From Muslim To Mormon

GwenGwen, who adopted the name Khadijah as a Muslim, is retired and lives in Portland, Oregon, devoting as much of her time as possible to volunteer work and writing youth and young adult Science Fiction. Gwen publishes on line, but wants to shift to self-publishing in her next book.

It all seems so surreal at times, my how the years have flown past me. From the time I was about 12, I wanted to know how we all got here. I wanted to know how things happened; how all this complexity around us came to be. Somehow, despite the abusive home life, and the darkness about me, I just knew that the beauty and complexity about us all is not an accident, and later I would begin to see that unifying intelligence could easily be called God.

I wouldn’t really address the idea of God again until my late 20’s, when I began to realize that certain things around me could not be random. I also felt that someone had helped me at several points in my life and the feelings became so strong that I began to really want to thank whoever was doing these things for me. So, in a series of what I consider to be God driven incidents I read the Bible and realized that the help must have been coming from God.

Those who are accustomed to the Holy Spirit working in their lives won’t find this surprising and years later it is very clear that Heavenly Father was pursuing me long before I knew it. In one series of events in 1974, one evening I had stood on the porch and marvelled at the astonishingly beautiful sunset; feeling extremely fascinated with how it happened.

Later that night, I watched a program that reviewed the book, “Late Great Planet Earth”, and the very next day, I saw the book laying on my boss’s desk. I borrowed it and spent the next two weekends reading it and comparing the passages quoted with the various versions of the Bible in the house. At the time none of us were Christians and I still do not know how the Bibles came to be there.

Me wearing a traditional hijab

Me wearing a traditional hijab

At the end of the second week end, I was on my knees, praying to God to bring me wisdom, and forgive my sins. After all, I had tiny children and knew that I was not a good parent. I was very worried about damaging them.

Interestingly, in the next 30 plus years, I’d find several different churches, but always felt as if something was lacking. After 9/11, my search for the one true God would even lead me into Islam for several years. I didn’t want to casually worship God, the only one who loved me, but I wanted to do it with devotion and obedience.

Along the way in life were many blessings and heart breaking hardships, yet I kept searching for the true God. In my early experiences with Christianity, many seemed to preach about Jesus on Sunday, but then be against the power there in. In several churches, it all seemed to be a surface experience and I’d repeatedly find that I felt too evil, too lost to ever be a real part of it all. Ever conscious of my own faults and being hated by those around me, I entered Islam.

For a few years, I loved the praying, highly organised and involving absolute prostration before God, I felt as if this was best for me. The problem is that Islam is a very closed society, and if you are not Middle Eastern and speak Arabic you are never really accepted. I loved Allah SWT1 and worshipping him, but was very hurt by the way that some Muslims treated me. No matter how hard I tried, it felt like I was failing God.

So it was, on March 13th, 2011 I found myself in Ohio driving back toward the apartment I shared with two other women in Painesville. I’d been out doing research on the Amish because I’d endured a harsh childhood at the hands of an Amish step father, and wanted to make sense of what I’d experienced.

Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple is a National Historic Landmark, now owned and operated by the Community of Christ

So, this day, in the afternoon, I was driving north and began to pass through the tiny community of Kirtland, Ohio. As I drove, I saw a strange looking building in the distance and gradually realised that it looked like a church.

Something in my heart leapt, and I felt compelled to pull over and look at the structure. I looked Kirtland up on my Android and realised that the structure before me was the first Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Over the years, I’d had several brief encounters with various types of Mormons, but I never got involved.

I was very fascinated with early American history, and knew that I had to see that building; go inside. Well, it was all locked up and the visitor’s center for that church was too; I would have to return another day. Getting back in my car, I started home, realising that I had no idea when it would be open.

Then I passed an LDS church and knowing that they had to be connected, pulled in when I saw cars there. Surely they would not object to just one question from me? At the time I was still Muslim, and dressed appropriately for a Muslim woman to include the abaya and hijab2. I worried that they would be mean and reject me as a terrorist as a few had done.

