And to all a happy Boxing Day.

Well short letter today, and then some pictures.

Christmas was awesome. We had ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. On Christmas Eve we had tamales. It was just a bit different from the traditional swedish fair that I usually have, but I'm not complaining. They were good. We have so much stuff and food at our apartment. The ward likes us TOO much...

This week will be good. Our district leader challenged us to "the perfect week" (20 lessons and 140 contacts). Elder Miller and I have done that once, and taught over 20 lessons twice. We think we can do it this week. It is probably the last week both of us are together. It is most likely he gets transfered, but there is a small possibility that I could. We'll know on saturday.

-Elder Richards

The district opening presents at the DL's apartment.

Comanche building in San Jose. The Behemoth where they fed 210+ missionaries a steak and egg breakfast

Oakland Temple Visit

This week was very cool because we went up to the Oakland temple. It is a really odd temple compared to others, but it is really cool. We took up a less active we have been teaching and a recent convert to do baptisms. We were scared because our investigator bailed on us at the last second and you need to take investigators up to the visitor's center/ grounds to be able to go. Since the temple is out of our mission, there are lots of restrictions. We are blessed to be able to go when we can. We called President and he actually gave us the go ahead to go. It was a neat experience being on the temple grounds. There is always a unique spirit at the temple, even on the grounds. Elder Miller and I were able to sit and ponder and receive revelation for our investigators for a little while. The temple is the best place to do that. The Oakland temple is in a beautiful area. It overlooks Oakland and San Francisco and the bay. 

The recent convert that we got up there to do baptisms had a great time. She really felt the spirit inside, and we are helping her prepare some names she can take for the next time she goes. The most exciting news with her is that she found a new place to live! Her place right now is probably less then 500 square feet and should have been condemned a long time ago. It is an awful environment, since it is tiny for the 1 adult and 3 small children that live there, and it is on the east side of Salinas, which is a very gang controlled place. It isn't very healthy for the kids either. The Lord opened up a place for her that she had been on a waiting list for for 8 years. It is an answer to the prayers of her, us, and all the leaders of our ward. We can't wait to get her out of there, away from the danger and bad influences. 

This week is shaping up nicely. We picked up the new part member family and are now teaching 3 part member families. That is one of the aspects of the rescue test is that we really focus on working with part member families. Our lessons and numbers have taken a slight dip, but this week should be a strong week for us. 

I am having a great time here, and am excited for the steak and eggs breakfast for all the missionaries on the 24th. I'll also get to see my old MTC buddies, so that should be cool. 

Merry Christmas to all,
Elder James Richards

PS For information about why Temples are built and what they are for, visit

Fountain out front, Elder Miller and I

Oakland temple

Everyone that went

Nativity out front

Busy, Busy, Busy

We got two new investigators and baptismal dates this week. Next week looks good for finding new investigators as well. We have an appointment set up with a nice part-member family. They have been in church the last two weeks, but the husband has been in the finals grind for the last couple weeks, so we haven't been able to teach. The wife is a non-member and he is less-active. As their family has been growing, they have been more serious about coming back. It's the rescue test at work. 

Tonight we have a lesson with another part member family that we have been teaching for a while. His mom, who is a little anti, will be there for the Christmas season. Cool thing is, he still wanted us to come over, and he is still going to the temple visitor's center on Saturday. The next few lessons with them should be interesting. 

Saturday was an example of the way that ward activities should be. It was our ward Christmas party, and it was excellent. The Bishop challenged the ward council to bring at least one less active or non-member. A lot of them did it, and we had quite a few less actives and investigators and both our recent converts and their families there. All in all, there were 140 people there! To give context, there were 130 in sacrament meeting. We were very excited about the turn out. Some potentials came out of it. This ward is an excellent missionary ward. They have really helped us out. This area is about to start booming again. 

The coolest thing that happened this week was a Zone Leader (and me) meeting with Elder L. Whitney Clayton, Elder Evans, Elder Maynes, and Elder Allen of the 70. Elder Packer (our area authority) and President and sister Watkins were also there. It was really cool. They came to evaluate the rescue test and talk about a new pilot they will be rolling out at the beginning of 2012. It was great to meet them all and receive good instruction.

It was a great week. This week should be just as good. 
And don't worry, we scored a Christmas tree. 

