Monday, April 29, 2013


Hello everyone!!

What a crazy week it has been!  If you wonder about the weather here, I will start with that.  We live in the West, so it is the warmest spot in Norway.  There is rarely too much snow - it still comes - but there no snow today.  We usually have to wear our raincoats - it rains quite a bit here, but it's not unbearable.  I can't tell you exactly what the weather is because it is in Celsius - so I'm still getting used to that.

I am getting better at the language, it's still coming along - not sounding so foreign, but I still have loads to learn.  I have been here in the land almost 2 full months - but I am grateful for progress I've made and where I am today.  I came with a strong testimony of the things that I teach - so at least I did not have to gain a testimony as well as learn the language.  Fact is, I love the Gospel and everything that I have learned in life through it.  I know that there is no other way that I could have gained more wisdom and learned of myself, but through Christ and His example for me.

So this past week, we had a few splits days (we go with different companions from different areas).  It was the last full week that we are still in a 3-some companionship.  I like to nickname us the 'tri-fecta'. Although I am 22 and one of the 'older missionaries', I still love to have fun and keep the spirits up.  The 'tri-fecta' was supposed to have a baptismal date - unfortunately our investigator ran into some adversity.  Her faith is not strong enough to overcome some of her past baggage, which has seemed to creep back into her life . . . if you catch my drift.  It's a sad thing to see the Adversary's grasp on some people.  We will see in the weeks to come what will happen.  However, in the same area this investigator lives - we had a try-back on an apartment we have knocked on before.  What was supposed to be a 10-minute teach, turned into an hour long teach.  The woman we taught was excellent - she ended up telling us that for the past 15 years, she has been trusting in God in all that she does.  Her question, "why is it that I need a book (Book of Mormon) to help me?" - I was completely overtaken by the Spirit - because I had once been in a similar situation.  I just relied on the fact that God would provide for me, and I didn't necessarily need to actually read my scriptures in order to find guidance.  I then gave her recognition that where she is, is where we need to begin.  We must first acknowledge that God really does want to teach us and that He hopes to bring us happiness - and teach us a lot.  I testified that the Book of Mormon is another tool that we are offering her, because through that book we are able to learn more about God, His nature, and the love that He has for each and every one of us.  The Spirit was strong - brought my voice to show some emotion, and she ended up just concluding with 'thank you'.  No more additional questions.  I am just grateful that the Lord provided me with such a sweet and simple experience.

The second great experience I had this week was on splits around Stavanger.  I ran into a man who was sitting around the pond in the Sentrum of Stavanger.  He turned out to be a Commercial Lawyer from Sweden, now working in Stavanger. We talked with him for a whole hour.  Because of my background in Finance, I was able to share with him my perspectives and some doctrines of our church.  His heart was opened as we discussed the Plan of Salvation next to the pond in Sentrum.  He went from having absolutely no desire - to giving me his name.  I hope to someday come in contact with this man again -  young guy, reminds me a lot of one of my best friends, Josh Beck.

It was not our best week teaching-wise.  It was a little unfortunate, the realization that faith needs to be something built upon and trusted in, rather than just shattered by the first swipe of the Adversary.  I know that the Book of Mormon is a tool to help us build our faith, so that when the Adversary does come - we can trust in the Lord to provide for us.

I am grateful for this experience.  I love the people I am serving here in Sandnes and Stavanger.  These are some of the best people I've ever met.  They remind me a lot of myself and my home ward - many similar struggles because the numbers aren't the most solid, but we do what we can and we work as hard as we can.  I am grateful for Norway, the Lord, and the opportunity to learn from Him.

I miss my family and my friends, but this is the greatest experience an individual could ever experience. Glad to be 22 and serving a mission!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Family Updates and a Baptismal Date Set

Hello everyone!

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to write to everyone again.  I am grateful for the support that I receive from friends and family!  You are all a blessing.