To my utter astonishment, the missionary sisters warmly received me, even after I said that I was just interested in American History and not becoming Mormon. After all, I was Muslim. One visit became two; two became four and soon I was attending the Mosque on Friday and Mormon Church on Sunday.

It did not take long for the differences and similarities between my two faith experiences to begin to become troublesome. I was certainly sure that the LDS I met were much friendlier than the Muslims I knew, and they spoke my language. In Islam, the way that Jesus Christ was handled always troubled me, and speaking of it, got me in trouble.

The baptism of Jesus Christ

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him

The missionary sisters and church members in the Kirtland area, gradually won my heart and helped me to believe that Christians could be loving and accepting, though I still have reservations about the LDS calling themselves Christian, because the Christian denominations I had previously experienced were certainly not as loving and supportive.

We jokingly settled on the idea that the LDS were version 1.0 and everyone else were version 8.1. It would take me some time to appreciate that the LDS do not speak harshly of other faiths, and that is one of the key issues that attracted me to them. I felt I was ready for baptism, but in reality, I had much to learn.

Almost three months passed, and when it was time to return to my home city of Portland, Oregon, I was convinced that I wanted to become a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. It was difficult to think about giving up my Muslim faith, but no one pressured me, and I am convinced that if I wanted to attend church in my abaya and hijab, no one would say a thing.

I was comfortable with Muslim prayer, my abaya and hijab, and the modesty and devoutness of my life, and still miss the security I feel in my hijab. It is difficult for some to understand; perhaps part of my soul will always be Muslim.

Finally on January 29th, 2012 I was baptised and there were lots of well-wishers there. Two of the sister missionaries who’d been my teachers in Kirtland were now at Provo and they drove up to Portland, Oregon. I was somehow uncomfortable with being baptised in pants, so they allowed me to find a white dress for it. I think that perhaps most of the church attended, including my roommates who are not Christian. It all flew by in a blur for me. I was overwhelmed.

Rainbow that appeared the day of my baptism

Rainbow that appeared in Portland on the day of my baptism


For the first time in my life, I felt loved, really loved for me, not who others wanted me to be. Early on, there had been questions about my believing in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith as a Prophet and the standard things that the LDS believe.

I kept telling them that for me those things were not difficult because I believed in Allah SWT, the prophet Muhammad PBUH3, and the Qur’an, so the step on to the rest of the truth was not difficult. I believe that Heavenly Father still talks to us through the prophet, Thomas S Monson. And, I believe that Muhammad PBUH was one of the prophets.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

  1. SWT is Subhanahu Wa tala and that means “glorified and exalted is he”, it’s an honorific that is seen as required respect when they use the word Allah. Muslims believe in one God, and Allah is merely the word God in Arabic. We worship the same God.
  2. I still believe in the practice of Hijab, but mostly don’t do it nowadays to blend into American culture. This Youtube video provides a great explanation into the real reason for Hijab.
  3. PBUH is another honorific and is used after the name of any of the prophets. It means, “Peace be upon him”. Muslims recognise the same prophets as Christians.

Credits

100 Years Ago: Insurrection, Death, North Pole

Robert Peary and Bob Bartlett

Robert Peary and Captain Bob Bartlett standing on a ship, Battle Harbor, Labrador, circa 1909

The following was adapted from the Improvement Era magazine of March 1911.

Insurrection In Mexico (Again)

The insurrection in Mexico, in the interest of Francisco de Madero, the defeated candidate for the presidency, which broke out on November 17 last, is still in progress in northern Mexico. Considerable trouble has been experienced by roving bands of robbers in Chihuahua, where they have attacked settlements which they considered were unable to defend themselves.

Several conflicts with government troops have taken place, and things are in an uncertain condition in that state. So far the settlements of the Latter-day Saints have not been disturbed, though much anxiety has been felt, and the situation is serious.

[Not much has changed in 100 years. Today’s Mexican Drug War, an armed conflict among rival drug cartels and between the drug cartels and the Mexican government, killed 12 mayors and a candidate for governor in 2010. Among the states that suffer most is Chihuahua, mentioned in the 1911 story.]