-Elder Richards

The Rescue Test

This week was busy, but in some aspects a little disappointing. We had to drop one of our investigators. He regressed so far and doesn't want anything to do with us now. One of our investigators is out of town and we couldn't catch him before he left. Finals at Hartnell, the local college, are also happening this week and next, and since we teach so many YSA aged people, that affects our teaching. We are working on finding some new investigators. Between the two baptized last transfer and the ones we've had to drop, investigators are running thin. We have some good refferals though. We have been beefing up our less active teaching pool. One of the less actives we teach taught the gospel principles class yesterday. The rescue test is working here and people really are coming back. It is great to see. I enjoy not tracting. 

This week L. Whitney Clayton and some other general authorities will be here to roll out another pilot program. It deals with service. We will probably be doing a lot of finding through service in the coming months. He will be talking about it to all the Zone Leaders, so I get to go up there this saturday. 

If I see a decent bike somewhere, I'm going to buy it. There is a good probability that I could be on a bike next transfer since Elder Miller will probably leave, and the ZL status goes with it. The 2 sets of spanish elders that cover salinas share a car and are on bikes. They could make us do that with Salinas 1st (the english ward in south salinas). 

-Elder James Richards


This week was weird for us. We had transfer meeting on tuesday. President had another trainee and I bear our testimonies' and share one of our recent converts conversion story's. I am getting better at speaking in front of people. It was pretty funny because President threw the Monterey district, in our zone, for a loop. The old district leader got transfered to Freemont to be a zone leader. They then failed to call the new district leader up to the new leader's meeting. Elder Miller and I had no idea who it would be until we were actually at transfer meeting. Elder Miller informed the Elder about an hour before our Zone Leadership meeting. Needless to say the new district leader is nervous. Kind of funny, but he'll do great.

Thanksgiving was excellent. We went to the Campbell's house with one of our recent converts and her family. The 20 year old daughter and the daughter's boyfriend are investigators. It is kind of sad because they are slipping away. Their mom is an excellent example for them, but they just won't commit. But I digress. Thanksgiving was great. The family appreciated being there and the Campbells are "ward renowned" cooks. Their pie was an acceptable substitute.

Friday wasn't real fun since I woke up with a 100+ degree fever. I slept till 12 and it went away, but I still felt funky.
The week was slow since it was a holiday. We just did a lot of service. Always fun doing service.

This transfer will be focused on finding investigators, and getting in the doors of more less actives. Since we baptized 2 last transfer and could only teach about 3 less actives consistently, our teaching pool is waning. We will work on bolstering it back up this transfer. We have some good prospects and are working with members to get referalls.

That was this week. Pretty uneventful, but our fridge is stocked so I'm happy.

All quiet on the western front.

-Elder Richards

Pictures from last monday's aquarium visit.

Ocean out back made me feel at home. Aside from it being cold out...

How to Be a Member Missionary

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but just haven't had time. This is my write up of the Preach my Gospel fireside that President Watkins gave with Elder Packer (area authority, not Boyd K.). This fireside was all about how members can get involved in missionary work. Since we don't tract anymore, the rescue test employs a greater use of members in finding. We have been bringing the fireside to members to help them catch the missionary spirit. We used a lot from chapter 9.
Developing the Faith to Find
"The doctrines and principles in this chapter will strengthen your faith that the Lord is
preparing people to receive you and the restored gospel. He will lead you to them or
He will lead them to you." (PMG pg 155)

This is a reassuring paragraph. It also applies to members. The Lord is certainly preparing people and either they will be lead to us or He will lead us to them. It goes with the house analogy. In an investigator's life, the Lord builds the foundation. He is always letting them have experiences and meet people that will prepare the investigator to hear the gospel. The members then come in and build the walls. They are responsible for the social conversion. Fellowshipping the member and being a general positive influence for them help build up a good view of the gospel. The missionaries then come in and top it off with the roof. We are responsible for the teaching. We can be bolder then a member can be, and the members don't have to worry about the teaching since that isn't their job. If something goes wrong in the teaching, you can always blame it on the missionaries. We get transfered anyway (that was President Watkins' interjection). There are always difficulties and obstacles that members have with sharing the gospel, and Elder Packer gave 5 "arrows" that we can put in our quiver to help us. 

"2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;"  (2 Nephi 21:2)

1 Pray for missionary experiences everyday. 

As we pray for missionary experiences, they will happen. They will not be grand manifestations of someone coming up to you and saying "I want to be baptized!" They will come more subtlety, but they will happen. An opportunity where a friend asks "what did you do this weekend?" or "Why don't you do that?" are excellent opportunities to share the gospel. Those are missionary experiences. We are no longer in the days of "help the missionaries find the right people." We are in the days of "help me find the right person." Although we missionaries still love and are grateful for the prayers.

