Thursday, February 14, 2013

Elder Jacob Avery's Mission Call Arrives!

It's been a nerve racking couple of days at the Avery house. We found out from our bishop on Friday, February 8, that Jake's mission had been assigned at church headquarters, so we assumed he would receive his call in the mail yesterday. When his call didn't arrive, we did some investigating and found out that none of the missionaries in Utah that were expecting calls yesterday received them. So, we thought we might have to wait until next week.

At a little after noon today, I walked out to check the mailbox (for the third time haha!), and there it was! That large white envelope that I've thought about dozens of times since we found out we were having a son. I read his name, "Elder Jacob Joseph Avery", showing through the envelope window, and the tears started to flow. Then I ran into the house, shouting for anyone who could hear me (only Hannah, Abigail, and Kolby were home at the time) that it was here.

I sent a picture of his mission call envelope to Jake at school. Then I shook it around, tried to peer through the envelope window, and Googled how to steam an envelope open. Finally, I hid the envelope between the mattresses of my bed and took a long shower to try and keep my mind off of it.

After my long shower, Hannah, Kolby, and I put sticky notes with our friend's and family's mission guesses on the large maps we'd hung in the living room. As the time got closer to when Jake said he would open his call (3:30 p.m. Mountain Time), guesses were pouring in through Facebook and text. It was a fun exercise and made those last few hours much more bearable!

Guesses for Jake's mission assignment - United States

Guesses for Jake's mission assignment - Foreign

Right before Jake opened his mission call 

Finally our middle school kids arrived and we got Doug (Jake's dad) on Skype, Grandma and Grandpa Avery, Uncle Dirk and Aunt Naomi on the phone, and all the camera phones  ready for the announcement. Jake also had several friends present, including Sister Jeppson and Elder Madsen, and some of their family members.

As you can see, Jake pulled a funny joke on everyone and said he was going to Billings, Montana! I think we were all so shocked that it was dead silent for a second, then he read the REAL assignment:

"Dear Elder Avery,

You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Peru Lima West Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.

You should report to the Peru Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, where you will prepare to preach the Gospel in the Spanish language."

I always thought I would melt into tears as Jake read his call. After all, I've been sitting in front of the computer for weeks now, watching YouTube videos of other young people opening their mission calls, and every time I cry. It was amazing the peace that washed over me when he read his letter. My eyes welled up a little, but I was just mostly overcome with a confirmation that this is where my son has been preparing to go for his entire life. I am so excited for him to serve and love and teach the Gospel to the people of Peru!

Elder Jacob Joseph Avery - Peru Lima West Mission

Elder Avery Receives Travel Instructions (March 4, 2013)

Elder Avery Leaves for the Peru Missionary Training Center (July 3, 2013)

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Meet Sister Lindsey Jeppson

Lindsey Jeppson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has lived in the Salt Lake Valley all her life, except for four months attending college at Utah Valley University. Lindsey is the daughter of Brad and Holley Jeppson, and the oldest of five children. She has three brothers, Braden, Taylor, and Brycen, and one sister, McKinsey. Lindsey is also the cousin of Elder Kolby Madsen, who will be serving in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission. Lindsey graduated from Herriman High School in 2012, and is currently working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at an Alzheimer's facility. She will turn 19 years old next month.

The Jeppson Family (and Kolby Madsen)

Like Jacob Avery, Lindsey is in the first group of young people who will enter missionary service since President Monson's announcement lowering the missionary age requirement for young Latter-day Saints. Lindsey recalls that after the announcement, she considered how neat it would be to serve a mission six months from that time.

Applications for missionary service are not submitted until 120 days (or less) before the person's date of availability. From the time Lindsey learned she could serve a mission at age 19, she had prayed to know if becoming a missionary herself was the will of her Heavenly Father. It was not until she talked with her parents (the night Kolby opened his mission call) that her prayers were answered. The next day, Lindsey called her Bishop and began the process of submitting her application for missionary service. Ironically, that day was also her 120 day mark.

Lindsey competed all her medical and dental appointments in one day. It took about a week to get her other paperwork in order, and a couple of weeks to meet with her Bishop and Stake President before submitting her application. Her call arrived two days after Christmas 2012.

In our Church, missionary service is considered a "calling" (a responsibility or duty assigned by Priesthood Leaders). As such, the letter received with one's missionary assignment is referred to as a mission call.