Falling Mule Death (Amended)

[This is a continuation of last month’s story]
Elder John Edward Kirkman, who came to his death in Hawaii, on January 10, it appears did not fall from a precipitous cliff into the sea. He came to his death in trying to cross a mountain stream which was unusually swollen. He got into the center of the stream, when his mule lost its footing, and he was washed with the animal over a high waterfall, some twenty feet below the crossing, which neither he nor his companion, who wisely did not venture to cross the stream, knew existed.

After strenous effort, the body was found in a cave below the fall; it was veiled by the falling waters and washed continually with the rainbow spray, so that his body was preserved as though in sleep. It is expected the body will be brought to Utah for burial.

North Pole (Almost)

Peary reached the north pole within a mile and three-fifths, according to the government report made by an expert who examined his observations. It thus appears that the exact spot was not reached, but it is evident that it was near enough for all practical purposes, and no one else is likely to attempt the feat in the near future.

Adapted from: “Passing Events”, Improvement Era, Vol. XIV. March, 1911. No. 5.
Photograph: Library of Congress, Peary & Bartlett, Battle Harbor
Rickety signature.

100 Years Ago: War, Death, and Western Pacific

The following was adapted from the Improvement Era magazine of February 1911.

No More War?

For the abolition of international war, Mr. Andrew Carnegie has transferred to a board of trustees, twenty-seven in number, Senator Root of New York as president, ten million dollars, in five per cent first mortgage bonds.

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie in 1913

The proceeds, five hundred thousand dollars annually, is to be freely used by the board to establish a lasting, world-wide peace.

When war is abolished, the fund is still to be used for the banishment of the next most degrading evil.

[100 years later, we have wars or conflicts in Afghanistan, Balochistan, Cambodia, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ingushetia, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, North Caucasus, North West Pakistan, Sahara, Somalia, South Thailand, South Yemen, Sudan, and Yemeni.

Founded in 1910, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is still in operation.]

Falling Mule Death

Elder John Edward Kirkman, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Kirkman, of Salt Lake City, and who was laboring as a missionary in the Hawaiian Islands, came to his death by drowning in the sea, on January 10.

He was riding a mule along the edge of a precipitous cliff on the island of Maui, when the mule missed its footing and fell with its rider into the sea, and both were carried away with the tide.

Elder Kirkman’s body was found on January 15, and was buried in Kipehulu.

[This is not the end of the Falling Mule story]

Passenger Interchange

The Western Pacific Railway has arranged with the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad and the Santa Fe for the interchange of passengers. This now gives Salt Lake City three trans-continental lines.

The Western Pacific promises to become a strong factor in the material development of the territory traversed by it in Utah, Nevada and California.

[Western Pacific was acquired in 1983 by Union Pacific. In 1988, Rio Grande Industries purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad, the combined company taking the Southern Pacific name. In 1995, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway. In 1996 Southern Pacific was purchased by Union Pacific.]

Adapted from: “Passing Events”, Improvement Era, Vol. XIV. February, 1911. No. 4.
Rickety signature.

100 Years Ago: Leading You Around The Gallery

The following was adapted from the Improvement Era magazine of 100 years ago.

In the spring of 1894, Elder Squires was serving as a missionary in Leipsic, Germany. He welcomed a new companion, fresh to the mission field, and showed him around the city. After touring the great market-hall and the library, they went to the art gallery.

On the inside the pictures had been placed in a series of rooms each connected with the other in such a way that you may pass from the first room into the next, and so on through all of the others and back again to the first. The new elder—I will call him Elder Green—did not know that they could thus move from room to room, and at last return to their starting place.

Improvement EraThe walls of the different rooms were crowded with the master-pieces of German and Italian artists. In one room was a life-sized portrait of Napoleon which Elder Green admired very much.

They passed on around through the different rooms, chatting and admiring the paintings, as they went, and had returned to the portrait of Napoleon.

