Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dec. 29: Letter to Parents from Brazil MTC President and Sister Grahl

Your missionary´s arrival at the Brazil MTC

Dear Parents,

Sister Grahl and I are very happy to let you know that your missionary has arrived safely at the Brazil Missionary Training Center.  What a great joy and privilege it is to greet each missionary as they begin their missionary experiences with us! We will surely take good care of your missionary.                                                                                                     
The missionaries now have companions and are settled into their rooms.  They are assigned to a district with capable and caring instructors for language and lesson study.  Their branch presidents and wives will meet them this Sunday.  These wonderful couples are richly blessed as they work with, motivate, and interview the missionaries assigned to their branch.
The MTC has a full-time live-in physician to care for their health needs.  He is assisted by his able wife who is a nurse. We are also happy to report that the MTC food is plentiful, healthy and very good.
Your missionary will be able to e-mail home on Preparation Day after a morning at the Temple.  This will be either Wednesday or Friday, depending on individual assignments.
Your missionary is about to make an eternal difference in the lives of many others. President Lorenzo Snow said: “There is no mortal man that is as interested in the success of an elder when he is preaching the Gospel as is the Lord who sent him to preach to the people who are the Lord's children".  We love these missionaries as if they were our own.  We will watch over them carefully to ensure they are ready for a wonderful missionary experience after the rewarding time they will have in the MTC.
We thank you for preparing such a wonderful representative of the Lord.

Pres. Paulo R. Grahl and Sister Zuleika M. Grahl

Dec. 28: Brasil!

I´m in Brasil!

Yesterday felt like a really short day followed by a really short night. São Paulo is muito beautiful. We have a window in our room that opens up huge onto an inner courtyard with palm trees and sunshine. I love the Brazilian people! It was weird speaking portuguese to actual Brazilians on the plane. My P-day is not until Wednesday, and I won`t be able to send pictures until I get out onto the field because the servers are connected to Salt Lake. Everything is just a little different but tis to be expected. Also pretty much all of these words in this email have a red squiggly underneath and it´s driving me crazy haha.  I love you all and I am praying for you!

-Sister Choules

Monday, December 26, 2016

White Christmas

Dec. 26: Week 3 at the MTC

Felize Natal e Sao Paulo

Last Wednesday our zone leader, Elder Vuyk, burst through our classroom door and told me I should go to the travel office immediately. It felt like I got hit by a bus I was so nervous. BUT GUESS WHAT? I'M GOING TO FINISH MY TRAINING IN SAO PAULO! I leave tomorrow morning at 5:20 am and arrive in Sao Paulo 8:20 am local time (3:20 am MT). I have my visa!!


Elder Dallin H. Oaks from the Quorum of the twelve Apostles came and spoke to us yesterday. He talked about how some people don't know what Jesus Christ did for us and that we all have disabilities and talents and we need to do all that we can with what we have. 

And David Archuletta came and sang last night! He has SUCH a strong testimony. He starts all of his song writing sessions (no matter what religion or not religion the person he's working with is) with a prayer, and has taught many people how to pray that way. He said serving a full-time mission isn't the beginning and end of missionary work, it's to prepare you for a lifelong mission of bringing others unto Christ. Many girls' dreams were crushed when they went to shake his hand and he is like 5' tall haha. He said music is a way to share your testimony and no one will tell you to be quiet or argue with your message, they just listen. I love music! I have learned that it has such power in bringing the spirit. 

This week has been really hard but I really feel like I am coming closer to Christ here at the MTC. God really does love us and know us.

This past week we had another really great lesson. Sometimes being a missionary seems so hard, but lessons like that when the spirit is just SO strong and you God's reality and all that the Gospel has done for you becomes crystal clear, it all becomes worth it. 

I love you all and I will probably have lots to say in my next email, so until then,
Tchau :)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The District

December 19: Week 2 at the MTC

Elder Jeffery R. Holland + The Piano Guys

Elder Holland (one of the twelve apostles) came to the MTC last Tuesday! We were in the middle of singing a prelude hymn when he walked in and there was an audible gasp. I felt the spirit more that day than any other day in my life. Some things he said that stuck out to me:

"Be yourself, but be the best self you can be."

"It's not easy for you because it wasn't easy for Him."

"Either Joseph Smith really did translate the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith was a liar. There is no in between." Muito paraphrased.

IDK if you can find the recording on BYUtv or anything, but I sang in the choir for the opening hymn and I think I'm in the recording!

Wednesday we had our best lesson yet. (It was on the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.) The spirit lit up that classroom. Our teacher challenged us to take a leap of faith. And the results were amazing. During the lesson I felt confident in what I was saying, because I knew what it meant and it was the truth!

Funny story: Sister Ostler fell asleep in class on Thursday. Dreaming that she tripped over a dog, she spazzed in her sleep and sent her copy of PMG flying, right in the middle of Irmao Coelho's testimony. 

