Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Elder Jepsen Goes to Washington

The Washington Spokane Mission (marked in green). 
The moment has come and Elder Jepsen is now not only on a mission but a missionary in the Washington Spokane Mission. The mission boundaries include portions of Washington, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia, Canada. 

Mission President and Sister Palmer with Elder Jepsen.
Upon arrival, Elder Jepsen was welcomed by Mission President and Sister Palmer (here shown in front of the Spokane Washington Temple). 

Elder Taylor and Elder Jepsen.
Elder Jepsen was assigned to work with Elder Taylor, who will be teaching Elder Jepsen how things are done and they will be working in the Moses Lake, Washington area. 

Moses Lake, Washington.
Moses Lake, Washington.
Moses Lake, Washington is a small city in Grant County with a population of approximately 20,000 people. 

This is the real thing. Elder Jepsen is on a mission to share the gospel. He will be spending every day in the service of our Lord, sharing a message of faith and hope. He'll spend every day prayerfully, to most effectively find and teach the people in the Washington Spokane Mission because this is what God has called him to do. 

Elder Jepsen is not doing this because it is easy or because it's fun, he's not doing it for entertainment or gain and is not expecting anything in return. Certainly, missionaries are blessed for their dedication and effort but being a missionary is hard work. The effort shown by these young people known as missionaries, Sisters and Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is both admirable and  commendable. Missionaries all deserve our respect, help and prayers, every day. We can't all be on missions all the time but our prayers and support can be with those that are out there as missionaries, those preparing to go on missions and those returning home from missions. Invite the missionaries into your homes, make them feel welcome and you'll be inviting God's Spirit into your home. Share the missionaries with your friends, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Missionary Work, Blogging and Sharing our Beliefs in Jesus Christ

In a recent article on, the issue of missionary work and blogging was addressed, allowing an opportunity to once again review general etiquette, purpose and directions when using social media to share experiences relating to our beliefs. 

Exploring the possibilities of faith and prayer is a very private matter. People generally don't want to find their specific spiritual experience described in detail online, even with their names changed. A missionary blog might best serve its purpose if it is about the missionary, missionary work and spiritually uplifting experiences described in general terms, if involving others. Local members of the church and other missionaries often deserve credit for their spiritual influence, attitude or help and a positive mention by name is often deserved and appreciated when the occasion calls for it. Negative encounters and bad impressions are better left out and forgotten, never forgetting the unforgiving nature of permanence on the Internet. 

Social media allows us to share views and beliefs on a whole other level than a pulpit in a chapel, a friendly chat with a friend or family. There's a world of constantly evolving and exiting possibilities online but it never forgets and nothing is ever totally erased. 

The Internet reminds me of an old adage "Once spoken, words are difficult to retract." I think it is important to remember, that what we do on a blog is there for the whole world to see--always! As Elder M Russell Ballard reminds us: "Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true." 

But, it is not enough that something is true--it must be right! For something to be good, it must be good for everyone involved. Simply changing a name for the sake of privacy does not insure privacy. Discretion, ethics, integrity and respect must be considered when sharing missionary experiences and representing our beliefs through social media. The church's "General Handbook of Instructions" states that: "Members are encouraged to be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internet. If they use blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies, they are encouraged to strengthen others and help them become aware of that which is useful, good, and praiseworthy." 

Doctrine and Covenants 38:41
And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.

Elder M Russell Ballard makes a clear statement, encouraging our participation: "The emergence of New Media is facilitating a world-wide conversation on almost every subject including religion... may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet, particularly the New Media, to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration." 

Doctrine and Covenants 88:81
Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor. 

The Internet and Social Media is one of our day's greatest blessings and I think it should be used to share our blessings and be of service to others. Because: "When Ye Are in the Service of Your Fellow Beings Ye Are Only in the Service of Your God" (Mosiah 2:17)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Elder Jepsen - My Experience at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah

The Missionary Training Center (MTC) is an amazing experience. Already the day after our arrival Elder Jeffrey R Holland came and spoke to us with such spiritual power, that I could only fail in trying to describe it and that was just the beginning. Everyone that spoke to us there had something of value and the whole experience was a tour-de-force of spiritual input. The MTC experience is like the most spiritual and powerful General Conference ever.