“My goodness!” exclaimed Elder Green, “there is another portrait of Napoleon!”

Elder Green was not aware that they were on their second trip around. Elder Squires quickly led him from the portrait—he was curious to see how far he could lead Elder Green—before he discovered that he was looking at pictures for the second time. He kept up his interest until they returned again to Napoleon. “Well, well, another picture of Napoleon!” he exclaimed, as he viewed the great warrior for the third time.

They left the gallery. Elder Green had not discovered that he had seen all of the pictures twice, and some of them three times. As they walked away Elder Green wondered that the Leipsic gallery contained such a vast number of fine paintings, so many more than he had seen in the art gallery in London.

Elder Squires told him he had not yet seen the London gallery, and did not know how it compared with the gallery in Leipsic, but he ventured the assertion to Elder Green that London could not produce so many fine portraits of Napoleon.

Elder Squires never told his companion how he had led him around. The new elder had such confidence in him that he hated to let him know how he had played upon his confidence.

Leading You Around The Gallery

Do you have an acquaintance showing you how much greater and better and grander your opportunities for advancement, work and progress will be if you leave your good home and people to go there or yonder?—beware lest he is leading you around the gallery!

Have you a friend who tells you that the people of the world are so much freer than you are, and that your religion tends to make you narrow and one-sided, and then invites you to come out into the open and see the big world?—take heed that he does not lead you around the gallery!

Have you a so-called friend who tells you of the pleasure and freedom and manliness you may gain in the club room, at the gaming-table, in the saloon, in the pool-room, with up-to-date companions, as compared to the hum-drum of home and school, and the Church ward organizations?—set it down, he is leading you around the gallery! Every time, too, that you express surprise at a new Napoleon, he laughs in his sleeve at your ignorance and credulity.

Adapted from: Edward H. Anderson, “For the Development of Character”, Improvement Era, Vol. XIV. January, 1911. No. 3.
Rickety signature.

Daniel Reports In Sacrament Meeting

Daniel spoke in sacrament meeting yesterday with many family and friends present. For readability his address has been modified slightly. Here is the audio in Ogg Vorbis (13.3MB) and MP3 (14.8MB) formats.

Daniel exiting the chapel after speaking in Sacrament Meeting

Daniel exiting the chapel after speaking in Sacrament Meeting

Thank you for that musical number, that was wonderful. Well, I’m excited to be here. It’s great to see everyone that came out. One of the great things about my mission is when someone asks me where I went it is a trick question, because I went to Mongolia and Washington and Mongolia isn’t an actual city in Washington, it is a country. Before I was leaving I was talking to my Dad and I was saying, “Hey Dad, in Mongolia we’re going to be teaching English as English teachers. Can you help me with the language? And he said, “I don’t speak any Mongolian.” “No I meant with English, Dad.”

So it is wonderful to serve a mission, like Troy said. I remember talking with him in the MTC and it seemed to me he was fluent in Spanish before I even got there. The Church in Mongolia is progressing well. It’s fairly new there, the first missionaries went in 1992 and since then I was able to witness the first stake organized there. Also the Doctrine and Covenants was translated. It’s amazing to see the people’s lives and how excited they are to learn new things and to fully live the Gospel and receive all its blessings in their lives. So, the Bishop asked me to talk about obedience so I guess I’ll follow that.

There are a lot of different levels of obedience or reasons why we choose to obey and some of those are:

  • First we are obedient because we want a blessing.
  • Second maybe we fear we will lose the blessing.
  • Third is simply out of duty.
  • And the fourth reason to be obedient is for the love of the person that asked us to do it.

I think the easiest one for me to understand is when we are obedient we receive a blessing. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi was teaching his sons and he said:

…And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever. (2 Nephi 1:9)

So when we are obedient to the laws of God and keep His commandments, God has a blessing promised to us in return for each act of obedience. And it may be that we say our prayers daily, or partake of the sacrament, attend church, obey the word of wisdom. These commandments help us to keep the Spirit of the Lord with us and those of the things that come from it.

