Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Alfajores are like... a thing!

Alright, how are things? Well, it was transfer week, so stuff was crazy. but, we managed to find some new investigators, most notably Mauricio and his family; his wife's mother is an active member of the santa lucia ward, which we share a building with. He seemes egar to listen to us, wich is always nice.
Dallin's Feet by a reservoir
this week has been a kind of stressful one, what with teaching a new elder all about the area as I prepare to hand it off to him. I don't actulay have many fun stories to share.. Oh, yeah, Pablo Maldonado (ward memeber, has a back problem so can't go on a full time mission, currently serving as a family history service missionary, ward clerk, and secretary in the bishopric, also an amazing cook) made us home-made alfajores. Which where amazing. Alfajores are like... a thing that I'm going to miss a lot when I'm not in argentina any more, but also not, since they are mosly just a temptation to get fat that I have to avoid. Okay, I'm actulay going to go buy one from the guy who owns the cyber because I'm super hungry. no. no I'm not. breath. ahrgh.
(I actaly don't at many alfajores, jeez)
(Yes, I did cave and get one)
El. Backstrom and his trainer El. Spice
Hm, anything else? I'm sick, which is not cool. I got a cold. And it's lame. but whatever. It will go away.
On a spiritual note, I was reading and really enjoyed a lovely pasage in Jacob 3:1-2--
 1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.
 2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.
I am glad to think that God will always visit us in our aflictions, console us, plead for us. Sometimes I think I forget that, and get stuck in a moment, but God is able to help us ovecome anything, so there's really nothing to be proccupied about, no mater how bad things get.

Hanging with some other Elder's on P-day
Keep it classy and groovy and all that jazz,

El. Backstrom

Dallin's new companion El. Veintimilla from Barcelona Spain

The Reservoir

The Long Arm of the Law!
Elder Selfie!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Transfer Week!

Another thrilling update from the fingertips of Elder Backstrom, Argentina Mendoza mission, San Juan zone, Progresso Branch!

Yes! this week IS transfer week! AND.... I'm staying in progresso, with elder vintihallaba-something-or-other! (he has a long last name that I have not learned yet) (he is from Spain) (speaking of which, isn't Nathan Smith in Spain? how long does he have left in his mission?)
(I know nothing else about him yet)

The cool thing about this, is next week I will have many photos of things, because we will take goodbye and hello photos with members and investigators and the such. SO! that will be next week.

Yes! we ARE teaching investigators. good! I will proceed to give a short summary about them.
We have Emily who is around 23 and probably the most promising new investigator we have encountered recently. She is smart enough to understand many things rapidly which is helpful, and willing to keep the commitments we leave with her, also helpful. She has good questions and a cool seeming family we also hope to be able to invite to join the lessons.

Old man Dueñas (that's his last name. but when we met him, he just introduced himself as Dueñas and was like, call me hermano (brother) and then never told us his first name) is old, like older than time itself, but really funny and very receptive to our teaching. the real difficulty teaching him is getting him (and hopefully his wife who is frequently busy) to church, since they are old and that makes taking buses harder for them so we need to find someone who can give them rides or something.

The Machaca family is a part member family we are teaching. they are super cool, however there are several things that they need to do, like stop smoking, before they can be baptized.

Uh, there is also, many less active families who we visit, and other people who we have set appointments with but not taught yet.

Those are the people we are working with right now.

Cool, that probably wasn't fascinating but that's basically all we do, is visit people then talk with them.

Yeah, hmm. What interesting stories do I have to share with you? (ahh I almost just tried to pluralize you into yous)

I really can't think of any this week. Still eating lots of pasta, still eating lots of meat, still trying to convince the members that I really actually don't need that third serving of potato tart, that my mother will be absolutely fine with it if I return to her just as skinny as when I left. Sigh.

Ah well, this coming transfer should be interesting. it will only last 4 weeks, instead of six, and the next one will be 8, because in 6 weeks, or 2 weeks into the next transfer, president Avila will be going home and president Goats will be arriving. That will be a big change for the mission. He will come in with a full 6 weeks before he has to move missionaries around again... still, it's not very long to get used to things.

Good, on a more spiritual side of things, I wanted to share a part of the Preach my Gospel, the mission manual, in the "my purpose" section.

"The purpose of the gospel is to cleanse people of their sins so they can receive the Savior’s mercy at the day of judgment. Therefore, the focus of this book and, more important, the work you do each day is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

Individuals and families begin to follow Christ as they exercise faith in Him and repent of their sins. They receive a remission of sins through baptism and by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost from one who has authority from God to perform these ordinances. They then endure to the end, or, in other words, they continue throughout their lives in exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, and renewing the covenants they have made. These are not just steps that they experience once in their lives; rather, when repeated throughout life these principles become an increasingly rewarding pattern of living. In fact, it is the only way of living that will bring peace of conscience and enable Heavenly Father’s children to return to live in His presence.

Obedience to Jesus Christ is a lifelong commitment. Through exercising faith, repenting, being baptized and committing to serve Christ, and then receiving the Holy Ghost, we can experience healing, forgiveness of sins, and complete conversion to the Savior and His gospel."

I felt as I read that during on of my studies this week, that it was an excellent summary of both the "What" and the "why" of missionary work.
There was also an excellent quote that complements the ideas in that little section nicely:

“We do not preach and teach in order to ‘bring people into the Church’ or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. … We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughters of God. No one else can do this” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Purpose of Missionary Work,” missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 1995)

Reading that section of the Preach my Gospel this week was a great help that allowed me to re-focus on the purpose behind the work, to slow down, analyse my actions, and ask myself, are you acting out of love for these people? and then try and make according changes. I would urge all of you who are members (or not, that works too) to read the chapter about the purpose of missionary work- it's for sure one of the absolute best in the manual.