Last night the Piano Guys came and spoke during Sunday night devotional! They had some good thoughts on measuring our spirituality by seeing how quickly we turn to God. Also, Humility = constant dependence on God. It was so nice to hear them play music! I love hearing the piano played so much!

December 12: Week 1 at the MTC

Bon Dia from the MTC!

The first day I felt like a weirdo and like nobody liked me. I did so many embarrassing things. It was so bad, but I remembered why I came here and made it through.

The second day was less embarrassing, but still embarrassing. I met an Elder Karsen Hammer, who I was in CTR7 in Indiana with haha. He was my first crush, and the first boy to make me cry (he barred the door to the classroom and wouldn't let me in). It was pretty funny to talk to him here after so many years. The biggest thing I learned that day is that as a chosen daughter of God who is faithful and chooses good, I am special! And I belong here.  The days are long but I just want to eat up everything we've been learning. Jesus really does love us.

On Friday I realized that I am too used to not believing in myself so that I don't get my hopes dashed or my proud heart crushed. I need to see myself in God's eyes more often. Our district has had a hard time staying focused during the 6 hours we are left without a teacher to study. We ended up having a huge discussion because four of the Elders were worried they were annoying everybody else. I said they weren't annoying, but they were distracting. Elder Jackson (a homeschooler by the way) spoke up and reminded us (almost in tears mind you) why we were here, and that our time is precious. He said the spirit was lacking in our classroom. Responses ranged from expressions of love, to "that's just the way I am," to "we were just getting to know each other." In our dorm, I reminded the sisters that Elder Jackson was right. I think that even though it is hard to focus because we are brand new doesn't make it okay to goof off during study time.

Saturday during study time we talked about Gospel questions we had. Afterwards, some of the sisters were feeling down so Elder Wilson, the district leader, gave them all blessings of comfort. The spirit was so strong! Afterwards our love for each other grew SO much. It reminded me that those 18-20 year old boys really do hold the Priesthood of God. It is so awesome that in this time of our lives that it so easy to be selfish and only think about yourself, your career, your relationships, your needs, Elders and Sisters take 18 months-2 years to serve everybody but themselves. 

"I made it to Sunday!" - everyone. I felt prompted when I first came to the MTC to join the choir, and I LOVED IT! For those who know me and how much I dislike choir, this was pretty crazy. The spirit was SO strong the whole time we were singing. and the song is SO beautiful! We will sing it on Tuesday, and it is one of the Apostles' favorites. It is called "Testimony" and is a new version of "I know that my redeemer lives."

FUNNY STORY: 4 of the Elders (including our district leader) went to shower and locked themselves out of their apartments. So they had to stand in the hall for a while until somebody brought a spare key

Monday, December 12, 2016

MTC District

Rachel's MTC District.

1st Day in the MTC!

Rachel at the Provo Missionary Training Center with her new companion Sister McKenna and President and Sister Burgess.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Farewell Talk in Williamson Valley Ward - Dignity & Acceptance

In my 6 years in the Young Womens program, I realized that the two main challenges that Young Women face are 1 – low self-worth, and 2 – feeling accepted

In a book I’ve been reading called Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour, (a Palestinian Christian), it says,“When you build dignity, you begin to destroy prejudice.”

Elias Chacour realized that you don’t destroy prejudice by blocking traffic and talking with world leaders (which Elias Chacour did do). You destroy prejudice by restoring people’s dignity.

A couple weeks ago I was at the Yavapai Library waiting for my brother to get out of class when I picked up a copy of the SGI Quarterly Magazine. In it, I read an article by Khalida Brohi from Pakistan. At 16, her friend’s father and uncle killed Khalida’s friend for “honor”.  Honor killings are where a girl falls in love with a boy, and then the girl's male relatives murder her to restore the family's "honor." Khalida was outraged, and she became a passionate activist for the rights of girls and women. She gained a lot of support for her cause abroad, and her message went viral. However, though the world was receptive to her message, her village where the honor killing had occurred was not. Her car was stoned and she had to walk around in veils, and eventually had to leave the village entirely. This failure made her realize that men’s perception of women was not the only thing to blame for this heinous custom. Khalida says, “What we had not realized before was how women’s own perception of themselves played a role in perpetuating this behavior.” 

“We had focused all of our energy on making noise and lobbying the government but had failed to recognize the fact that our voices did not penetrate those places where tribal rules and regulations ultimately dictate people’s everyday lives.”

 “Women considered the violence and discrimination they faced as their acquired fate and told their daughters and peers never to complain when their husbands mistreated them. That’s why they never challenged a slap from a man or the insults that would come.”