2 Use the Ward Council
This point highlights that we can bring names to the ward council members and they can bring them up. Ward councils now are all about helping people and making sure the needs of people are met, and less about which auxiliary is which and calendaring. Letting the ward council know of needs of people is a great way to help with member missionary work.

3 Feed My Sheep
This point is interesting. Elder Packer suggested that we make a list of 100 names, ranging from our best friend in the world, to the cashier at the grocery store whose name we don't know. Throw out any preconceived notions of "they wouldn't be interested." Just write down names. Then take this list and prayerfully select a few names. Elder Packer listed 3 or 4 examples of how people off his list have been baptized. Not everyone will be prepared enough for that, but opportunities will come. 

4 Invite People to Everything
This point helps members build those walls of fellowship. It helps people interact with other members and feel that spirit, even if it isn't a gospel centered event. Christmas is coming up and between choir performances, the First Presidency broadcast, ward christmas parties and all the other stuff going on make great things to invite non-members too. I am challenging everyone reading this letter to bring at least one non-member to something this christmas season. The more you invite, the more bridges are built, and the more apt they are to investigate the gospel more seriously.

5 Invite people to Sacrament
If people are ready, invite them to sacrament. Sacrament is one of the best places to feel the spirit. It helps people learn and grow, and receive answers to prayers. Elder Packer threw out a stat that some huge percentage of people who attend sacrament are baptized (sorry, don't remember the number). Sacrament meeting is the best way to help a person know more about the church. When they are confused or ask you some deep doctrine question, turn that into a sacrament invite. Say something like, "I don't really know that, but you can learn things like that at church with me this sunday." Something along those lines. Turn everything into an invite. Another point Elder Packer made about invites is that many people are flattered to receive them. Inviting someone to see you give a talk, teach a lesson, or see a child's baptism or ordination, is an honor. When we are invited to a catholic baptism, a christening, a Bar-Mitzvah, or some other religious event, we are flattered. It goes both ways. 

Remember that no effort is wasted.
No Effort Is Wasted
When people choose not to investigate the restored gospel, your work is not wasted.
Your consistent efforts in serving and teaching as many people as you can is one way
God prepares His children to eventually receive His servants. He often reaches out to His
children through you. Even when people do not accept the opportunity to learn the
gospel, your service and words are evidence of God’s love for them and may plant seeds
that future missionaries and members of the Church will harvest.
When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged. You have raised a
warning voice. You have given them a clear choice. Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when
people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are
doing. They continue to diligently move forward. (PMG pg 170)

We've been teaching people that for a couple weeks now, and we've seen returns from it. I know that as the members are involved in missionary work, the work progresses even quicker. It is the best way to do missionary work.

Have a good week and remember to pray for missionary experiences. 

-Elder James Richards

The Second Transfer.

Well this week starts the new transfer! I have been on my mission for about 2 months. My trainer, Elder Miller, is staying with me, since the new training program has us on a 12-week course. He will most likely be transferred at the end of next transfer. This transfer has been a highly successful one. Elder Miller can't remember the last time he had 2 baptisms in 1 transfer. We are hovering right around 17 lessons. We got over 20 once. This next transfer's goal will be to give the extra push to try and consistently reach 20 lessons. Not many areas in the zone (or the mission for that matter) can do that. We are planning a temple trip to the Oakland temple for baptisms for our recent converts and others, and a visitors center trip for some investigators and less actives. President Watkins allows us to take investigators to the visitors center, or see our converts get their other temple work done after they have been a member for a year. It is an exciting prospect to think that I could be at the temple in a year with some of the people we recently baptized. 

Today we went to the Monterey aquarium with our recent convert and her family. It was pretty cool. Lots of sharks and fish, and I got to pet a bat ray. It was good for the mom to get out of their little east-side house, and the kids to run around and see all the fish and stuff. The ocean smell brought me home.