Anyways that was about it,
Have a good week all of ye,
I say unto ye, farewell,
El. Backstrom
(stay classy)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

Good day from Argentina,
Yesterday was mother's day which was good, and I got to talk with my family which was also very good.

So, the internet/phones/all communication died for several hours in san juan right after I wrote those words and we went off and did other things and then came back to the cyber. So that's fun.

Good, let's see- where was I? I'll start with the scripture I wanted to share since it was the last thing I wrote then go backwards from there until I get to what saved.

I found a good scripture I enjoyed about accountability in the old testament, Ezekiel 33:1-6.

Uh... what else, hmm, the thing is, we just sort of do lots of missionary things all the time. for better or worse, that makes the time go nice and fast, but with a distinctly low number of notable adventures.
We wait for lots of buses, and also walk various places.
hmm. There is bread that we eat lots of here, there is like a panderia culture and they don't have boulangeries and a panderia is a little bread store that makes little bread rolls and torttitas (some sort of, uh, I don't know, pastry thing? google it) and facturas (kind of like doughnuts. but slightly different)
Somehow I always manage to write about food.

Hmm, I this week we encountered a new investigator. Weird thing is, she's young- like 25 or something- and we don't teach many young people. And something I had begun to take for granted- that everyone basically more or less recognizes us as ministers of Jesus Christ here- was something Emily didn't do. but we explained that and she had a lot of very good questions which is far better than people who silently stare blankly at you and hopefully she will be dope to teach and stuff. And then also her athiest/jew boyfriend.

we went up to ullum today which is a big dike but I was sick s it was a little less fun for me. however I have some fun pictures I will send next week since I don't have my cord right now.

Well, I think that was all I wanted to write about, more or less.
El. Backstrom

El. Backstrom Walker of Long Distances

Hello friends. 

Due to the sad internet and my desire to send photos, I am currently writing you from wordpad offline as google slowly uploads various images. Good. However, this week has been rather enjoyable. We haven't had many lessons but we set up a capo week for this next week. Week five of the transfer already! time is just skipping by.

Hmm, our branch president's daughter, Ayixa (no it's not any better to say in spanish) is currently in the hospital. Hopefully she is cured soon because she is supposed to be going on a mission in tree months to Rio de Janero, Brasil. Also it makes Pres. Malki rather unavailable to assist with other things, of course understandably, but it is hard on the small branch to be down one of the four families we have...

Yeah. I just sent an email with images of life in Argentina to everyone on this list also. So there is that.

We had a really weighty lesson with one of our investigators who is having a difficult time with her husband/but not married/boyfriend/has a child with/ partner I guess is the word for that? and it helped me appreciate a greater degree the reason we're here, which is to help people with all sorts of problems, including those. it also made me appreciate how much she trusted us, to talk with us about a sensitive mater such as that.

On to the things I got out of my study of the scriptures this week, I encountered several really striking passages but I would like to highlight one in particular, which is the poem known as the psalm of nephi in 2 nephi 4:15-35. I the spanish scriptures, all of the psalms are divided or written in verse as opposed to the paragraph form the rest of the scriptures take, and I found it was rather interesting, and quite powerful on an emotional level, to read the passage in verse; so I'm going to divide it more or less into the same form it takes in the Spanish scriptures here.

 And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass.

For my soul delighteth in the scriptures,
and my heart pondereth them,
and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

Behold, my soul delighteth
in the things of the Lord;
and my heart pondereth
continually upon the things
which I have seen and heard.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord,
in showing me his great and marvelous works,
my heart exclaimeth:
O wretched man that I am!
Yea, my heart sorroweth 
because of my flesh;
my soul grieveth
because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about,
because of the temptations
and the sins
which do so easily beset me.

And when I desire to rejoice,
my heart groaneth
because of my sins;
I know in whom I have trusted.

My God hath been my support;
he hath led me through mine afflictions
in the wilderness;
and he hath preserved me
upon the waters of the great deep.

He hath filled me with his love,
even unto the consuming of my flesh.

He hath confounded mine enemies,
unto the causing of them to quake before me.

Behold, he hath heard my cry by day,
and he hath given me knowledge
by visions in the night-time.

And by day have I waxed bold
in mighty prayer before him;
yea, my voice have I sent up on high;
and angels came down and ministered unto me.

And upon the wings of his Spirit
hath my body been carried away
upon exceedingly high mountains.
And mine eyes have beheld great things,
yea, even too great for man;
therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

O then,
if I have seen so great things,
if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men
hath visited men in so much mercy,
why should my heart weep
and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow,
and my flesh waste away,
and my strength slacken,
because of mine afflictions?

And why should I yield to sin,
because of my flesh?
Yea, why should I give way to temptations,
that the evil one have place in my heart
to destroy my peace
and afflict my soul?
Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Awake, my soul!
No longer droop in sin.
O my heart,
and give place no more
for the enemy of my soul.

Do not anger again because of mine enemies.
Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

O my heart,
and cry unto the Lord, and say:
O Lord, I will praise thee forever;
yea, my soul will rejoice in thee,
my God,
and the rock of my salvation.

O Lord,
wilt thou redeem my soul?
Wilt thou deliver me
out of the hands of mine enemies?
Wilt thou make me
that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
May the gates of hell be shut continually before me,
because that my heart is broken
and my spirit is contrite!
O Lord,
wilt thou not shut the gates
of thy righteousness before me,
that I may walk in the path of the low valley,
that I may be strict in the plain road!

O Lord,
wilt thou encircle me around
in the robe of thy righteousness!
O Lord,
wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies!
Wilt thou make my path straight before me!
Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—
but that thou wouldst clear my way before me,
and hedge not up my way,
but the ways of mine enemy.