Daniel, Jake, and Rachel

Daniel with his brother Jake and sister-in-law Rachel

In one of my areas, I won’t tell you where it is you’ll have to guess, where I was between the two missions that I was serving in. One of the first things one of my companions taught me was if we work hard and continue to go forward the Lord will bless us. And this happened to be in a different area than I mentioned before: it was in Atlanta, Georgia.

With visa problems it kept us from going to Mongolia when we were supposed to so I served in Atlanta for three weeks and this was when my companion he taught me how to tract. And the area there was somewhat slow so we went out tracting. It was about two weeks we were just knocking everywhere and nothing was happening. It was a little discouraging I thought, “Well man I have to do this for two years?” But I soon learned that truly does the Lord bless and reward those acts of diligence.

I remember this one street, it was in a town named LaFayette [Alabama] and the first door we went to there was five people outside and they all wanted to listen. We gave them a Book of Mormon and they were so excited to learn, one of them had actually read half of the Book of Mormon and wanted to come to church that Sunday.

We continued on tracting, we had a few hours left, it was actually a few houses down we got into another house. We were so surprised we didn’t know exactly what was going on we taught the first lesson there and that was a wonderful experience. Also the next door, they let us in as well and at this point we were pretty grateful for the success the Lord had already given us and it wasn’t much later we knocked on a door. There was a Hispanic family, one of them could translate for the other three in there and we taught four people there. Across the street six Hispanic people were asking for copies of the Book of Mormon and the last house we knocked on we shared a message, they had a recent death in the family and they were willing to look for answers and for comfort. So I know that the Lord truly did bless us in that act of obedience to continue to be diligent and to work hard.

Daniel with friends

Daniel at home with friends after his talk. L-R: Jake, Greg, Kelsey, Dan, Ben

The next thing I wanted to talk a little bit about is the fear of losing a blessing. In the positive sense if we don’t pay our tithing we don’t get the return. I’ve found in my life, and a lot of people say this, you can’t afford not to pay tithing because of the blessings that come from it.

One of the things that motivated me to talk to everyone is that in the scriptures the Lord tells us that we need to open our mouths and to speak and the words will come to us. On the plane ride to Mongolia we were going from Korea to Mongolia, I had the chance to sit next to a native Mongolian and I was pretty excited about that. We spent three months studying this language and we had no idea if anyone would actually understand us or if they were kidding in the MTC, “Hah you’re going to learn this.” I got to sit by her and she knew English fairly well and as I was there talking to her she asked me, “Well, doesn’t your church not drink coffee or tea.” I said, “Yeah, and I taught her a little about the church, and I taught her a little about the Book of Mormon and things I had learned how to say.

Later we started to exchange words a little bit, she had some strawberries on the seat next to her so I was like, “Well what’s the word for strawberries in Mongolian?” and she’d write it down and that went on I wrote book, ruler, scizzors. She’d write it in Mongolian, but she got confused on the scissors part and I learned how marvelous Mongolian people are they tell ya straight up. I learned that scissors isn’t spelled with two z’s. It actually has two s’s in it. It was humbling for me to learn from a Mongolian that lesson.

I like the the quote that someone has said, “It is better to obey commandments because we fear punishment than to not obey them at all. But we will be much happier if we obey God because we love Him and want to obey Him.” (“Obedience”, Gospel Principles, Chapter 35)

Another command that if you obey, great blessings come, is the commandment of the monthly fast. The fear on that one is that you can break it at anytime, you go down the hall and there’s the drinking fountain and you accidentally take a drink, you’re like, “Oh no!” But the principle of fasting I truly learned how powerful it really is.

Daniel, Mark, and Connie

Mark and cousin Connie with Daniel

There was this woman, her name was Nyanaa. She and her son were going to church regularly. Her son was baptized and she wanted to be baptized as well. She found out that she hadn’t received her marriage certificate and so years passed and her husband wouldn’t agree to get one, he was kind of a drunk and he kicked us out occasionally when we stopped over there. She truly wanted to be baptized.