Depending on the desire of the missionary, some open their mission call alone, with just their immediate family, or with a group of friends and family. Lindsey chose to have a large group of friends and family (58 people!) present when she opened her mission call on December 27, 2012. Up to that point, there had been some "friendly discussion" between Lindsey and her cousin Kolby about who would begin their missionary service first.

Sister Lindsey Jeppson was called to serve in the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitor's Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She will report to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on April 3, 2013, where she will prepare to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spanish language. As you can see, she'll beat Elder Madsen to the MTC by one week :)

Lindsey scanned her call quickly before she read it out loud to the group. She explains that as soon as she saw where she'd be serving, the Spirit witnessed to her that it was the place where the Lord needed her to be. She acknowledges that some people are disappointed when they receive a call to serve in the United States, but she is just so excited to go to Mesa to share the Gospel with Heavenly Father's children who live and visit there. She told me, "I'm going on a mission, not on a vacation."

Side by side missionary calls for Elder Kolby Madsen and Sister Lindsey Jeppson

Mesa Arizona Temple

With 56 days left until she leaves for the MTC (yes, she's counting!), Lindsey can hardly wait to get going! She's purchased new, unmarked scriptures for her mission, all the other required books, including "Jesus the Christ", "Our Heritage", "Preach My Gospel", "True to the Faith" and "Our Search for Happiness". Lindsey is attending Missionary Preparation Classes with Kolby and Jake, and plans to receive her Endowments at the Temple on Saturday. Because Lindsey already took 3 years of Spanish in high school, she is looking forward to becoming more fluent in the language during her missionary service, understanding this will be a great benefit in her later work in the medical field when she returns home.

Lindsey and her mom after opening her call
Grandpa Jeppson was present via Skype
Sister Jeppson's Departure is Slightly Delayed  (March 4, 2013)

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meet Elder Jacob Avery

Jacob Avery was born in Richmond, Virginia, lived in Maryland most of his life, and moved to Utah in middle school. He is the son of Doug and Shannon Avery. Jake falls second in our family, the oldest boy, of seven children. He has two younger brothers, Joshua and Jared, and a brother, Jonathan, who died when he was a month old. He also has an older sister, Hannah (currently serving in the Chile Vina del Mar Mission), and two younger sisters, Rebekah and Abigail.

Jacob Avery

Avery Family 2012

We call our boys "The Three Stooges". Three boys born in three years, and they have done almost everything together for their whole lives. It will be strange as we launch into these next several years because we'll always be missing one of them, and sometimes two of them, when their missions overlap each other. Of the three boys, Jake is the analytical one, the calculated, organized, five year plan one. You couldn't ask for a better older child for the younger ones to look to for an example. Aside from the first two years of his life, he really has never given us any trouble. We are blessed!

Jake's 18th birthday is next week, and he just finished his Eagle Scout project on Saturday. Better late than never, right?! He will graduate from high school the end of May. That makes Jake in the first round of missionaries who will turn 18 during their senior year of high school, and will be available to serve missions after graduation. The guideline is that young people not submit their applications for missionary service until 120 days before their available date. Jake's available date is June 1, 2013, so he submitted his papers on Friday, February 1st. Typically, it takes about two weeks for the paperwork to be reviewed and an assignment to be issued.

To see where Elder Avery was called to serve, click here.

Jake before his missionary haircut
Elder Jacob Joseph Avery
President and Sister Archibald
Peru Lima West Mission

Elder Avery Leaves for the Peru MTC

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Meet Elder Kolby Madsen

Elder Kolby Madsen was born in Idaho and mostly grew up in Utah where he graduated from Herriman High School in June 2012.  He is the oldest child and only son of Soren and Marianne Madsen, and big brother to Maren and Sabrina. To save money for his mission, Kolby has been working as a life guard at a local recreation center near his home in South Jordan, Utah.

Like all Latter-day Saint (LDS) young men, Kolby was not expecting to begin his missionary service until the summer of 2013, after he turned 19 years old. Following the announcement by President Thomas S. Monson in October 2012, I drove to Kolby's work to see if he'd heard the news. He had his back to me as I walked across the pool deck and put my arm around his waist. "I know", he said, before I could say anything. "How do you feel?" I asked him. Without hesitation he responded, "I'm ready!" There was never a truer statement spoken by a more willing young man.