O Lord, I have trusted in thee,
and I will trust in thee forever.
I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh;
for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust
in the arm of flesh.
Yea, cursed is he
that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh.
Yea, my God will give me,
if I ask not amiss;
therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee;
yea, I will cry unto thee,
my God,
the rock of my righteousness.
Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee,
my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

Thanks, sorry that's long and I have to rush to head now, but have a good week,
El. Backstrom

walker of long distances

P-Day Adventures

With the Zone Leader Elder Huaman

El. Backstrom, Missionary, Possessor of Pants, etc

So, here we are again at the end of another week of the mission.
(how many weeks are there total? like 104 or something like that? hmmm. to lazy to do math.)

Good news, a week feels about two days long. time is just taking giant strides. Also good news, we met a bunch of cool people who we are going to go visit this coming week- stoked lady, who was stoked about everything, sweeping lady, who was sweeping her walk, dirty rap guy, who was listening to dirty rap- all of whom we forgot to ask for names. no wait, sweeping lady's name was Sandra. okay. One out of three.

This week everyone was sleeping because they where all partied out from easter. Which meant that very pocos personas eran en la calle y todovia son pocos que se leventan... tuvimos tambien pocos assistencias a la rama ese semanan :(

Uh, do I want to fix that? No. it was easier to write in Spanish and you all have Google translate so I shall BE LAZY

Ihave discovered that chili powder DOES INDEED EXIST in this country, meaning I can make chili also my own hot sauces because there are no haut sauces.

also an exciting update on Argentine politics, there will now be 70% Larger trucks, a proven fix for economic uncertainty! Also, new trains in mar del plata.

on the spiritual side of life, I studied many scriptures this week but by my interest was captured especially by Helaman chapter twelve, wherein the prophet nephi father of nephi of the twelve is explaining the need for missionary work and some of the challenges thereof.

Sorry folks, I'm a tad tired today due to the lack of sleep I get due to our downstairs neighbours music, which they begin to play around 11 every night- long story short, this email might be a little goofy to read. Whoops,

El. Backstrom

Holy Week

How do you do, everyone?

This week the internet is particularly bad, so I am not sure if I will be able to get out any letters beside my one big one.

Uh, so yeah, this was holy week in Argentina, so all the (pagans, catholics, use interchangeably) came to their groves and high places to worship strange idols such as "the virgin", a strange little woman portrayed holding eggs, "san expedito", a dude in a skirt waving a small cross at things, and "el gaucho Jesus", a cowboy named Jesus who was crucified by the army for pillaging and murder but somehow became an object of worship.... Haha. but yeah, the Catholics worship weird stuff. They where also out in force all week long, since semana santa is one of the few times they all go to mass. there where big parties and in all the plazas they had long sermons about things, I'm not sure what the sermons where about because all I heard of them where snippets like "today I had a little virgin so that we could pass it around better" and "When you open your stores, you need to put a prayer to san expedito in the door. The same in your house, in your car. this way san expedito will bless you with much things" So. yeah.

This week was otherwise rather action-less. we didn't have an astonishing number of things happen, it was just kind of.. normal missionary things. I'm not sure if I have ever mentioned this before, but empanadas need to be a thing in Canada. they are little pastry pockets of ground beef or other filling, and are delicious.

We did have a large number of church assistances, which was good- one of our "eternal investigator" families came out to church and had an interview with the branch president about getting their marriage finished so they can get baptised. So that was exciting.

anything else worthy of mention? we are, as always, eating well. Even if we have a week with few lessons, an asado-style lunch-dinner always lifts the spirits. (asado is long coal-smoked meat. straight up.)

On the scripture study side of things, I have been reading mostly out of my preach my gospel, studying the Christlike attributes one at a time, along with the accompanying entries in the "true to the faith" reference guide. one chapter in the scriptures that stuck out to me particularly was 1 nephi 22, as nephi is expounding important parts of Isaiah's revelations to his brothers. the last verse of that chapter was also of great note to me, when nephi says "and ye need not suppose that my father and i are the only ones who have testified of these things" and goes on to offer his testimony of the veracity of the holy scriptures and the divine nature of prophets.I put in a note in the margin, substituting "my father and I" for "my companion and I".

have a good week all,
I second Paul's condemnation of idol worship,

Elder Backstrom


So, here comes the weekly update.

I hope you all had an excellent conference weekend! I certainly enjoyed coming to hear the prophets speak, and a week of visiting and inviting people out to the sessions resulted in one of our investigators attending with her mother, who is a recent convert. I'm excited to get the conference edition Liahona and add that as one of my morning study resources. I particularly liked the Neil A. Anderson talk on how adversity helps us grow stronger.  that seemed to be a theme throughout the entire conference- to sand strong through adversity, defend your faith and be vigilant and diligent in striving to be a disciple of Christ. I also quite liked the Henry B. Eyring talk on how we have the opportunity to keep covenants, a them that was then reiterated in the Sunday morning session by what's his name, the presiding bishop. And of course, president Uchdorf almost stealing airforce one. that's always fun.

In all seriousness, if you missed any of the conference sessions or haven't watched the priesthood session yet, I would encourage you to take that opportunity. I found that as I listened intently and took notes, I was really able to not only feel the power of the testimony of the apostles, but extract specific, applicable counsel and promises. I particularly encourage you to obtain a Preach My Gospel manual as counseled by Elder Ballard, and to study from it, share your study with the full time missionaries in your ward and ask them about their study. The preach my gospel manual has an astonishing capacity to surprise me with seemingly new content every time I open it to study, and I can guarantee it will help you find simple ways to strengthen your own testimony, to share the gospel in everyday interactions with people, and to understand, cooperate and help the full time missionaries better.