This week:

I missed my niece's birthday party.  Elise in 'One-derland'.  As you can tell, she turned one and my sister-in-law prepared an amazing birthday party!  She even found time to write me during the week, so I am grateful for that and to hear good things happening in my family!

This week was great though, we have a baptism that is coming up - we bumped the date back to May 5th.  A single mother of 3-children; we are hoping to encourage her and allow her to feel more comfortable in the decisions she has come so far to make.  It is excellent to be a part of the changes in people's lives.  To see their self-worth, self-confidence, and love for their family growing.  Most people think that religion holds you back from 'experiencing life'.  'There are so many rules.'  The very simple reality is found in scripture; as you lose yourself in this work, you find yourself.  As you hold to the commandements of God, you are set free from the chains of the world.  Such a sad incident that happened this past week in Boston.  It's an extremely sad world, but to participate in working as the light of the world is an absolute blessing.  As we bring our lives more in harmony with what our Heavenly Father desires and expects of us; as we bring our will in accordance to his - we can discover that miracles will be brought forth.  In my short almost 2 months in the land (tomorrow is my 3-month mark, crazy!) I have seen miracles upon miracles and I stand as a witness that faith really does bring about blessings in this life and in the next.

There is no doubt in my mind that this Gospel will bless the lives of those who are willing to listen.  I am not here to force anyone into commitments that they don't understand, but as a missionary that can help them

recognize the true joy that comes from having a family - and being an example to that family. This is my way of encouraging my family to be the best that they can be, and it's so satisfying.

I have felt myself becoming more connected with the work, the people, the language, and my desires to be better.  My confidence is growing in stopping people on the street to talk to them about a message which will only bring light into their life.  Often they say, "well I find joy in helping others and being a good person."  Of course that brings joy!  But there is even more joy to be a part of.  To know that miracles will be brought to pass, just on a simple act of faith.  When I grew up I used to think, "Well the Bible and the Book of Mormon, all those people are just people who have experienced miracles."  I have come to realize in the past year especially, that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us each, individually.  He knows exactly what we need most.  Even if it isn't exactly how we envision it - He has a plan to make us even more happy.  As we begin to act on faith towards Him, He then brings about miracles.  Miracles do happen and I've witnessed them here.

I love this opportunity that I have to be a missionary.  I love my family and friends and the support you all give me.  There is not one person in my life that I am not grateful for in some respect.  My sister, Stephanie is a huge blessing to me.  She puts forth time for me to help me keep this blog - and as you can see, she is extremely talented.  I am so grateful for the talents we have all bleen blessed with - and the simple idea that we can truly grow our talents.  I am here on a mission growing talents.  I would have never knocked on someone's door - or walked up to someone on the street - especially not to speak with them about religion . . . in a foreign language that's not even French!  What am I doing!?  I love it!  I am growing and becoming exactly what I never thought I could become.  I love this work and I am grateful for Heavenly Father - who knows me individually and allows me to grow every day.  It's great to be a missionary!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blessings of Charity

Hello everyone!!

It's great to be out here on a mission.  I am hoping to become better everyday - I truly feel and see miracles performed every day.  I try to recognize them.  This week, the best miracles came with one of our investigators.  A single mother of 3 children; when the missionaries first met her she was living in a crisis center, temporarily.

After the first visit - she was living in her own apartment.  We continued to meet with her, she has been praying every day, and just this past week she received a Visa to stay in the land.  It was a blessing that I made sure to point out that Heavenly Father really did bless her.  She knows.  The best part with this investigator is that we've tried to visit her a couple times, but she wasn't home for a couple of the visits. However, we found her once in the mall with her children, and the second time at the bus stop.  Both times, we returned to her home to teach her and had lessons that made much progress.  It's so great to see the miracles that occur as a missionary.  It has to be so tough to be a single mother, but when we go there to teach I play with her children - and I know it is a relief for her that she gets to focus on her relationship with Heavenly Father for a little bit while I play with her kids.  Just to see the smiles on their faces, I feel like that is what Christ would do if he was here, doing this work.

