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Conversion of Jonas in Poland

The following story was related by my brother, Michael Smith, with is currently serving in the Warsaw Poland mission.

Meeting Jonas, Letter of 10-3-2011

Elder Smith in PolandWe had about 20 minutes until a session of General Conference so we decided to contact right around the chapel while we waited. We met this super super cool guy named Jonas. He’s irish/swedish and just got to the city of Lodz where he’ll stay for about three months for work. He was very open and we didn’t have an english Book of Mormon on us so we asked if we could come by his place the next day and give it to him. He accepted gladly. We got his address and headed to the General Conference broadcast.

We had our meeting with Jonas the next day and it went amazingly. He really is searching for the truth. After we taught a first discussion and bore testimony of the Book of Mormon and God’s love, he said, “I want to have that feeling.” He said, “I feel an emptiness inside and heard of other people tell of this feeling of God’s love and that he exists and I want to have that assurety for myself.” We assured him he could feel that if he reads from the Book of Mormon and prays earnestly wanting to know if its true. His eyes swelled up and he smiled accepting it and thanking us. We then invited him to watch General Conference that night at the senior missionaries apartment.  He said he would definitely be there.

He did indeed come to the Sunday morning session which was at 6 pm for us. He loved it, watched intently and told us after that he really liked the talk about the Book of Mormon (with the circle and lines through it). It it was very clear and bold that the Book of Mormon is either of God or of the Devil. There is no middle ground. Jonas even said it was his favorite talk. He’s already read up to Nephi 10 in less than a day and said “it’s exciting. Unknown. I know the Bible but these stories are something new.” Jonas truly is a miracle of God here in Lodz, Poland.

A Burning in the Bosom, Letter of 10-11-2011

This past week was probably one of the best weeks of my entire mission and it’s all because of Jonas. He is the most prepared of the Lord I’ve ever met and he is already strongly converted to the Gospel and just after one week! Every time we meet with him my testimony grows that those who are truly open and searching and read the Book of Mormon and pray to know WILL get an answer.

Jonas has been living in Sweden. He is an engineer and his company kept trying to get somebody to come to Poland, but NOBODY wanted to. They kept throwing more and more benefits to get someone to go and once they included a company car, Jonas was all in. His second day here in Poland he ran into the Mormon missionaries (us). He said in Sweden he never would have stopped and talked to us at all, but being in Poland he knew absolutely no one and had no friends so he willingly accepted the only two english speakers he had met.

When we taught him a first discussion, we challenged him to baptism on the 29th of October and to prepare himself for that day. He accepted saying however that he wants to be sure he’s ready, he doesn’t want to feel like he was tricked or something and go back to his old life style and habits.  He said he’s going to read the whole Book of Mormon, and we promised that if he sincerely read it and prayed to earnestly know if it’s true, he will receive an answer well before the end of the book.

A few days later we had a meeting with Jonas and taught a second discussion. He said that the strangest thing happened to him the previous night. He went home and he sat down and started reading. He was towards the end of 1st Nephi, and he thought to himself, “what did the missionaries say? Oh yeah, pray. Dear Lord, help me know it this is true or not. Help me find the truth and know of that feeling.” He said his chest just felt like it was on fire. He said then he just started to cry and he NEVER cries. Now he said he knows, and nobody can make him think otherwise. He said no scientific proof or anything. He knows how he felt and will never be able to reject or doubt that. We then asked him if he wanted to wait till Oct. 29th to be baptized or as soon as possible, this Saturday the 15th. He said as soon as posible.

This amazing spiritual experience has been the foundation of everything else: his testimony of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, sacrament meeting, and President Thomas S. Monson. Everything in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ he has fully, openly, and sincerely accepted because he has such an amazing spiritual experience. He always tells us that he couldn’t believe this could happen to someone like him. He was a strong agnostic.  He never thought he could have had that feeling that religious people have and be a religious person. And then he said he’s especially amazed at how quickly it happened. He thought it would take a month or two, if ever, to know. But 8 days. Wow! We told him when someone is ready, God doesn’t wait, and he was ready.

From this spiritual experience he had, he truly has changed his life. He used to drink beer all the time. After all he’s Irish! He said the past week was the first week since he was 16 that he’s gone without any alcohol. He’s only 21, but he had 5 more beers in the fridge when we taught him the Word of Wisdom. He said he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to go cold turkey so he’ll drink these last 5 and then start. He really wanted to do it HIS way. But he said that after we left he poured all 5 beers down the sink and threw out his cigarettes and coffee.