I won't drag this email out since conference was more or less the only really exciting thing that happened this week (oh yeah actually transfer week, and elder spice and I are both staying in progresso another six weeks), but I will also share some particularly impactful scriptures I encountered while studying the book of Mormon in Spanish for the first full time. I found it interesting how the different order of the words made different verses pop out more particular to me: 1 nephi 13:11 and 15:37 are some of my favorite scriptures of the week.

Have a good one,
El. Backstrom

To My Fellow Humans

Hello fellow humans;

I excuse myself, I had to write some other letters today so this one might be short. However, I would encourage you all to read Mosiah 14-16, in particular 15:9,22-25. Those scriptures stuck out to me very strongly during study this week. It's a lot of material and some Isaiah prophecy. Very good, kind of doctrine heavy but good.

So this week our numbers of lessons taught and other such things have been rather low- for the third week running, we've been on a declining slope. Not ideal, but keeping in consideration the changing nature of missionary work in Argentina as the country continues to degrade economically, it's not really a surprise. if you take a look at a membership over time graph for the country, in the 1980's, the last major economic collapse, baptisms stopped (missionaries where actually all pulled out) and you can see that same cycle repeating it self, starting around 2001. I have been assigned to labour in some interesting conditions, and all we can really do is continue to be obedient and seek out the people who are searching for the truth.

The good thing is, Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the twelve apostles came to Buenos Aires and offered a Re-Dedicatory prayer over the church in the country of Argentina specifically, in the same place where the dedicatory prayer for missionary work in the South america south region was offered may years previously. If any of you are interested, I believe you can find it on it was a strong spiritual experience for me to hear those revelatory words of strength and guidance read in our sacrament meeting.

On another note, I'm almost done my training period. I find myself much more able to teach and communicate and Spanish, and have gained a much stronger grasp of most of the basic conjugations. I'm going to try additional to improve my form and correctness in the language over then next few months.

Also, Moroni 9: 11-14

Have a most excellent week,
El. Backstrom

Bad Water

Fine fellows, hello.

My keyboard is SO BAD today. Sometimes I wonder if good keyboards even exist in this country. Then I answer myself, no they do not.

I hear Russia annexed Crimea? good, well that's resolved then. I mean, they're literally all Russian anyway and now the rest of Ukraine can get on with whatever they where doing before.

This week was fairly, well, empty . We had a zone conference and a service project, both of which ate up days, and another three we where out of action due to a stomach illness. so, we unfortunately did not get much done. We taught only three lessons. however, three of our investigators came to church on their own- quite excellent.

During the down time this week I read the book of mormon (at zone conerence we where challenged to read it cover to cover again) and managed to get from 1 nephi 1 to 3 nephi 22. It was interesting, since we where supposed to read it fast and not go over scriputers repeatedly to get meaning out of it that way, but rather increase our familiarity of it as a whole. I found some new ways to look at certain passages, especially the repeated use of Isaiah, and the different ways different prophets wrote; the way each one has a unique style of writing and teaching is very interesting and a powerful evidence to me of the truth of the book. Other scriptures that I had forgotten about came to me more strongly as I read through again. I will probably finish in the next few days.

one of the scriptures that I encountered that I enjoyed most was 2 nephi 26:

" And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."

The book of Mormon is truly another testament of Jesus Christ. It bears powerful testimony of his divinity and the power of his atonement, and will be a strength and a guide to any who read it with faith and real intent.

that's more or less all I have for right now?

don't drink san juan water,
El. Backstrom

Stable currency vs. nice weather

Good day sir!

I have a crappy keyboard again. well not crappy, but the letters W, A, S & D have been rubbed off by the excessive number of young Argentine children who come and play counter-strike in the cyber.

We had two less actives and two investigators out to church, what's good!

Also there was and amazingly fluffy puppy that was super cute that one of our less active families had, and it was awesome. but then someone stole it so I can't play with it anymore.

The weather is better! but seriously. It's not to hot here anymore, and the weather has gotten really... Beautiful. just awesome. the exact right mix of warm but not hot. and the region is just pretty looking in general, so, yeah. it would be a great place to vacation except that the peso is absolutely insane.

Oh yeah, um, we built a roof on Saturday, out of concrete, and we're doing another one this week. Horray for applicable skills that I am gaining, I guess (if I ever want to build a janky flat roof out of logs, bamboo, concrete and liquid asphalt). But even better, there are pictures of the service project on the progreso branch Facebook page. here, wait let me go get the link wait I'm not allowed okay uhh just look up "Rama Progreso" and it should show up. there's a great one of a large amount of liquid concrete falling on me from above.

Spiritually this week I had a great experience learning the value of listening. we had an unplanned lesson with one of our investigators, Gorge, and he's a talker, an older fellow, 50 or so, and he just had a lot to say. I was struggling to really be able to listen to him since I had just had an hour-long language study and was feeling rather done with spanish. Still, I focused in and tried to get every single word he was saying. I was hard, and he was talking about things that I didn't necessarily think where super relevant. But as I kept listening, I started to understand more what he was talking about, and how he was expressing his doubts and concerns to us; We where able to understand a lot more of his needs on a spiritual level. He then made a somewhat abrupt change of topic and told us about the death of his mother and the impact that had had on him. he expressed how he had been very downcast and hopeless for some months after his mother had passed away, until one night he had a dream in which he though he saw his mother and heard her tell him that everything would work out. After he shares that powerful experience with us, I felt greatly moved by the trust we had earned in this man by being willing to listen patiently instead of trying to quickly share a planned message and move on to another appointment.