Khalida changed her focus from lobbying the government to changing women’s lives and how they perceived themselves. Khalida opened up a community center in her town where women learned skills like embroidery and were taught in classrooms. With this skill and knowledge, they began to have confidence in themselves and to have a greater sense of self-worth.

The Young Womens program tries to help Young women overcome these problems of sinking self-worth and loneliness by establishing a deep sense of individual worth in the young women and by teaching about Christlike attributes and holding activities where girls can develop bonds and just talk to each other.

Not only in the young women’s program, but in Elder’s Quorum, Relief Society, and the young men’s program, we need to create an environment where people can feel accepted and valued.

Because honestly, Young Women’s wasn’t all flowers and rainbows for me. 
I was homeschooled and not really interested in what other people were interested in, which seemed to be limited to movie stars, boy bands, tan lines, and complaining about public school.

I have some bad memories about young womens. Crying my first year at girl’s camp, sitting in my mia maids class with 3 other girls who would only ever talk about a boy band that will not be named, teacher’s trying to make me feel bad because I chose to go on a YSA trip instead of Youth Conference during the summer after I graduated high school. Or when I tried playing the opening hymn and I messed up so badly that the laurel president said I should never play the opening hymn again. 

Not to say Young Womens was bad. I also have really good memories of young womens. Bearing my testimony in church and at girls camp, writing little notes to each other about each others good qualities, becoming a camp leader and making up trust exercises for the girls to do, repeating the young womens values, sharing things in class, feeling our leaders love for us, seeing my young womens leader’s families, having parties, eating really delicious food, and perfecting my craft skills. I think that Young Womens prepared me to have a calling, and gave me important activity planning skills and leadership experience.

Through Young Womens, I learned that there was good in people I didn’t necessarily get along with very well. 

In a General Confernece Talk, Marvin J. Ashton said, “Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing.”

We can't change the way people perceive themselves and others by preaching to them over the pulpit or lobbying the government. It has to happen on an individual level. We need to believe in each other, build each other up, and treat others in accordance with human dignity. Everybody needs to feel loved and to feel accepted. Not just in Young Womens, but in every organization. However, you can't wait on your leaders to create love and acceptance. It all begins with you.

Farewell Talk in YSA Ward - Gain Your Own Testimony & Remember Him

A while ago I was working on my profiles for FHE. is a website where people can share a little about themselves and their personal testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I noticed that when I had created my profile, I taken the 13 articles of faith and simply replaced every "we" with the word "I".

Reflecting on this, I was reminded of a quote by Soren Kiekegaard, a Danish philosopher and religious author, which says, “There are many people who reach their conclusions about life like schoolboys: they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book without having worked out the sum for themselves.”

As you can see, I have definitely been guilty of copying the answer out of a book. I had cheated myself and my master by not working out the sum for myself.

One of the greatest blessings and sources of joy in this life is a testimony of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love to hear other people’s testimonies because when other people witness of the truth about God, The Plan of Salvation, and the Atonement, the spirit tells me that what they are saying is true. However, it is not enough to just copy somebody else’s answer. We all need to work out the sum for ourselves. 

Alma asks, “Do ye not suppose that I know of these things of myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?”

He says,
 “…They are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit”

To have our own testimonies of this Gospel means that we know it is true. The Holy Ghost will let you know if it is true. Alma fasted and prayed many days to know. Like Alma, we can “know these things of ourselves” if we are willing to “fast and pray many days.” Once we have a testimony, it is important to take care of it so that we don’t lose it. After all, we are only promised Eternal Salvation if we endure to the end.

I find it interesting that in the Sacrament prayer the word “remember” is used 4 times. We witness that we will “eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son,” “[drink] in remembrance of the blood of thy Son,” that we will,
  “always remember him and keep his commandments
And that we will “always remember him”,

 I’ve heard once that our memories are like a room full of huge stacks of paper. Everything we’ve forgotten is still there, we just can’t find it! I think that’s why we need to study our scriptures and talk to God every day. It’s as much about increasing our peace and joy as it is about not losing the peace and knowledge we already have. 

One of my favorite books is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. When she says the following, Jane has just found out that she cannot marry the man she loves because he is married to somebody else. “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour ... If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”

It is important not only to remember God in the good times or in the bad times, but to remember Him always. When things go our way, we can sometimes grow to feel that we deserve everything in our lives to go right. Likewise, when nothing goes our way, we can come to feel that God has forsaken us. 

However, I challenge you to ask yourself, “If at my convenience I might break [the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father], what would be their worth?”

God has promised that If we keep the commandments, apply the Atonement in our lives, and endure to the end, we will be blessed for our efforts. We shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost. We shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of God. And we shall know the joy of eternal family.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Call!

Dear Sister Choules,
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 Brazil Juiz de Fora Mission. You should report to the Brazil Missionary Training Center on Tuesday, December 6, 2016. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Portuguese language.

Thomas S. Monson