That day, Kolby called his Bishop (the leader of his local congregation) to find out what he needed to do to submit his application for missionary service. Within the week, he filled out forms, uploaded documents and photos, visited the doctor for a physical and had his wisdom teeth removed. The following Sunday, his completed application was electronically submitted to church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Two weeks later, Elder Kolby Madsen received his call to serve as a missionary in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He will report to the Provo Utah Missionary Training Center (MTC) on April 10, 2013, where he will prepare to teach the Gospel in the Danish language.

Guesses for where Kolby will serve

Both of Kolby's Grandpas guessed he would serve in Denmark

One of the obvious challenges with the lower missionary age is that there is not enough room at the Missionary Training Centers around the world to accommodate the large number of young people who would like to serve missions. This means that after receiving their assignment, young people may need to wait anywhere from 3 to 6 months before they actually leave on their missions. Waiting is hard and sometimes discouraging, as Kolby can easily attest. But, on the positive side, it gives them more time to save money (right, Kolby?).  :)

Mormon missionaries who choose to serve missions do so at their own expense. In addition to set monthly expenses, they also need to purchase extra items specific for the area in which they will be serving. Kolby received a letter from his Mission President a few weeks ago letting him know that he needs to be prepared to spend $600-$800 US dollars (USD) for a used bicycle when he arrives in Denmark, as well as $200 USD for bedding.

At the beginning of January, Kolby and five other future Danish missionaries traveled to New York City to meet with the Danish Consulate to be cleared for missionary service in Denmark. It was a whirlwind, 24-hour trip, catching a plane at midnight, arriving in the morning in New York, spending the day, catching a plane back that evening, experiencing delays during their layover in Minneapolis, and arriving home again a little after midnight.

Future Danish missionaries in New York at the Consulate. Elder Madsen is second from the left.

Kolby still has a couple of months before he leaves, but he's keeping busy with work, studying, attending Missionary Preparation Classes, and spending time in the Temple. And, pretty girls are not off limits....yet :)

Elder Madsen Needs Sugery before Entering the MTC (March 4, 2013)

Elder Madsen Enters the Provo MTC (April 10, 2013)

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Meet Elder John Albright

Elder John Albright has been serving in the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission for almost 20 months! But because we consider Elder Johnny a part of our family, we're adding him to our blog :) We'll be able to keep things updated moving forwarding, but we'll just have to give you a brief summary of what he's been doing up to this point.

Elder Albright is from Crofton, Maryland, and graduated from high school in 2010. He attended Brigham Young University until he received his call to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He reported to the Provo Utah Missionary Training Center (MTC) on June 15, 2011. Because John didn't have to learn a new language, he was only in the MTC until the beginning of July, then he was off to New Mexico.

John had the unique opportunity of entering the MTC the same day as his sister, Emily, who was called to serve in the Alabama Birmingham Mission. Sister Albright just returned home last month, after 18 months of service in Alabama. We'll ask her to share her experience with us in a later post.

Elder John and Sister Emily Albright, entering the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.

It's become a tradition for missionaries to take a photo opportunity at the MTC map, pointing to the place where they have been called to serve.

As soon as Elder Johnny moved into his apartment in New Mexico, he had to organize his digs. Something to know about John is that he LOVES clothes, and being fashionable is vital to his existence (haha!). He is also meticulously (painfully) organized. Having to pare down his wardrobe to dark suits, white shirts, and a couple of casual outfits took super human strength. So naturally, John relies on his ties to add that little bit of spice to his life :)
Neck ties - The Spice of Life
Elder Albright's super organized, and dreadfully boring closet :)

When missionaries enter the "mission field", they are assigned a trainer to help them learn the ropes. A trainer is a missionary who has been out for a while and knows the area and the people.

"Companionships" are two or three missionaries who are assigned to work (and live) together for a period of time ranging from 6 weeks to many months. During the course of one's missionary service, they can have anywhere from 6 to 15 companions, or more. Learning to work and live with someone else, especially for those young people who have never lived away from home, can be one of the most challenging parts of being a missionary. But everyone will agree that learning to serve and work together is a valuable life lesson.

