 computers so it’s going to be impossible to send an e-mail at the momento.  But I’ll try my best to send an e-mail in the future.  The MTC has been great!  The food is good, the spirit feels good, the classes are great and the people are nice.  My companion is named Elder Tyler Zulauf and he is from Norco, Ca.  He graduated just a few months ago and sadly his Dad actually passed away a month ago, so you know he has incredible willpower and an incredible testimony to be here.  He is way cool, he is quiet and shy and he looks like James Franco and he loves sports.  We are opposites in that he is a big sports guy and I’m a big music guy but we get along just fine. 

Our district is awesome!  Our district leader is named Elder Bingham.  He reminds me a lot of Andy from The Office….exactly like Andy actually, but he’s a way cool guy.  I became friends with an Elder from the district named Elder Young.  His favorite band is Fictionist and we just talk music all the time.  My roommates (excluding Elder Zulauf) are Elder ----, and Elder -------.  Elder ----is a nerdy and smart guy that reminds me a lot of the leader of the ugly girl’s house in the movie “The House Bunny) which coincidentally was the movie we watched on Sunday….or was it a seminary movie?  Elder ------- is exactly…EXACTLY! like sharing a room with Rachel (heaven forbid she’s reading this) he’s from Canada and will not shut up about it!  I can stand him because he is the entertainment around here but really, words cannot describe the uncanny similarities between ------ and Rachel. 

But the MTC so far has been great.  The first day I got here I was put straight into the system.  I got my tag and I.D. and my host dropped my suitcases off in my room and then he took me to my classroom where I met my district and my companion.  They started (they being our teachers) talking to us in nothing but Spanish and we learned some basic Spanish stuff, but not a lot.  Then we had an orientation and we sang a revised version of Army of Helaman which has as the new lyrics that “we are now the Lord’s missionaries” instead of “we will be…” and that made me totally want to fall apart… (Rolling my eyes cause I wanted to cry) but then President Hinckley’s son came in with the first lady of Honduras and they just said “Hey..sup Elders,” cause you know they would totally say that but they really pretty much did.  And then we met with our zone leaders and one of them is named Elder Kim, and he is from Taejon, Korea.  Dad, I said that you served in Seoul and he was pretty jealous you went to the Olympics there too.  He is way cool!

That first night wasn’t so bad ‘cause I took an Ambien.  But the next couple days were really hard cause I missed you guys so bad but I said a prayer to Heavenly Father during gym time on an elliptical in front of a window looking over Utah Valley and I just prayed that I can focus and not feel bad and that I can have confidence and that I can do what is required of me.  And then everyday after that has been great!  I feel more confident in my abilities and even though Spanish is hard and learning the gospel can be hard at times I know that it will be all right and that everything is in its right place.  I know that the power of prayer is true and that your prayers and my prayers can bless us all.  The Lord truly blesses us with tender mercies.  I read a scripture that says “I Nephi will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are upon all those whom he hath chosen.”  I really love that scripture and it has brought me great comfort. 

Hymns have also brought me great comfort.  Our classroom window is always open and every hour I can hear the bell tower play Come, Come Ye Saints and I think of the lyrics of that song and I apply the lyrics to my life.  I love the hymns so much!!! Also from the window in the classroom (which my classroom building and number is 17M 241 for Mrs. Jones, which that is so cool that she is here!) but from the window I heard the cougar growl from the game going on (ha ha) it was awesome! 

In the words of Morrissey I wish “Every day is like Sunday.”  It was really nice.  We had a sacrament meeting (which every week we are assigned to give a 5 minute talk in Spanish cause any of us could get picked to speak and I was wondering if you mom or grandma could send me like a 5 minute talk on Faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ” and I can translate it.  Thanks. If you guys could help me out on that it would be great.  But yeah, Sunday was cool. 

Our branch president is named President Claybaugh and he’s like a mix of Matt Lauer and Brother Slade, he’s nice and his counselor is named Brother Washburn and he used to live in Pleasant Grove.  We had a nice meeting and a nice priesthood meeting where we learned “being of good cheer” is a commandment.  We had a fireside with the director of the MTC, I can’t remember his name, but he gave a great talk on tithing.  Then we watched a movie about Jose Smith which was good. 

And now today is p-day which is really fun (notice how this letter is clearly not written in 30 minutes, we have a ton of time today) we go to the temple today which I’m really looking forward to.  In other MTC notes, the gym is great!  I run all the time.  I love that trick of memorizing Spanish.  It’s that “onions-on-my-sneaker” thing and that works, ha ha (thanks dad.)  I also got to watch that Brandon Flowers Mormon video which was so cool cause there is music in it (you can’t listen to music at the MTC).   Also I have seen a few kids from high school. 

This is my big letter for the week to you guys.  Thank you for all the kind, beautiful words you guys send to me.  I love and miss you guys more than you know but the Lord will bless us so much for what we’re doing.  Thanks Grandma for all the letters, and keeping me updated, mark my words, I will wait for you!  Thank you Anna and Lauren for your letters, I’m glad the play went well and I hope you beat that cold!  Thanks for the letter and picture Molly!  You are such an adorable goof and I miss hanging with you and playing with you, but 2 years is only a few Jake episodes away “Yo Ho Mateys!”  Dad, thanks for the letters and tell Don to keep his mitts of my Korg! and Mom thanks so much for the inspiring letters.  That D&C 84:88 is printed on my water bottle, and it is such a great scripture and I wrote “All Things Are Difficult Before They Are Easy” on a card and I put it on my desk because I so agree with that and I remind myself of that if I ever get frustrated.  Thank you so much!!!   I love you so much and remember “It’s All Good.” 