I am grateful to be a missionary, just to see the impact the work has on families.  It's so satisfying to feel those feelings of charity.  I know that if we put our full trust in Heavenly Father, with faith He will answer all of our problems.  My full trust and confidence is in the Lord, that He will provide for us - and he truly has.  I am getting more comfortable in the land every day, I now understand the language more and more (even in church) and I feel better walking the streets and contacting people here in Norway.

It's great to be a missionary - thank you everyone for your support.


Eldste Holden

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Post Conference: April 2013

What a week it has been!  I am continuing to grow as an individual, a disciple of Christ, and as a missionary.  There is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than 5-sessions of General Conference as a missionary.  For those of you who don't know what General Conference is; every 6 months our Church's General Authorities (Prophet and Apostles) assemble in 5 different 2-hour sessions of conferences where they give us insight, instruction, and promised blessings.  Each General Conference-- leading up to this particular one, I have felt that I needed to serve a 2-year mission for my church.  Most importantly to Jesus Christ, because of the many blessings he has given me and my family over my short 22-year life.  I was so engaged, soaked in every word, and felt so inspired to be the best all-around person I can be.  For those of you wondering, we were able to listen to it in English.  We watched the First Session here in Stavanger at 6 PM - our time.  The next day, we started with Priesthood Session at 11.  Sunday Afternoon Session at 2, then the regular time Sunday Morning at 6 and Sunday Night at 10 (yes, we did stay up until 12 on our mission! Not rule breaking, just listening to the words of our prophets.)  I have never been more fulfilled in my life listening to the words of men who have truly been called of God to fulfill a role in an inconsistent society.  It's been a unique experience listening to General Conference as a missionary.  I wish that everyone were to have the same experience and experience the same joy as Jesus Christ's Gospel has to offer.

These types of feelings I was able to share with some of the investigators that we have been teaching.  It is so fulfilling to witness to strangers and investigators; I know that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and I know that this Gospel can bring peace during every trial that life puts us through.

We had some pretty solid door-knocking days.  Some nice conversations and experiences at people's doorsteps - some baptismal dates accepted and witnesses that Heavenly Father is looking over us.  I will share an example of this.  Today is our P-Day, we decided to help a family's daughter and husband move to a new house.  This family is one who I have spent some time with and have a great appreciation for, although there is my language barrier - I love them greatly.  We helped the daughter move, successfully - eventually they drove us to a nearby mountain (where most of my pictures are from) and we climbed to the top.  As we got to the top, there was an amazing view all around us - it is the highest point in the area we are serving. When we went down from the top, my companion and I had to run down - because it was getting close to the time that we had to get back to our apartment, shower, and head out to a dinner where a family from the ward was hosting one of our investigators for FHE (another blessing).  As we were running down the hill and came to a couple, they asked my companion where we were from.  When the couple found out I was from Chicago, IL we had a great conversation the rest of the way down.  He ended up being a Lutheran pastor - and he and his wife had lived in Chicago for 5.5 years.  As we got to the parking lot of where we were dropped off, my companion and I still had a long way to go.  The couple found this out, and offered to give us a ride to the bus station.  We got to the bus station quickly - got home quickly - showered quickly - left our apartment to head back to our appointment (ran into a couple we have been teaching as investigators, talked to them long enough to remind them to read the Book of Mormon) then we got to our FHE/dinner appointment at 5 o'clock, exactly the time we had planned for it.  I tell this story only to offer examples of how the Lord works.  It may be a confusing story, but read through it - and find how the Lord's work is not about oneself, but about how he wants us to be as successful as possible; as long as we are willing to put forth the work. 