Within a month of arriving in New Mexico, Elder Albright and his trainer were able to celebrate the baptisms of two new members of the church in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Celebrating another baptism! Elder Albright is wearing a white jumpsuit because he will be performing the baptism. To baptize someone into Christ's church, the Savior taught that you must hold the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood was revealed to Moses, and deals with the temporal and outward law of the Gospel. It holds the keys of the ministering of angels, of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism. The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth on 15 May 1829 by the angel, John the Baptist. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are baptized by immersion, in the same manner that John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

While missionaries are serving, it's not all work and no play. Once a week they have a "Preparation Day" ("P-Day" for short), where they can dress in casual clothes, do their laundry, go grocery shopping, and engage in wholesome activities like hiking and low impact sports. Missionaries do not date, watch television, go to the movies, or swim. There are also some restrictions on the kinds of music they listen to, and they usually only call home (or Skype) on Mother's Day and Christmas. Despite the limitations, missionaries usually find plenty of fun things to do with their companions on P-Day.

Even on P-Day, missionaries wear their Missionary Name Tag.
Shocking! It SNOWS in New Mexico!

Just because they're missionaries, doesn't mean they aren't human. Elder Albright stops for a photo with the incredible Michael Jordan!

I realize I haven't shared much about Elder Albright in this post, but I'm sure his mom and sisters will give me more details to add after they read it haha! More to come!

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Why Do Mormons Serve Missions?

From the beginning, the Lord's church has been a missionary church. Just as Jesus and His disciples taught His Gospel 2,000 years ago, almost 60,000 missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are currently sharing His Gospel all across the world. (See Mark 16:15Romans 10:13-15Matthew 28:19-20).

In October 2012, the president of our church, Thomas S. Monson, announced that the age requirement for missionary service would be lowered to 18 years old for young men and 19 years old for young women. Although missionary service is not mandatory, the opportunity to serve is one that most of our young people look forward to with great excitement. There are also older couples who choose to serve missions after their children are grown, but most LDS missionaries are about 20 years old. President Monson's announcement in October inspired a record number of young people to submit their applications for missionary service. Many of the missionaries you meet on this blog will be among the first to serve since the age requirement was lowered.

But the question still remains, why would these young people leave their homes, families, colleges, jobs and friends to serve as missionaries? Why would they devote two years (or 18 months for young women) of their young lives to studying, possibly learning a new language, meeting new people, and teaching about Jesus Christ and His restored Gospel? The answer is LOVE. Love for their Savior, and love for all of God's children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances might be. Gospel means "good news", and these young people are eager to share the good news with their brothers and sisters throughout the world. Their work is literally a labor of love.

More information about why Mormons serve missions.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Do Mormons Believe?

In the early spring of 1820, a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees near his home in upstate New York to pray to his Heavenly Father for guidance. In those days, there was a large religious movement in America, and Joseph's family became acquainted with some of the more popular sects of that day. In his own words:

"During this time of great (religious) excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know...

 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God... 

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith History 1:8-17).

The Savior taught the boy, Joseph Smith, that many plain and precious things had been lost from His Gospel over the generations since his ministry on Earth. After His apostles were killed, some of the simple truths of the Lord's Church were disregarded and forgotten. And through the process of many translations, and sometimes by the intentional deception of evil men, some important truths had been removed from the Bible. 

Because God loves all His children the same, prophets all over His earth have learned and testified of Him and of His son, Jesus Christ. Remember that Christ declared, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Just like Isaiah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, John and many others, prophets from other continents and lands have learned of, and been visited by, the Savior. 

One of those prophets, Moroni, who lived on the American continent about 400 A.D., visited the young man Joseph Smith as an angel, and gave him an untranslated record of the history of his people from about 600 B.C. to about 400 A.D. The record contained prophesies regarding a Savior who would be born of a virgin, and also included a detailed account of a visitation from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, after his Resurrection. 

The name given to this ancient record was "The Book of Mormon", because the records had been abridged by Moroni's father, a prophet whose name was Mormon. Mormon took the most important information from the hundreds of written records of his people and combined them into one record, carved into thin sheets of gold, which Moroni gave to Joseph Smith. Moroni also delivered tools for Joseph Smith to use to translate the ancient writing, which he accomplished through the gift and power of God (Joseph Smith only had an eighth grade education) within 65 days of receiving the record. When the translation was completed, the angel Moroni returned to Joseph Smith and collected the record, returning it to the safety in which it had been preserved for almost 1,400 years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church restored to the earth as He established it during His mortal ministry. People nicknamed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "Mormons" after the prophet Mormon. The simple truths that were lost from Christianity during the Great Apostasy (called the Dark Ages) are contained in The Book of Mormon, which is a companion to the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ continues to lead His church through a modern-day prophet, just as He called Peter to lead His church after His mortal death.

To learn more about what Mormons believe, please visit