I’m sorry I can’t write all you guys back.  I would love to but it is busy all the time.  So if I have time some time I will write more than one letter but till I really slip into the system (which I almost pretty much have) then I’ll just do a big letter.  And I might just read the e-mails today and if I have time I’ll respond to them.  Not meaning to sound all important it is just that they are really anal (for lack of a better term) about the 30 minute computer time.  So if I respond it will probably be just a short thing.

I learned to pray in Spanish and we are teaching an investigator named Faber, it’s a great but entirely awkward experience because I can only understand a little of what he is saying but enough to know the gist of what he is saying.  Same with the teachers cause they speak Spanish the entire time. 

Also, I remembered that this Saturday is Carly’s birthday.  Happy birthday on Saturday Carly!!!  I love you so much, you are truly the best! 

I think I’m going to wind up this letter with my testimony in Spanish that I am trying to memorize.  Yo se que la  iglesia es verdadera.  Yo se aue Jesu Christo es el Salvador.  Yo se que el evangelio Jesu Cristo es verdandero.  Yo se que vive mi senor.  En el nombre de Jesu Cristo, Amen.

May the Lord bless you buys for your sacrifice to put me here.  I’ll give 110% for sure.  I love you guys with all my heart, "s’all good".

Con amor,


P.S. Can I send a memory card through like the letter I’m sending you now or does it have to be through a special envelope?  Oh, and they have all the caffeine free Coke and chocolate mile I can drink.  Sweet!

          * This Letter was handwritten and received 11/19/11 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Second Letter From the MTC


                                                                                             November 15, 2011
   Hola Mi familia!

         Hey guys! Before you guys are shocked at how short this email is just let me tell you something. While I was doing my laundry I had a lot of time and a lot of stuff to say so I wrote you guys a big handwritten letter and I sent it before the pickup time for the postal service so maybe, hopefully, I’m praying you'll get that letter today. So again I feel really bad if I got your hopes up of me sending you guys an e-mail saying how everything has been but don't worry the letter that I sent is chuck full of EVERYTHING! that's happened so far. But I’ll write a few things that would be good for you guys to know. One is that I did it! I made it to Sunday! and that everything is going great and I’m getting into the groove of things. I did my laundry today and we are going to the temple at around 3.

The Spanish is coming along great, the conjugations are hard but I’m not stressing about it all that much. I am so busy all the time that it's crazy. And everybody in my district is green with jealous rage because I get the most mail (haha) thank you guys. Anyways you should be getting that letter in the mail either today or tomorrow, and again I’m soooooooo sorry that I sent the weekly letter I sent to you guys is via post office. I just had a lot of time to write everything I needed to say on a handwritten letter so fret not, it's a great letter. Be stoked!. Well I say it a lot in that letter but I love you guys soooooo  much. Words cannot express the joy I feel when I read your guys’ letters at night because they give me so much inspiration and encouragement and comfort, I wish I could respond to all of them.

I'm so glad to have such an amazing family like you guys, I’m so glad families are forever. Whenever I see the Provo temple my heart just pounds with joy that that is where we were all sealed together as a family and I’m so grateful for that. I love that plaque you bought mom that says "missionaries: people who leave their family for a little while so that other families may be together forever" what a great statement, I know that’s true...I hope you guys have an awesome day, I know I will, thank you for the letters and again I’m really sorry this email is short but you'll get that big letter soon and if you prefer handwritten letters in the future let me know, in my opinion, it's easier. I love you guys so much and I hope everything is going well. Count the Sundays till I get home! Remember "it's all good" and I’m doing great!

Con amor,


 *This letter was E-mailed and received 11/15/11

Monday, November 14, 2011

First Letter from MTC

Letter written 11/10/2011

Hey Family!

How’s everything going?  I’m doing well here.  I would normally write to you guys on p-day (which I believe is Tuesday).  My companion’s name is Elder Zulauf and he’s a great guy that is my complete opposite in hobbies and likes.  But we are both shy, quiet guys that get along just fine.  My first day was crazy cause I thought I was going to fall apart every second (like in devotionals and stuff).  But when I went to bed and woke up the next morning I was fine and ready to go.  I know that wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for your prayers and I just want you guys to know I really love all of you and that even though I miss you I still think I can get through the rest of the MTC.

I’ll write you more on Tuesday (at least I think my p-day is Tuesday—I am writing from my room and my schedule is in my classroom) and also sorry for all the misspellings and such and for the oddly constructed letter (at least to me it seems like a not so full letter) but I just want you to know I’m fine and that I miss you guys and love you guys sooooo much!  I’ll write to you soon! And remember “It’s all good.”



P.S.  Dad…. Elder Mandrake, my eye!

*This was a hand written letter that we received 11/12/11