Just this week I read the words of Ammon to his brothers in Alma 26.  These words mean more to me now than at any other time in my life:

Alma 26:11-12  11 ''...I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

I look forward to the miracles that I will witness on my mission.  I look forward to the blessings my family will receive.  I look forward to changing the lives of many - because I desire to help bring others happiness.

I am grateful for this experience; to be a missionary and to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It is real, the blessings of Christ exist in it and I hope to bring the people of Norway nearer to it.  I hope everyone has an excellent week.  I thank you all for your support and I love you all very much!

Eldste Holden

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

God Påske

Happy Easter to everyone!!

What an excellent time of the year to have the opportunity to be a missionary.  This week has been pretty amazing.  Norway as a whole is pretty dead during this week.  All the stores are closed for the week, kids are out of school, families are on vacation up in the mountains.  Everything is dead, but the missionaries try to do as much work as possible.  This whole week, we had tons of dinner appointments - which means we got to eat so much Norwegian and Phillippino food.  It was so good, but the work aspect was so great!  For many weeks we have had a problem with one of our investigators not getting to church.  Our prayers were answered by a family willing to pick our investigator up, along with her three children.  It was such blessing!  We also had a couple solid lessons this week, but the best part was the opportunity we have to represent Christ during the most special time - Easter.  It made me reflect on how great it is to be able to represent Him and His ministry on the Earth.  He did so much good, and as missionaries - we are able to represent and try to emulate that good.  People recognize it on the streets.  Almost every child you come in contact with gets a great big smile when you are around.  It's like they are afraid of other people, but when you come up to them representing the Light of Christ - they in turn light up too.  It's something I probably will never get to experience post-mission, but I have many months to enjoy.  Knocking on doors is pretty crazy too, some people want nothing to do with you - rightfully so.  I can't say that I would want some people knocking on my door, but I know that it is part of our work and that there are some people who are prepared for this Gospel in their lives.  It's a special thing to be a part of. 

The most eventful thing that happened this past week for me; I was assigned a talk to give yesterday afternoon.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous about it, but the talk seemed to flow for me.  I wrote it all out (på Norske) on Saturday and gave it on Sunday.  Unfortunately, the extent of my talk was only me reading a script.  I want so badly to just have bullet points and to expand on those points in Norwegian, but I know that I am making progress every day.  I am so grateful for it too.  I will attach a copy of my talk.  I am grateful to a fellow missionary, a Zone Leader I live with, Elder Abrams.  He edited it for me, which helped me not look so bad on the pulpit.  So, I am grateful for that!  But it was about a 7-minute talk, delivered.  I felt pretty weird that I was giving a talk on Easter Sunday in Norwegian, but many people in the Stavanger Ward came up to me and told me that my Norwegian is so good.  I wasn't too sure if they were just trying to make me feel good, but I was just glad to get it over with, and I'm feeling pretty good today!  The streets are still dead as stores are still closed, but tomorrow it's back to common life again.

I hope everyone had an excellent Easter!  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to write these blog posts.  I am grateful to my sister, Stephanie, for helping me keep this blog (she posts all the pictures and posts for me).  I am grateful for my many supporters, family, and friends.  I am grateful to be a missionary and to represent this work - I still don't feel like I deserve to represent so great a cause, but I am trying my best to live up to it.  Ultimately, I am grateful for the highs that only Jesus Christ's life and ministry can lift my imperfect self to be.

Have a great week!