About three years passed and it was just about the time that I met her. She explained her situation and my companion and I decided to fast for her. We put a time aside, we started our fast and we were determined to do a full 24 hours. So that it could mean something and also so that the Lord would know that we were willing to sacrifice. And I think around this time the Mongolian food started to look a lot better and I got a lot hungrier. It was probably the most difficult fast I have ever done in my life and I soon learned why those temptations were there.

After that fast Nyanaa was able to get her marriage certificate about a week later and later was able to be baptized. The coolest thing about it was her son was now 17 and was able to baptize her. So I know that when we keep the commandments and also principles like fasting if we are truly serious about it the Lord in return blesses us. There is the scripture in Doctrine and covenants that reads, and this is the Lord telling us that if we don’t keep the commandments it’s not His fault, but it’s ours. He says:

Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?
Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C 58:30-33)

So on these levels of obedience there’s the first few that I think all of us fall into a few times and that’s not a bad thing. I think what we should strive for, or continually work towards, is that we do it out of an act of duty or out of the act of love. There is a quote by Joseph Smith that says, “When the Lord commands, Do it.” That is something that I’ve tried to live by: when you don’t feel like doing something that’s about the time that you should go out and do it.

That is where somewhat the struggle for me came on my mission. The language of Mongolian was really difficult for me to learn and I knew that I had been called as a missionary and it was my duty to teach the people and I really wanted to share how I felt, but it was hard to explain things and especially when they would talk back it was hard to understand them. I remember working so hard and praying really hard that the Lord would help me learn and communicate and share my testimony with these people. At the times when I thought I couldn’t go farther or was about to give up that’s when I felt a peace or a warm feeling and the Lord really blessed me to experience the gift of tongues and the language would come easier. At those times I would recognize it wasn’t me learning a foreign language, it was the Lord helping me and using me as a tool in His hands. So when we do all we can to fulfill our duty, to do what the Lord has asked of us, He promises in return that He will help us accomplish that. I truly know that the Lord does do that, He fulfills His promises and we can trust in His hand to guide us and to lead us.

Now there is the act of love. I think Jesus Christ was the perfect example. In the book of John He talks about how, he came to do the will of the father and he said,

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (John 6:38-39)

Jesus Christ had His free agency. He didn’t have to come down and he didn’t have to suffer for us, but I believe and I know that He did it because He loved us. He wanted what was best for us and with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ working together all of us have the chance to return back to Heavenly Father and to bask in their love.

Through obedience to the Gospel and through living its principles we can receive all the blessings that Heavenly Father has for us and wants to bestow upon us. I truly learned to love the people in Mongolia and also in Washington. It is amazing that when you serve someone that love develops more in you than I think they even realize.

The people I was able to work with have taught me so much and my companions as well and all the leaders in my mission were inspirations to me and I always strived to become more like them and to also be more like my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that through study of the scriptures we can learn knowledge that can help us to be more obedient to God’s commandments. I truly know that Christ lives and He loves us and that Heavenly Father has made a plan for all of us and we can learn it through the Book of Mormon, and through coming to church, and all the things, all the commandments God has asked us to do.

These things will help us become more like Him and have more peace and happiness in this life. I’m grateful too for my family and all the support they gave me throughout my mission and I’m grateful too for my friends. I’m grateful that my Dad was able to help me with English a little bit. It turned out that I needed it a lot more than I thought.

And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Aurora, Adalaide, and Cassandra

Daniel's sister-in-law Adalaide, with his nieces Aurora and Cassandra

Thank you to Paul and Megan for helping to transcribe Daniel’s talk.

Elder Daniel Willoughby

Elder Daniel Willoughby
Elder Daniel Willoughby, son of Richard and Jill Willoughby, has returned home after successfully serving in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar and Washington Kennewich Missions. He will speak December 26 at 3:20 pm. in the Kaysville 14th Ward, 9 W 550 S., Kaysville.

A week by week account of Daniel’s mission is here.
Rickety signature.