That experience and a couple other led me in my studies to some of the plan of happiness chapters in the book of Mormon. some of the verses that stuck out to me where 1 nephi 8:12 and the antecedent experience that lehi has finding the tree of life.

That's all for this week,
oh wait it's not I had questions to answer. We have lunch with members because that's the big meal here. we have lunch with members every single day except P-day, even though there are only like 9 or 10 families that feed us. They're fairly good about varying the fare, since we eat with each one of them almost once a week... We eat a lot of milanaisas? not sure if that's how you spell it... and uh other food to, like empenadas sometimes and casseroles and pasta, lots of pasta... lots of beef, lots of chicken. yeah.
uhhh now that's all for this week.
Have fun with your cold weather and stable currency,
El. Backstrom

Salutations from Elder Backstrom


I have a crappy keyboard oy so I may not write to to much.

Straight into it, I had a frustrating, or maybe enlightening experience with an investigator this week. A young couple who has family that is less active who we've been teaching for a good while now. we where talking to them about the steps they had to follow to have an eternal family. we asked them if they would be willing to get married in order to be able to be baptized, which is something they have both said they want to do: They said that they couldn't do that right now. I sort of left that lesson sad, because I know that they have had strong witnesses from the spirit, but they chose not to act on those experiences. It's not like that was really any surprise, though, since that is the situation with nearly all of the people we teach: that was simply one of the first times it sunk in really that people chose, more often than not, not to act. Pondering that I have really come to realize much better the amazing blessing it is to live in a place that has a strong culture of families, of faith-driven action, a work ethic.

Anyways, the other big thing that happened was that elder Russel M. Nelson came down and had a meeting with the 70ties of the south america south region, and instructed them to instruct the missions that they where over to change their focus to the reactivation of priesthood holders and endowed members as their absolute first priority in order to strengthen the wards and branches of the region. The fact of the matter is, if you have strong branches with enough priesthood, the missionary work will go forward. In a good close to a harder week ridden with trips to mendoza for transmites, we had three less active youth who we have been working with out to church yesterday. One of them is around mission age and we are hoping to get him active and out on a mission.

There are a lot of stray dogs here.

I have no money to buy food this week because ¿maybe? someone hico un falta con mi conta, entonces no tengo dinero por comprar cosas... it's alright though, i bought extra food last week (methinks the spirit whispered), and by next week I will have money again I hope. if I don't, Well, I'll have to go to the mission office or something.

My scripture of the week is in doctrine and covenants 33:7-9, which talks about missionary work.

Yup. keyboard was bad.

El. Backstrom

Bad keyboards are bad.

The Arrival of March

Ayynnnd the weekly email!

Today was a holiday so we had to go to a far location to get to a cyber that works.
Pench=pencion=missionary apartment

So, San Juan has become remarkably less hot through a combination of frequent, destructive rainstorms and the beginning of fall. Although It is significantly harder to get people to church in the rain, it is much more pleasant to be out working in than the beating sun.

to my mother specifically. what is a domesticated wonder pig, exactly?

Okay moving on. Spanish is very hard, especially since I need to re-learn all sorts of conjugations and the like. I try to practice with the Spanish-speaking missionaries, but I don't see them enough and when I do I'm usually rather tired and not particularly in the mood to hammer my way through a conversation. Some days are better than others. The most helpful learning experience is when we teach lessons, though, and if we could get into all of the appointments we set it would be quite amazing... however frequently people flake out on us.

On Saturday we got to do our biggest service project yet. We went to someone's home and I learned how to plaster walls with concrete. you've got to flick it really hard at the last second, or else it won't stick. we also poured out liquid asphalt on his roof and did some other things. It was a good long day; including the lunch we ate, we where there for a solid eight hours.

our week was busy but hard. a lot of the lessons we had scheduled fell through, some of our investigators stopped progressing, and both elder spice and I had some rough Spanish days (me far far more than him). On the upside, I've started to build a language learning plan, a personal study plan, and a Christlike attributes plan. considering the number of times I have read Preach my gospel all the way through, it's quite amazing how there always seems to be new things inside whenever I open it up. The entire book, especial the how to study, how to recognize the spirit, how to develop Christlike attributes and the Importance of the Book of Mormon sections, are of great value to anyone who wants to deepen their gospel study and understanding.

On a somewhat sillier note, I have discovered that if I coat myself in large amounts of axe body-spray  I an almost counteract the sticky scent of farm animal that gets on us whenever we're in the campo, which is a lot. Also I have started to develop a sizable ponch due to the lack of cardio and ab-exercise I do combined with the huge amounts of food everyone is always feeding us.

My favourite scripture of the week is ether chapter 12, which is a Moroni sermon on the power of faith.

Live well,

El. Backstrom

Olympic Week

Ahhemn. The weekly update:

There's a nasty bug going around the pench- elder Riaz Diaz and elder Spice are suffering the worst, but Huaman and I aren't feeling fantastic either. Not to dwell on the negative, the summer heat is slowly beginning to fade away, and nights are much more pleasant now, temperature wise. (Speaking of nights, my companion told me that I was making clicking noises with my mouth all night long. he was awake because of how sick he was feeling. I presume I must have had a dream about being a dolphin.)