I have never met someone like Jonas on my mission. I can tell his conversion is true and real. I love Jonas for being so willing and for recognizing the Lord in his life and I love the mission for giving me the opportunity to play a role, as tiny as it is, and bringing this joy to these people.

Jonas’ Baptism, Letter of 10-17-2011

Baptism of Jonas in PolandIn the beginning of the week we looked everywhere for a pool and could not find one. We did however find a very nice small lake close by. It was really really cold but Jonas said that he still wanted to do it. Jacek, a young single adult in the who was baptizing him, was all for it as well. They were excited and scared and nervous but so willing to do it. All the members said that it was crazy and we should just postpone it to next week when we could find a pool, but we told them everything would be fine. We woke up on Saturday morning and it was freezing cold and raining on top of that. We stopped by Jonas’ place just to make sure he was okay with it and he said it was.

At the service before we went to the Lake, Jonas had the opportunity to bear his testimony. He told his conversion story with much more power than I ever could.  He claimed to be agnostic, and this was his chance to find out if God really did exist or not. If he didn’t find out now he would have remained atheist his whole life. He told about his prayer and how he felt the Spirit so strong. He told the whole branch that he knew without a doubt that this was from God. He said he will always have his proof that this Church is true.

We went to the lake and everything went perfectly. Without hesitation they walked into the lake and had a very calm, spiritual, baptismal ordinance.  When they came out, we had blankets and sheets for them to change. I asked Jonas how he felt and he said “it’s truly indescribable. I feel relieved and amazed at where I am and what I’m doing. It’s just simply put, wonderful.” It was an experience none of us will ever forget.

I love this work so much and am so glad to have been able to see the gospel really bless someone. Jonas has changed so much in the last weeks that it is undeniably the power of God. He felt it and knows it. We can all feel that love and power of God again and again in our lives. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and the happiness is brings us.

The Worth of Souls is Great

missionaries teaching in the streetA couple of months ago, I conducted a survey asking reasons why some young men don’t serve a mission. One of the top responses was that other priorities (like college, sports, work, girlfriends, etc.) keep young men from serving missions. So lately I have been thinking a lot about how to motivate young men, and help them see that there is no greater priority than bringing souls unto Christ through full-time missionary service.

Recently, I read a talk by Elder H. Bryan Richards from the October 1998 General Conference in which he addressed this very topic. This is what he said:

“The doctrine that will change the behavior of our young men regarding missions is understanding the worth of a single soul. Jesus Christ paid the supreme sacrifice in providing the infinite Atonement, which provides the only way for us to return and live with our Heavenly Father. When parents, bishops, and our young men understand this true doctrine, our young men will be prepared and have a desire to serve” (from “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord”).

What is the worth of a soul?

In section 18 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonishes us to “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;… And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18: 10, 15-16)

As Elder Richards indicated, the Savior loves all of us and understands our eternal value as children of God. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Because of the Savior’s great love for us, He drank the bitter cup, suffered for our sins, and died on the cross. He “suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). When young men truly understand that doctrine, they will have the desire to share that message with the world, go wherever the Lord would have them to go, and bring souls unto Christ.

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

Perhaps the best way to motivate young men to serve a mission is to help them understand these and other gospel doctrines. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is like unto it, to love your neighbors (see Matthew 22: 36-39). What greater motivation can a young man have to serve a mission than sincere love of God and love of neighbors. What Christ suffered on our behalf helps us understand our worth and how much He loves us. When young men realize the value of a soul, and gain that love for their fellow beings around the world, they will be willing to sacrifice. They, like the Savior, will say “not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42), and they will put a full-time mission on the top of their priority list.

LDS Church Websites’ Traffic Stats

Though this isn’t exactly related to Mormon Mission Prep, I thought this would nevertheless be a good forum to publish a summary and highlights of official LDS Church Website traffic. As some of you may know, I work for the LDS Church and I am in charge of their Web analytics. Therefore people often ask me, both in my professional and personal life, for data, facts, and figures about Church’s Web presence. For some, it’s a matter of curiosity, for others, they want to use the information in firesides, or fifth Sunday lessons. With the Church’s permission, I’m happy to provide a few data points. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Download One-Page Summary of LDS Church Websites’ Traffic Stats

How many people visit Church sites?

top-ten-lds-church-sites-monthly-visitorsThe family of official LDS Church sites (LDS.org, Mormon.org, FamilySearch.org, etc.) gets about seven million unique visitors per month.

What are the biggest LDS Church sites?