Missionary Dan Epilogue

My guest writer is Susan Mathews Hardy, the mother of Elder Nathan Hardy, one of Daniel’s missionary companions. Susan wrote a letter to Daniel’s mission president, timed so that Daniel will receive it from President Greer on the night before Daniel returns home.

Thanksgiving Morning
November 25, 2010

Dear President Greer,

I know you will be sitting down soon with Elder Willoughby as he leaves the mission field. I wanted to take the time to tell both of you thank you: thank you to you for following inspiration to pair my son with Elder Willoughby; and thank you to Elder Willoughby for being an exemplary trainer. Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to “be the best missionary you can so God can work miracles though you.” He taught Nathan that missionary work is real and very rewarding.

Nathan wrote to us this week, “it takes two to ‘kill’ a Willoughby” because “he is a really good missionary! When I talk to the other missionaries who came out with me, I feel very blessed that I had a trainer who taught me good habits. Your trainer sculpts your view of missionary work and it’s hard to break bad habits that your trainer teaches you. I will miss Elder Willoughby when he goes home in 3 weeks.”

Elder Hardy and Elder Willoughby

Elder Hardy (left) and Elder Willoughby

We knew that Elder Willoughby was special and that Nathan was blessed when we heard that Willoughby had had the experience of serving in three mission fields. This realization was confirmed each week as Nathan wrote home.

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan humility (to pay tribute to those who had gone before). From Nathan’s first letter home: “We can definitely tell when the last missionaries in our area worked hard as well. If it’s God’s will and if people can become just a little more converted by the Spirit, I’m sure we’re going to bring 5 people into the church this transfer. (Maybe 7, but less likely). My trainer told me that never happens and that the last Elders must have been really hard workers.”

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to work hard. From a recent letter, “I hope my new companion is willing to work hard like Elder Willoughby and I did. A lot of missionaries are lazy. My motto is GOY BAR – get on your bike and ride. Missionary work is really that simple. If you’re willing to just leave your apartment, God puts people in your path to teach.”

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to value the Spirit. “It’s a lot harder out here to keep the Spirit with you all the time than it was in the MTC. But, we’re praying a lot and trying to keep it.”

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to serve. “Some people choose to schedule doing tons of service projects for people doing yard work and everything. This is a great use of time because it softens people’s hearts and makes them listen to you a lot more. They see that you’re really dedicated and they don’t understand why you’re out there just to help people. This curiosity leads people to conversion.”

Elder Hardy and Elder Willoughby with a couple

Elder Hardy and Elder Willoughby with a couple

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to give investigators their space, to let the Spirit work a little longer in their lives. “We are pretty laid back, we never push anyone too hard; we just befriend people and invite the spirit into their lives.”

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to attribute miracles for what they were: miracles (to recognize God’s hand in his life). “I’m not sure I ever told you guys about the story of the bike lock. We really felt like we should tract this one area and we rode way out there and then we were locking up our bikes and we realized we didn’t have the key so we couldn’t lock them up. We looked everywhere including in the lock and our backpacks and everywhere and we were so disheartened because we knew we needed to tract right there right then. We looked at each other and I said let’s check the bike lock again; we did and it was there. We were both shocked, because we had just seen it wasn’t there. We had, no doubt in our minds, already checked there. Both of us. We said a thank you prayer. Those things happen every day. I couldn’t write all of them cause it would take too long and it kind of takes away from how special those experiences really are.”

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to not concentrate on numbers and that it is OK (and even better) to relax while working hard. “Many missionaries push people hard and take themselves too seriously as a missionary, focus on the numbers, and get stressed out. Elder Willoughby and I don’t. We never get stressed out. Many people have this determined attitude going from appointment to appointment as fast as they can. We ride fast often, but we kind of lollygag a little in our travels and go ‘hey lets go down this street to get to the next appointment.’ This may seem bad—it did to me at first—but I realized that if you keep your mind clear, then it’s a lot easier for the Spirit to guide you. Every time we feel like taking a different way, even when it means we might be a minute or two late to the next appointment, we do it; and every time it’s been inspired. We end up doing more work than those people who are tense because they have to take breaks. We lollygag a little sometimes, but we work from sun-up to sundown; we ride our bikes like 20-25 miles a day; and we teach A LOT of lessons. I love it. It’s fun.”