All the foreign missionaries (and I am one of them) were allowed on a field trip to visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City and go through an endowment session in the SLC Temple. We toured the temple grounds, the Family History Center, the Conference Center, the Salt Lake Tabernacle with that awesome old organ that has a total of 11,700 pipes. We also visited Welfare Square, where the church organizes emergency and disaster relief efforts for those in need all over the world. 

Being here is quite the contrast when coming from Canada or Denmark, where my Mom had to travel to Calgary, Alberta from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada and my Dad had to travel to Switzerland from Denmark and to attend the temple when they were my age. Although the travel times improved dramatically when the temples in Stockholm and Seattle were built, the new temples in Copenhagen and Vancouver, BC really suggests the exiting growth that has been happening worldwide since then. But, here in Utah Valley things are a little different. Going the short distance from Provo to Salt Lake City, passed three and saw a total of five temples on a stretch of approximately fifty miles.

Being a missionary is quite the amazing experience. I love it and I am grateful to you for giving me the chance to grow up in the church and to learn what essentially has allowed me here on this experience and at this point in life. Thank you.

I would like to write more but I 'm running out of time.

Elder Jepsen

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Provo and Orem have the Biggest Percentage of Optimistic Americans

According to the Reuters News Agency a recent Gallup poll, hope and optimism can still/again be found among Americans. While it's not immediately clear why some areas hold more hope than others, the sum of the data still concludes: "Together, the data suggest there is likely a combination of factors that can create optimism about a community." 

Topping the list of American optimism is the Provo-Orem area in Utah where 76% of the population agree that "Their area is becoming a better place to live." In 2010 Orem, Utah was named 5th and Provo, Utah was among the top 10 cities in which to raise a family by Forbes magazine. 

Provo, Utah is home to the Brigham Young University (BYU), one of four universities/colleges run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). BYU is the largest religious university, the third largest private university in the United States and offers programs in liberal arts, engineering, agriculture, management and law. 

"Education is the power to think clearly,
the power to act well in the world's work,
and the power to appreciate life."
-- Brigham Young

According to Fall, 2011 statistics, the average BYU student GPA was 3.82 but not only good grades make the average BYU student stand out. All students are required to adhere to a Code of Honor of academic honesty, dress and grooming standards, abstinence from drugs, alcohol and extramarital sex. This is not an optimistic honor code but it does serve to build a foundation for both hope and optimism.

Provo also houses an LDS Missionary Training Center (MTC), where each week approximately 475 missionaries enter to begin 3-12 weeks training, preparing to serve in one of the 345 missions around the world, taking their message of hope with them wherever they go. Every day of every week, 52,000 missionaries are sharing that same message of hope, first given by our Savior Jesus Christ. Many of these missionaries learn a foreign language while attending the MTC in preparation to serve a multitude of nationalities. The Provo MTC is one of 17 such centers around the world, teaching missionaries how to best share their message of faith and hope to all who will listen. Perhaps it's mostly a matter of choice if you wish to share in that same hope and optimism?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints currently has 136 temples around the world, one of them in Provo, Utah. While the Provo temple is not the biggest of LDS temples, it is the busiest of all the LDS temples. More people go through the Provo temple than any other LDS temple in the world. On October 1, 2011 President Thomas S Monson announced that a second LDS temple in Provo would be built, restoring what was once known as the Provo Tabernacle. 