-Elder Richards

To Sincerely Listen Again

Hello all,

This week has been great. We taught a ton of lessons, got some new investigators, but more importantly, got another baptism. Gina was baptized on the 12th (I voted for the 11th) and confirmed yesterday. She was nervous and anxious and excited before the baptism. After she was happy and calm. I love seeing the conversion people make. We use the words "convert" and "conversion" for a reason. When people accept the gospel it is an incredible change in their lives. They work to their baptism day and satan does so much to try to derail them, but when they make it, there is nothing sweeter. 
Yesterday I went to the outgoing fireside in San Jose. It was really cool. The missionaries leaving bare their testimony and there are some musical numbers. You can tell some of them are really scared to leave. I got to see a few missionaries that flew out with me and they are doing well. Next week we won't be the newest missionaries anymore. I'm almost done with my first transfer...
The apartment is a mission apartment, but it isn't too bad. I am always either eating leftovers or making some type of something. I don't really ever eat much frozen food. We always get a ton of bread for some reason... My backpack already ripped. A sister in the ward sewed it up for me. I figured mom would probably be disappointed I didn't know how to do it.
-Elder Richards

After the Baptism

Wild turkeys in Marina. We'll see if they are still there after Thursday...

Gina's Baptism!

My trainer, Elder Miller, and his two trainees

Get ready for another ridiculous week.

The work is moving forward nicely. While our numbers weren't as high as last week, we worked just as hard. We gave a lot of service, which is part of our "Rescue test," or the program that was put into place when they got rid of tracting. We have also been working through a less active list and contacting our referrals.  We have a baptism scheduled for saturday and satan doesn't want to let this one go. He is throwing so much stuff in our investigator's way. Yesterday being an example of how hectic things have been. We called her before church, and she was having a mini-meltdown about her baptism this week. She was scared because she knows it is true, but it is a huge change for her. She ended up missing our sacrament. We went over there, talked her down, and convinced her to go to the Salinas 1st ward sacrament meeting. She went and loved it. Her children were also fairly well behaved. Probably better then I was as a crazy 3 year old. We will be working very hard so nothing satan throws at her will derail her this week. It seems like everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, the week before an invesigator is baptized.

We worked so hard on getting her and her family to church, and we were also greatful for the people that were in church. We had a less active there for the 3rd sunday in a row. He is this great German guy who likes to ask the ridiculously difficult questions. He keeps us on our toes. We also had a 25 year old guy, who is also less active, in church. We have been teaching him since I got here. Tonight we are going by to teach him about the priesthood, since he hasn't been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood yet. This is a big part of the rescue test. We try to help less actives back to church. So far, it has been working pretty well.

This week we have an appointment with a referral that we set up. We left a message and she actually called us back. Amazing. It should be a very busy week.

 The work is moving forward well here. I know that we are seeing the benefits from the members continued support and prayers for missionary expiriences. Working with members and the ward council is what drives the work here. It is WAY better then tracting.

Love you all,

-Elder Richards


The term President Watkins coined for being incredibly busy all day, everyday is running. We were running this week. 

Let me start out by saying, we had a baptism! One of the lady's we teach has been meeting with the missionaries for a while and was baptized on October 29th. I didn't have much role in teaching her, but I did teach her a few times. Most of the work was already done when I got here. It was still cool. It takes a lot of time to set up and prepare for a baptism. This took a huge chunk out of our time this week to teach, but that is ok, baptisms are what this is all about. 

In addition to all the district meetings we have to go to (four of them) we had a zone leader training in San Jose Friday morning. Rather then dump me off with a random companionship in Santa Cruz, my companion decided to take me with. I learned a lot in the meeting, but the highlight was that I learned the difference between a turbo turbocharger and supercharger. President Watkins really loves cars and racing. It was a great meeting, but we weren't able to get back to our area till about 3:00. This, the baptism, and the district meetings took a huge chunk of time out of our teaching. It was OK though since we were running. 

This week we were successful in hitting 140 contacts and 20 lessons. We also have a ton of prospective investigators that we are trying to set up appointments with so that we can start teaching them. Some of them are very well prepared. We met one, a 19 year old, outside the back of a shopping center while we were contacting. We randomly went to the back, even though we were contacting and we had to talk to a lot of people. We didn't know why we were going back there, but now we know why. He is a really nice kid, and we came back to teach him about the Book of Mormon. We followed up and he said he had read and prayed about it. Problem is, he doesn't have a phone, so he is really hard to get a hold of. 

One funny thing that happened this week was at the Halloween party and trunk or treat. An investigator was having trouble figuring out what to dress her 3 year old up as. We get to the trunk or treat and he is a missionary! It was so funny. We walked him around and kept handing him cards that he would then give to people walking by. We need to take him contacting with us. That family that we are teaching is awesome. My companion says he has never seen as much of a change as with the mom. She had some incredibly problems. Right now she is slated to be baptized the 12th. The spirit does incredible things and works an incredible amount of miracles. This gospel truly does change lives. 