On to more spiritual material, since we've had to stay in a few days this week because of sickness, I've read a lot of scriptures. So many that I don't even have on favourite on to put at the bottom of the letter... I'll think of one. My companion and I ended up playing a game where we would choose passages of scripture at random and see if the other could determine which book it was from. It was not only an interesting test of our scripture mastery, but a fun way to see the different writing styles of different prophets. I also found some valuable scriptures that I could use in teaching.

we are finding a large number of new people to teach from our ward references, our list of inactive families, and our area book full of former investigators. This last week we had 7 lessons with less-active members, which was great. the ideal is to have a less active and an investigator in every lesson. We where also able to give a priesthood blessing to a recent convert, an older lady who is struggling with some kind of serious illness that she has had for some years. It was the first time I had to preform a priesthood ordnance in Spanish, which was a learning experience. She's also the only member in her family. Her husband wants to be baptized we think, but we also know that his mother is very against the church. We are working on getting her two teenage daughters out to church but they are kind of lazy. Juana is very solid though, at church every Sunday and an active and excited participant in the gospel doctrines class. If people can come to church, everything else will fall into place.

Speaking of church attendance, one of our investigators came to church yesterday even though we had only challenged her to read and pray about the book of Mormon. Her mother-in-law, who is a member, and who she lives with, didn't even show up- that fact that she came alone is very impressive and bears testimony to me that if people will put forward the effort to plant a seed of faith, the spirit will work upon them in such a way that they will not be able to deny it.

We also went to a lesson with a less active family and their baby had something on its foot, so, presuming the obvious about Dr. Spice, they had him diagnose the scrape. quite entertaining.

I really don't know what else to tell about, although I'm absolutely certain that I'm forgetting plenty of entertaining things that happened to me this week. I always do. 
well, Alma 41:14. until next week,

El. Backstrom

Week Two in the Field

Okay and another highly anticipated, fun-filled weekly update, from the computers of urban cyber, san lucia, san juan, at the hand of your fellow servant Elder Backstrom!

Well, this week my update will actually be fun filled. Over the last three days, San Juan saw a rainstorm more intense than any in the past 22 years. Many poorly constructed houses, not built to withstand more than a light sprinkling of rain, collapsed entirely or had partial cave-ins or leaks. Then next week or so will be full of service activities for us (which is a great opportunity to share the word.) Unfortunately almost 2 600 people had been forced from there homes last time our neighbors got a newspaper, and that number has probably risen (oh yeah by the way mom elder spice has his mother send him interesting news articles by email. so long as I don't go a buscaring news... although, I'm not sure I even want to know what's going on...). That, coupled with the ongoing currency crisis, has led to rioting in the streets, cutting of main avenues of travel with burning tires and palm leaves. More or less we get to watch a country collapsing from the inside... it's an interesting perspective (oh yeah. the government has started blocking all websites that distribute information about the black-market value of the dollar.) So that's fun!

In other, more spiritual news, on of our investigators, who has some rather serious substance problems, made it out to church this past sunday. We are in the process of helping him to create an addiction recovery plan, and it's really cool to see the way that he's progressing. We also have a lot of former investigators and references to contact, as well as people to check up on and help after the rain... we're not bored, that's for sure.

In answer to your questions, mother, I actually need to drink more carbonated beverages, especially orange ones, due to the amount of sick that we have been getting. yes. well. I will not go into detail on that one. I haven't gotten my camera from the mission office (I also appear to have dropped my triple a-batteries and an extra bar of soap at the same time) but hopefully when we go back to Mendoza for visa stuff the AP's or someone will have found it and I can grab it.

In terms of food, I have more or less arrived at the conclusion that I lucked out super hard coming to argentina. I have yet to eat food that is bad. the style is definitely different, and they eat bread with everything and there is this strange mix of italian food and beef culture. Empanadas are delicious, the desserts are really quite unique, and the only thing I find myself really missing is spicy flavours. But it's okay, there are plenty of other things to try.

all the cars here, or not all of them but probably half or more, run on natural gas. It's super weird, super cheap, and apparently makes engine maintenance a lot easier (less moving parts because the fuel is pressurized means less things can break means that the 60 year old beater is still on the road). It's always stored in these yellow cylindrical tanks that look like something out of a videogame. the downside, as far as i can tell, is that it doesn't get you as far because it's a less complex hydrocarbon and it has a tendency to explode if treated poorly. (everyone gets out of the car when they refuel them) All the trucks are also small and european. It honestly feels like a poorer part of europe, which is weird but not that weird because everyone is italian.

Moving back to more spiritual matters, I've been doing some study in ezekiel recently and it's super fun. Favorite scripture of the week is in second nephi, chapter 33 verses 11-15. 

alright, all ye people, have good weeks. if there's a military coup let me know.

Oh yeah, I got stamps, so I'm going to send the physical letters I wrote in the MTC out this week. Yay fun argentine international stamps

El. Backstrom

Arrival in San Juan

Okay! now that I have that sorted...
No pictures this week, and probably not for a while because I forgot my camera at the mission office -_-

The weekly update.
or not so weekly, since I missed a p-day.

anyways, I am now here in mendoza, or rather san juan, a small province to the north of mendoza. It´s pretty dry, but has a weird amount of green in it because of a super extensive canal and river system feeding it with water from the mountains. So far, the weather has been nice, but apparently it gets REAL hot sometimes.

In other news, the peso is imploding. We'll see if that manifests itself as a coup d'eta or what.

Ah! finally, I´m out in the field. My trainer, Elder Spice, is from southern California but was born in Toronto so holds dual citizenship (which is cool) and can use Celsius (which is even cooler). We're working in an area called progreso, which is on the edge of san juan. most of our area is very rural and highly agrico. most people don't work or only harvest their grapes/olives, and so are very poor- but even the poorest have food, because it is all literally produced here and so is dirt cheap. So that's good.

Right now we don't have many investigators (We think, at least) (Okay to explain that I came in the middle of a transfer, elder spice just arrived in this area last transfer, and until he had me, he had a "minni missionary" [local young man looking to serve who is eligible but not gone yet who helps us fill companionship holes] so we have basicaly no anterior knowledge of the area) BUT we are getting a TON or references from our like, 20 active members who are super excited and engaged and awesome. Almost all of the references we have contacted have been great investigators, and we also have two part member families we are working with. Teaching actual lessons is one of the coolest things I have ever done, what with the huge amount of spiritual presence that you feel.