FamilySearch.org is our biggest site with about 3.5 million visitors a month. The LDS.org Home Report Suite* gets about 2.5 million visitors a month. The Gospel Library, which has current and past magazine articles and other content, gets about 1 million visitors each month.

*The LDS.org Home Report Suite includes the home page and several other miscellaneous pages, but it excludes other major site sections such as the Scriptures and General Conference.

How many websites does the Church operate?

top-ten-lds-international-sites-monthly-visitorsThe LDS Church operates over 100 different websites. We have international sites for about 65 countries around the world, plus more than 50 other official Church sites (and the number keeps growing).

What are the top international sites?

Brazil’s site is our biggest international site with almost 40,000 visitors each month. It is followed by Argentina, Mexico, Japan, and Germany.

What are some of the newest official LDS Church sites?

What time of the week do LDS Church sites get the most traffic?

Weekends see the most traffic. LDS.org usage peaks on Sunday mornings, with about to 35,000 visitors per hour. There is also a peak on Saturday nights with about 30,000 visitors per hour. Fridays are the lowest day per week in traffic.

Has mobile traffic been on the rise lately?

Yes, the volume of mobile visitor traffic to Church websites has more than doubled over the past year. The Sunday spike in Church traffic is even more pronounced in relation to mobile, with Sunday traffic from mobile devices about three times the volume of the average day of the week. Sundays see about 45,000 unique mobile visitors, while weekdays generally have about 16,000. The iPhone and iPad are the most frequently used mobile devices browsing Church websites.

LDS Church Websites, Dec 2010
Mobile Device %
Apple iPhone 29.0%
Apple iPad 16.7%
Apple iPod Touch 10.2%
HTC Nexus One 7.1%
HTC Evo 3.7%
HTC Droid Incredible 3.3%
Motorola DroidX 2.3%
Motorola Droid2 1.9%
RIM BlackBerry 8530/Curve 1.7%
Motorola Droid 1.5%

Mormon Polygamy

Today’s post is in response to a question received on the Web site.  A young man who is preparing for his mission asked me how I would respond to his non-member friend who asked why Joseph Smith practiced polygamy.  The polygamy question is one I got only a time or two on my mission, but one that missionaries should be prepared to answer. wilford_woodruff

First, I would answer that polygamy is part of our past, but not part of the present Mormon Church.  Joseph Smith began publicly teaching the principle of plural marriage (polygamy) in the 1840s, but by the year 1890 (119 years ago), polygamy was officially discontinued by the Church.  The book of the Doctrine and Covenants contains the official declaration from Church President Wilford Woodruff ending polygamy. Also, last year, the Church created a site with a lot of good resources for people seeking the truth about Mormon polygamy. Bottom line, today there are over 15 million Mormons around the world, and none of them practice polygamy.

Now, having established Mormons do not now practice polygamy, it still doesn’t address the question of why Joseph Smith instituted the practice in the early days of the Church.  To answer the why question, I’d like to quote the Church’s official statement on polygamy. It reads:

“At certain times and for His specific purposes, God, through His prophets, has directed the practice of plural marriage (sometimes called polygamy), which means one man having more than one living wife at the same time. In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years during the 1800s but officially ceased the practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890. Since that time, plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church.” (emphasis added)

Jacob Blessing His SonsThe statement from the Church goes on to cite instance in the Bible where Abraham, Jacob, and others of the Lord’s servants had plural wives (see Genesis 16:1–3; 29:23–30; 30:4, 9; Judges 8:30; 1 Samuel 1:1–2).

Joseph Smith also asked God why he had been commanded to restore the practice of plural marriage and was told simply that the Lord has His reasons.  One of those reasons given by the Lord is mentioned in the Book of Mormon: “If I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall [have only one wife]” (Jacob 2:30; see also v. 27).  In other words, it was to bring more children into the world who would be raised up faithful to the Lord.  (sourced, again, from the Church’s official declaration on polygamy)

The polygamy question is a tough one to answer, and missionaries should know it’s okay to say they don’t know all the reasons why.  We know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and we know it came as a commandment from God. As a missionary, the conversation should then turn to helping the investigator gain their own testimony of Joseph Smith which can be gained by reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know its truthfulness. (see my previous post on The Power of the Book of Mormon)

Finally, I’ll leave you with two video clips.  The first is from President Hinckley’s October 1998 General Conference talk where he reiterated the Church’s position against polygamy.  The second video is from Truman Madsen where he explains more of the history of Mormon polygamy and the doctrinal reason’s why Joseph Smith was commanded to do it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJCwV2UaDi8[/youtube]