The many sources for the optimism found in the Provo-Orem area are far from exclusive but based on principles that can be replicated anywhere in the world. The Gallup poll states that "What works in some of the best performing cities could provide an example for other regions to follow." Most important, optimism is an attitude found in people not things and people travel, giving hope that the optimism found in Provo-Orem might one day come our way. The missionaries taught and trained in Provo, Utah also travel and when you meet some in your neighborhood you must remember that somewhere in their message is a source of hope and optimism.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Elder Jepsen - At the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah

From the left at the Copenhagen International Airport: Returned Missionary and oldest brother Paul, Elder Jepsen, Returned Missionary (Paul's wife) and now Elder Jepsen's sister, Brittany. 
It's only a few weeks ago that my US visa was approved and I left from the Copenhagen Airport for the Missionary Training Center (MTC). Although I officially already was a missionary and my journey from Copenhagen to Provo, Utah basically was a really long transfer, I still had the benefit of a send-off with good friends and family at the airport. My good brother Paul and his wonderful wife Brittany who I call my sister, not "Sister-in-law" as it somehow seems to me like less than a sister. Brittany treats me like a brother and I am blessed to have her as a sister. 

Paul and Brittany unselfishly gave me a place to stay for a portion of the time, when I had to work in Copenhagen to save up for my mission. After being called and set apart as a missionary but still waiting for my US visa to be completed, I managed to serve as a missionary in that same area where Paul and Brittany live and once again be in the same congregation that I had attended while staying with them. I count that little experience as a bonus blessing on top of all the other blessing I have already experienced on  my mission.

Arriving safely at the MTC and trying to learn as much as possible in as short a time as possible has made for some very hectic few weeks but paying attention now can seriously help me later. The MTC is an amazing and effectively run place, each Wednesday several hundred missionaries arrive and they're leaving just as fast, off to their missions. It all happens faster than one could imagine but never at a rate as to diminish the experience. I love it here but soon I must go on to what I have really been preparing for all along, the  mission I was called to do!

A mission only lasts a mere two years and it's my best chance for showing the Lord my appreciation for the many blessings He's allowed me through the gospel. By sharing the message of hope that has helped me in so many areas of life already, I'm taking my own understanding of that same gospel to a whole new level and while the primary focus of a mission is to serve God and our fellow beings, I continually seem to benefit more than anybody.

President Gordon B Hinckley stated that: 
"If you serve a mission faithfully and well, you will be a better husband, you will be a better father, you will be a better student, a better worker in your chosen vocation. Love is of the essence of this missionary work. Selflessness is of its very nature. Self-discipline is its requirement. Prayer opens its reservoir of power. 

It's overwhelming how my own efforts in serving the Lord has an effect similar to that of a boomerang but in a multiplied force. I get back more than I give but this is not to suggest that missionary work is effortless, that it's not hard work and that I don't get tired. To serve a mission  according to your own conscience is without a doubt hard work but well worth it.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said, referring to the Doctrine & Covenants, 63:33 :
"As the work expands at a rate that many have described as "unbelievable," we should recall a remarkable admonition given by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith on 11 September 1831 to the elders of the Church assembled at the Morley Farm near Kirtland, Ohio. There the Master simply said: "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." 

Because of my US visa delays I am already a few months into my mission, yet it's only just beginning as I'll soon be to heading for Washington.

Love you all,

Elder Jepsen

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Temperature and Climate in Provo, Utah

Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon (Hwy. 189), Utah.
The month of July can have quite a range of temperatures in Provo with an average high of 34.4 °Celsius (94 °Fahrenheit) and with the extremes ranging from a record highs of 42 °C (108 °F) and record lows of 2 °C (35 °F). Do plan to protect yourself from the sun if going to Provo during the Summer months.

Mountain Biking in Utah has a lot possibilities.
January temperatures range from an average low of -5.5 °Celsius (22.1 °Fahrenheit) with the extremes ranging from a record highs of 17 °C (63 °F) and record lows of -33 °C (-27 °F). That is cold enough that only one kind thought (mail) or two, is bound to raise the temperature by a a degree or maybe two. Generally, winters in Provo are mild and whether it's a dare or a lost bet, you may occasionally see people wearing shorts during the winter months in Provo but it has never caught on as a trend.