We had a really powerful lesson with a young fellow who had some amazing questions about god's plan for us, and we ended up talking for a super long time about the book of Mormon, the pan of salvation, the atonement... I left him with a challenge to read Alma 32:26-37 and let a seed of faith enter his heart. What a powerful passage of scripture, one that I had, I am certain by no coincidence, studied that morning. 

I've also been happily surprised, more or less, with the amount of Spanish I can understand in conversations. I have to concentrate really intently though, and after a long conversation I kind of turn off Spanish for a while because my brain hurts.

My favorite scripture of the week is third nephi chapter 12:20
 20 Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(emphasis added on the two actions that Christ requires of us to enter into his kingdom)

Last Letter from the CCM

Okay, time for the weekly update!

This week has been one of the better ones in the CCM. I have felt real solid progress within the language, can easily pray and testify in Spanish, answer simple questions, ect. I'm also almost done and I've got to admit, that has been a boon to my spirits. I hadn't really been feeling weary of the CCM like some other elders until this week... Even though I know that I'm not entirely prepared for the field, I can't wait to get out and working.

Some changes have been happening around the CCM over the past couple days. our new MTC president, Presidente Willis, was supposed to arrive in BuAr on the 21st at 12h30. However, an intense thunderstorm damaged the plan, shearing away ten feet of the leading edge of one of the wings and sending debris particles into one of the two turbofans. their plane had to pull out of its descent and luckily made it to Montevideo, Uruguay for an emergency landing. after that scare poor presidente Willis and his wife where stuck in Montevideo until 17h on the 22nd. Early that same morning, presidente Openshaw left to return home, leaving no overlap time between the two presidents. 

It was a little sad to see Presidente Openshaw go, but since I will be leaving the CCM in just a week regardless and I'm certain that this new president has much to teach me, it is cool as well.

Today was also the last time I will be able to go to the temple for two years. It was a little sad, but also an overwhelmingly spiritual experience. I understood much of the session and definitely felt strong impressions about how to better develop Christlike attributes in my life.

My favorite scripture of the week is 2 nephi chapter 29- which talks about gentiles rejecting the book of Mormon. I read it after a lovely devotional from Elder Bednar and his wife answering some questions they received from missionaries as part of the Christmas devotional. I would recommend you watch both- Christmas and January 13th, I think (we saw it delayed) if you can. I'm not sure if you can get them but i think you probably can... they are very good.

No pictures this week, and none next week either because i will be missing p-day (oh yeah. so I won't write again till i'm in the field.)

To my mother: Stop taunting me with that deliciously finished kitchen, it looks wonderful. Good luck with your school courses. and, uh, I had something important to say to you here which is why I started writing here but I forget what it is, so if you happen to remember... Okay I remember I have some physical letters I would like to send but I need US stamps so if you could help me work out a way to obtain US stamps that would be wonderful.

Read the scriptures, just honestly, trust me, do it. it's great,
-Elder Backstrom

Time Flies at the CCM

And it came to pass that there where only 12 more days in the CCM for elder Backstrom.
And thus we see that the faithful and diligent in learning the language receive their reward, while the goofy and distracted are thrust down into confusion and desperation.

Not really though, the language is progressing fairly well (I can understand about 70% of any given conversation in spanish) Although pronouncing words, even words that I know, is very difficult- and so I have a little bit of a struggle carrying on a conversation, being able to understand others but not express myself.

In my last update, I am not certain if I mentioned the new group of american missionaries who arrived. there where 9 elders and 8 sisters, and it's been good fun getting to know all of them. I've been quite enjoying myself and although I wish i was able to focus more on training, Overall things are going well.

I am slightly anxious about going out into the field, as my lack of speaking skills and petrifying fear of initiating conversations with strangers prevent me from doing much except translating what people say into English for my more vocal companions. I have faith, though, that as I practice, speaking to people will become more natural and i will be more able to stop people on the street.

This week's proselyting trip was moved to Wednesday, so I've had two since I last emailed. Neither time did we get any numbers, but both times we where more positive and unified as a companionship and more animated and varied in our speech. The second time, all the new missionaries went as well, and it was really interesting to hear their stories. Seems like the first person everyone meets is really nice.Proselyting is an excellent break from the CCM and a great taste of what's to come.

My favorite scripture of the week is 2 nephi 4. I'm going to send a GIF animation I made of my companion along with this email.

New Years in the CCM

There are four couples who work as cooks at the CCM, ion addition to the head chef, who is the Peruvian. The food is delicious and plentiful, which is not necessarily good because we do a lot of sitting and not much else; but hey, I think I can afford to gain a little weight. We indeed have cold cereal here, every single morning- but there are some other things that are different! There is this milk-armel spread that they put in EVERYTHING- elder ford dislikes it, but I enjoy it very much- called duché de leché (pronounced doolsey dey letchey). they also have drinkable yogurt and occasionally croissants for breakfast. other meals are mostly meat, done up in fancy ways. So much meat.

The killer devil birds are called "tédos!" in Spanish. they are frightening. the wildlife here is... very different. yesterday I was outside and saw a flock of parrots. Bright green parrots. Thank you for sending the cord for my camera, I did check in my bags but it was not in the pocket. I can continue to borrow one for the moment, though. At some point in the future, I will need to obtain US stamps, since the pouch system lets out in SLC. Speaking of which, you may want to find out how it works, because apparently it is better than regular mail.