Thank you all for your letters and support. All is well in Salinas.

-Elder James Richards

Elder Miller, my companion, and I before the baptism.

Baptism on the 29th. She has a phobia of water. She ended up being fine during the baptism.

Logan, the missionary! We walked around the trunk or treat with him and had him hand out cards

Salinas, California

    Salinas here is awesome. It is a very weird city. A hefty migrant worker population with some farm land and some Californian suburbia homes stuck in. The culture is fairly lowridered. It is funny when we are walking around we always hear people blaring mariachi music. Never thought I'd see that. Its interesting how different the Mexican culture is from the Cuban or South American culture. The ward here is great and we are blessed with a very dedicated ward mission leader. We are working closely with him to get things with the ward done. The ward council is fairly high functioning as well. There are lots of great people on it. 
    One interesting thing about the mission is we don't do any tracting at all. Elder Ballard came to the mission shortly before President Watkins got here and took the mission off tracting. So far, we are the only mission on this plan. What that means is we street contact a lot more. The mission goal is 140 a week. It is tough to achieve in our area, but the Monterrey elders just got 600. We will work to hit 140 this week. The mission goal for lessons is also 20 a week. This includes actives and less actives. There is a big emphasis on reactivating less actives in the mission. Again, it's a hard goal to achieve in our area, but we'll work for it. 
    After we got to Salinas we immediately got to work. We taught one lesson that night. We taught a lady that is having some real troubles in her life. We are working with her, and she has felt the spirit and feels the value of the message that we share with her. On Saturday I had a unique opportunity to go to a wedding and a baptism. One of our investigators got married to her fiance who is a member. The investigator is getting baptized next week. My companion is super excited for that since he has worked with her for the whole time. After the wedding we went to a Baptism in seaside. It was cool to see both ordinances done in the same day. Saturday was also another unique opportunity. President Watkins and the area authority, President Packer, put on a preach my gospel fireside, in which they asked for members' concerns about sharing the gospel and alleviated those concerns. Hopefully this fires up our ward to be proactive with their missionary work. The ward mission leader said he counted about 10 families there, so we will go visit them and talk about the fireside to see if they have any referrals. I'm doing well here and am excited for the work. We get fed every day. And I can't wait for my Patriarchal Blessing.
Doing work,
-Elder Richards
MTC District

86th Ward Crew

James posing as Samuel Smith

Provo Temple

The Missionary Training Center

Week One
Classes are super busy. We learn lots and are teaching "mock investigators" with our teachers or other volunteers. I really can't wait to get out to the field. Two other guys in our district are going to San Jose, and the rest (including my companion) are going to Milwaukee. Today in the temple I did talk to an Elder leaving for San Jose at the same time, and he has 8 other Elders in his district going to San Jose. My district is a great group of elders. Very spiritual. Mostly from Utah haha. I'm just learning a lot about teaching and such here. My favorite is teaching our TRC investigator, who is a volunteer that we go visit in one of the buildings and teach. He is a Japanese guy that just loves to talk. We had a great discussion with him last time. We teach him again tomorrow.

Week Two
Wow can't believe I leave for San Jose in a week. The first few days took forever, and then the days flew by.
I've been learning a lot, but can't wait to get to the field. An Elder in our zone from San Jose says that President Watkins (Church mission leader in San Jose) is a racing enthusiast and that he still has two kids at home.

- James

Hey, this is James' brother Brian speaking now. Sorry there's not much here, but James hasn't had much time to write e-mails and only wrote to out family, so I took some snippets out of those. He's leaving for San Jose this Wednesday. Then he'll have a new address to write to, and he'll have more time to write stuff for the blog. But he's doing great and really exited to get out to California! I'll probably have something to post on here next Monday.

Before I leave.

Well this is it. I'm leaving for two years on my mission. When you are a kid and they talk about it, it always seemed so far away, and yet here it is. I am excited to go out and have the opportunity to do the Lord's work. I know this will help me grow as a person in so many different aspects of my life. I hope to increase my faith and testimony, and have a greater appreciation for everything I have been blessed with. I know that I will encounter great people and have great experiences along the way. I can't wait.

I'll be in the Missionary Training Center in Provo for 3 weeks. After that its out to California for the rest of the time. So keep up with this blog, write, and stay in touch. See you in 2013.