Eldste Holden


God påske brødre og søstre. Jeg heter Eldste Holden, jeg har vært her i Norge nesten 4 uker. Jeg kommer fra Rockford, Illinois - en by som er en time fra Chicago. Jeg håper at dere skal alle forstå meg, men hvis du kan ikke - bare vite at jeg er så takknemlig å være her i Norge med dere og at jeg håper å bli en god misjonær.
Før jeg kom på min misjon, studerte jeg finansier i et universitet i Illinois, hvor jeg avlegget forrige Mai. Jeg er her på en misjon, fordi vet jeg at hva jeg skal snakke om i dag er sant. Og jeg håper å hjelper andre folk vet at evangeliet er sann også.
Min emne i dag er om Johannes kapittel 14 verse 27... Der er så mange måter vi kan snakke om hvordan Jesus Kristus gir oss fred. Men i dag, ønsker jeg å snakke om pakter og de velsignelser som kommer fra å inngå og holde våre pakter.
Vår hensikt som misjonær er å <<Innby andre til å komme til Kristus ved å hjelpe dem å motta det gjengitte evangelium gjennom tro på Jesus Kristus og hans forsoning, omvendelse, dåp, å motta Den hellige ånds gave og holde ut til enden.>> Som de opprinelige tolv apostlers var fortalt av Jesus Kristus i Mattheus 28:19-20. 
Jeg ønsker særlig å snakke om dåp og templet pakter.
Disse to hendelsene krever oss å inngå til pakter med Gud gjennom ordinanser. Når vi inngår pakter med Gud, gir vi vår selv anledningen til å anvende Jesu Kristi barmhjertig og forsoningen. Vi viser vår villig, å bli Guds folk.
Første, når vi inngå pakten het dåp - lover vi Gud at vi alltid har hans navn med oss, og at vi vil alltid representere han i det vi gjøre. Dette er noen ganger mest vanskelig, men når vi oppfyller våre lofter er vi lovet i tredje Nephi 11:33. Når vi blir døpt, blir vi født på nytt og blir Guds folk. Det samme skjer når vi delta i nadverden, vi fornye vår dåpspakt.
Etter dåp, her vi en andre anledning og inngå en pakt med Gud. Det er min favoritt emne å snakke om og det er templet. Det mest fredfulle sted på jorden er templet. I templet, finnes Herrens Ånden, og vi kan inngå mer pakter med Gud, og hjelp andre folk inngå pakter også. Som et begavet medlem av kirken, er vi løvet mange velsignelser, og vi kan lese om de i Lære og Pakter kapittel 109. Vi kan begynne i vers 22 <<dine tjenere kan gå ut av dette hus væpnet med din kraft, og at ditt navn kan være hos dem og din herlighet være rundt om dem og dine engler våke over dem.>> I verse 25 <<Intet våpen som blir laget mod dem, skal ha fremgang. Og verse 26 <<Intet ugudelig forbund skal ha makt til å oppstå og få overhånd over ditt folk som ditt navn skal hvile over i dette hus.>>
Der er mange stor velsignelser som er lovet oss som begavete medlemmer. Og det er hvorfor vi ønsker å inngå pakter med Gud i templet. Jeg innbyr alle til å lese Kapittel 109 og overveie de store velsignelser som vi kan ta som begavete medlemmer.
Jesus Kristus fortalte oss i Lære og Pakter 29:34, <<for meg er alle ting åndelige, og aldri har jeg noen gang gitt dere en lov som var timelig.>>
Med våre andelige pakter vi har inngått med Gud, gir han oss anledningen å bli <<Væpnet med [Hans] kraft...og [så skal Hans] engler våke over [oss].>>
Ingenting har gitt meg mer fred enn mine forholt med Gud og Jesus Kristus. De har løftet meg opp til høyere høyder og har lærte meg så mye om denne verden. Jeg vet at når vi blir Guds pakte barn, skal vi se mirakler rundt oss. Jeg har aldri sett mer mirakler i mitt liv enn det jeg har sett i disse siste 8 måneder i mitt liv og jeg vet at det er fordi jeg har inngått til, jeg har utførte tro på Jesus Kristus, og nå er jeg her i Norge å vitne mange mirakler til.
Det er min bønn at vi kan alltid huske Jesu Kristi forsoning, som gjøre oss i stand til å kunne inngå pakter med Gud, slik at vi alltid kan representere han. 

Disse ting jeg sier, i Jesu Kristi navn. Amen.