People in Provo are used to getting a white Christmas with an average of 34.8 centimeters (13.7 inches of snow) in December. Winters average with to a total 145.3 centimeters (57.2 inches) of snowfall over 26.9 snowy days per year. Utah is known for their particularly dry snow, also known as powder snow. If you're not a missionary at the Provo Missionary Training Center, there are many skiing resorts within a short distance of Provo.

The Provo, Utah temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Worth of One Soul

Every minute of every day, every week and month all year long, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are actively serving God and their fellow beings as missionaries around the world. 

The Church currently have approximately 53,000 young men and women serve as full-time missionaries, giving every waking minute of every day to sharing a message of significance to every human being. As Gordon B Hinckley said "The sun never sets on this work of the Lord as it is touching the lives of people across the earth."

There are of course many reasons that young men and women are giving up their time to serve as missionaries but perhaps Heber J. Grant best explained the continued motivation: "There is no other labor in all the world that brings to a human heart, judging from my own personal experience, more joy, peace and serenity than proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Serving a mission is not an absolute must. Gordon B. Hinckley has suggested that a mission is not a rite of passage. Many young people who wants to go are not able and some who go are not able to stay as long as they had intended but all should prepare to serve a mission, spiritually, scholastically, mentally and physically. President Monson in the October 2011 General Conference, repeated what prophets before him have taught, that: "Every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty and obligation the Lord expects of us, who have been given so very much."

Preparation for missionary work is paramount for a successful mission. President Monson has taught: "Missionary work is difficult, it taxes ones energies, it strains ones capacity, it demands ones best effort. No other labor requires longer hours or greater devotion or such sacrifice and fervent prayer. As a result of that sacrifice we return from our missions with our own gifts, the gift of faith, the gift of testimony, the gift of understanding the role of the Spirit, the gift of daily gospel study, the gift of having served our Savior."

A mission is indeed a sacrifice and hard work. So why do people put themselves through such a rigorous ordeal? A possible answer and very good reason can be found in the book "Doctrine & Covenants:" 

Doctrine & Covenants 18:10
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!

Helping another person to access the blessings of the atonement, seeing lives change as people discover the peace found in aligning choices and priorities with the directions found in God's words, is a reward of unimaginable proportions.

A mission is an experience on such a scale that it becomes a milestone in the lives of those who served it wholehearted and with commitment. It has become a worn out cliche to refer to a mission as the "Best two years" of ones life.  This is a thought that I myself have never been that comfortable with. My wife and I both served missions. All our three sons either served or are currently serving missions and I would like to think that greater things are yet to come. Don't let it all be downhill from here, don't let a mission be the pinnacle of an entire lifetime. There is life after a mission, to both build and climb new and greater pinnacles than ever before.

Elder W. Christopher Waddell tells us that there is no returned missionary for whom it is too late to considerer the lessons obtained through faithful service and to apply them more diligently. As we do so we will feel the Spirit more fully in our lives, our families will be strengthened and we will draw closer to our Savior and Father in Heaven.

In a previous General Conference Elder L. Tom Perry extended this invitation: "I call on you returned missionaries to rededicate yourselves, to become re-infused with the desire and Spirit of missionary service. I call on you to look the part, to be the part and to act the part, a servant of our Father in Heaven. I want to promise you there are great blessings in store for you if you continue to press forward with the zeal you once possessed as a full-time missionary."

The atonement is not just for the many people we teach as missionaries but also for ourselves and entirely for our benefit. The atonement is why we do we do missionary work, it is what we share, it is what we seek and it is the most beautiful gift of all. When we sing the hymn “I Stand All Amazed” I am reminded of His great gift, the atonement:

Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, #193

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

The worth of one soul, the worth of your one soul, is great in the eyes of God. I ask for God's eternal blessings to be with everyone of you, that you may have, see and recognize God's hand in your lives and seek Him in all your decisions and needs. 

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