Elder Willoughby and Elder Hardy prepare for a baptism

Elder Willoughby and Elder Hardy prepare for a baptism

Elder Willoughby prepared Nathan for being forgotten by those at home. “This is the first week of my mission that I haven’t gotten any letters at all. It’s funny because Elder Willoughby told me that somewhere between 4 and 6 months everyone forgets about you and stops writing. I used to get like 2 letters a day and now I haven’t gotten one in a week so it looks like his prediction is coming to fruition.”

Elder Willoughby taught Nathan how to be positive through the opposition of being dropped. He also taught Nathan to spend his limited time with the people who are progressing. “We’re working hard. In the past couple weeks, like 10 of our investigators have dropped us or we have dropped them. Then, two were baptized. So, our teaching pool is a lot smaller, so we get to do a lot more tracting which is nice. It’s nice also ‘cause we get to focus our efforts on new people and finding the elect ;).“

In recent weeks and the weeks ahead, Elder Willoughby will reflect on what good he did in the mission field. Most elders reflect on the converts that they have. However, I think that one of the most important things that Elder Willoughby has done is being an extraordinary trainer. He has left a legacy of “sons” and future “grandsons” that will carry on what he has taught them. What he has taught the next generation will result in more conversions than is humanly possible for one elder. His influence will grow exponentially.

With tears of gratitude in my eyes as a mother, I say that I count one of Nathan’s biggest blessings in the mission field is to have been trained by Elder Willoughby. Thank you to both of you for seeking to be Heavenly Father’s hands and seeking to follow the Spirit.

Sincerely,

Susan Mathews Hardy

Missionary Dan Returns Home

First view of Daniel

Our first view of Daniel

After two years and 47 days, Elder Willoughby finally returned home from his mission. There were several families there to greet him. Bryson and Aurora held up the Welcome Home Elder Willoughby sign that was generic enough to be used for four missionaries.

At the airport were Daniel’s parents, his three brothers and sister and their spouses (and fiancée) and children. Also Daniel’s Uncle Mike and cousin Christopher; Aunt Susan and cousin Shauna; and Jill’s cousin Julie.

Welcome Home Elder Willoughby

Family to see Daniel

Waiting for Daniel: Jill, Susan, Aurora, Bryson, Sarah, Shauna, Adelaide, and Cassandra

Daniel happy to be home

Daniel and Shauna

Daniel and Shauna

Nieces welcome Daniel

Daniel meets his nieces for the first time

DanielDaniel with his family

We all went home to enjoy a delicious meal. But first Daniel headed over to the stake center to be released by President Thredgold. I asked President Thredgold if I could take a picture. He said, “Is this going to end up on Rickety?” Well, of course! Later that evening Daniel stood by his Welcome Home Dan sign, all l lit up in wonderful Kaysville — home.

Daniel and his stake president, President Thredgold

Daniel and his stake president, President Thredgold


Welcome Home Dan
Rickety signature.

Missionary Dan Email #35 from Vancouver, Washington

Daniel (right) and companions with Bayarsaihan

Daniel (right) and companions with Bayarsaihan

It was really fun to see Bayarsaihan. We ate some buuz and played with sheep ankle bones. I was happy to be able to still speak Mongolian well. Some of the time I couldn’t understand her, but she could understand all the things I said.

With that to start off the week it was great. We have four investigators that are making lots of progress. I realized about a day ago I won’t be around much longer to see them. It is a strange feeling… I love being a missionary and doing missionary things. It is a very simple and joyous work to do.

Love, Elder Willoughby

Daniel and companions at Portland Temple

Daniel (left) and companions at Portland Temple

Elder Daniel Willoughby is serving in the Washington Kennewick Mission. After flying home next Tuesday, Daniel will be released from his mission.
Rickety signature.