We are always in classes with our district, which is five americanos. in our rooms we have latinos. there are now two other English and three other Latin districts again. There is one brazilian in the CCM right now (Elder leira, who is in my room) learning Spanish from Portuguese, but he is only here for the two weeks that native speakers get.

That was un-called for. (refering to that picture you sent me. Also mocking me with a beautiful finished kitchen.)

I'm glad that Ceris and her friends had a good time! it looks fairly ridiculous, and it's nice to get pictures from home. (Oh, maybe Dallin is home from work... not quite  )

I think I've answered all the questions you asked me. Now a little update on my life!

This last Saturday we went proceliting for the first time and I got an altogether wicked sunburn. The heat and humidity where oppressive. We started off the day confused and slightly lost, but shortly encountered a kind older catholic lady who welcomed us to the country in rapid Spanish and, with the help of much gesturing, explained that she was a writing teacher and her husband a concert violinist currently playing with an orchestra in Canada. Although she was uninterested, she expressed how grateful she was that we had left our homes to spread the message of Christ, which was a significant boost to our spirits.

Over the next three hours, however, we had no success trying to contact people on the street. our peppy "Hola, buen dia!"'s became tired and lackluster, until we eventually sat down on a couple benches in a little park. I practiced my Spanish while Elder Ford and Elder Harris read scriptures. Elder Harris found and read section 75 of the doctrine and covenants, which considerably lifted his spirits (and gave us all a good laugh at verses 22 & 23). He suggested that we try to contact some more, and, Elder Ford, seeing a gentleman sweeping his driveway, proposed that we talk to him. It just so happened that the man, Whose name was Walter, was quite interested in what we had to say and accepted a joseph smith pamphlet as well as giving us his number so that the local missionaries could come and talk with him & his family.

Shortly after that we sat down in another small green space to eat and a man, Davio, came over and started talking to us. He accepted the book of Mormon we offered to him and even requested that we sign our names inside. He assured us he would read it that very night.

The lord works in mysterious ways, but I think the lesson here was pretty clear. we had to humble ourselves and make way for the spirit before we had the chance to talk to the people the lord had prepared to hear our message that day.

The temple here is beautiful and we are able to go each week on p-day. It is a little confusing to do everything in Spanish, although I am understanding better each day. the temple is on the same "campus" as the CCM building- right now I can see it out the window of the computer lab.

I hope you are all doing well. Ceris, you should memorize more scriptures; or just spend an hour every day reading your scriptures like I do. you asked for me to call you out.

I am going to write a "proper" letter home at some point and you can expect it to be long and filled with the many things that I want to say to you that I don't have time to write at the moment.

Have peace and do not cast out missionaries from before your doorstep for they shall depart speedily from your house, and leave a curse upon it, and at the last days be the judges of your house, and condemn you. (D&C 75)
-El. Backstrom

(Just kidding. I, and I think most other missionaries, don't plan on condemning anyone.)

Christmas in the CCM (MTC)

si, Yo tambien sé solo poco espaniol. Aprendar a hablar el idioma es mas dificile y sin el ayudar de nos maestros nosotros aprendarions nada.
Well I'm glad you guys had a good christmas. P-day is regularly on thursday, but, today is new years so it has been moved. I appreciate the photos and wish I could send a few of my companions, however we forgot to pack my mini-usb cable (should probably still be plugged into the computer) and so for now I'll just have to use my words. (By the by if you're sending down a letter mind slipping that cable into the envelope? it's the mini usb, not the micro usb used for phones, but the one that should also plug into the big camera. i could also buy one down here but not for another 4 weeks.)
I have four other guys in my district. did I mention that before? Did I mention that we're the only missionaries in the entire CCM until tomorrow, when new people arrive (other districts left on monday in the morning)... It's pretty cool though, since we get to have a district fireside with Presidente Openshaw every evening. I do not regret bringing the doormats. The elders in my district are Elders Ford and Harris, my companions, and Elders Martinez and Sims, the other companionship. Ford, Sims & Martinez come from the states; Harris is from Cranbrook, BC. I have a photo of all of them I would love to send to you. The temple is also right by the CCM, and it's a beautiful structure. We've been through once so far.

Learning the language really is hard. Everyone tells me I have a thick french accent, which isn't hard to believe. spanish is spoken very high in the mouth while french is a far more guteral language, so shiching my pronuciation is extremly challenging. Every single "e" is pronounced "é"! On the upside, verbs are astonishingly simple.

Study has also been a big effort, although I feel a lot more prepared for that. We have tio spend every possible chance we have to study preparing for our investigators, and it is quite exasting (although a huge relief when things go well.)

I have more favorite scriptures now than I have ever had before in my life. Check out second nephi chapter 2, mormon chapters 7&8, Alma chapiter 5, 3 nephi chapter 11... Presidente Openshaw places a huge emphasis on love for the sriptures. When we have a class with him, he always starts by asking us for questions, and then, instead of teaching us a prepared class, using the scriptures that he has such an astonishing control of to answer and expound on any docrinal topic we ask him about!

This spanish keyboard is hard to use and annoying.

I'm glad to hear that it's snowing, that sounds wonderful! the coolest it's been here during the day is 29 degrees, and that was a day it rained. Still, it´s beautiful, amazingly green. I've been in the city once, to work on my or apply for or somthing my visa, and i was asstonished at the density and transit and distribution of wealth. Dad would have loved to have been on the bus I was riding on. they have bus stations, like for trains, in the middle of major throughfares! they also have a subway system, but I only saw signs for that.

Ceris stop temping me with star trek. you will love hitchikers.

have a good one,

by the by I might send another email with pictures if i have time, one of the other guys has a cord. correction not one of the other guys, Martinez. He is from Idaho very prepared.