Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Piano Man

If your brain works the way mine does, then you would have read the
subject line of this email and thought, "maybe he finally ran into
Billy Joel!" But, alas, tis not so. The reason for the subject line is
this: Apparently an organization called "Sing for Hope" has put pianos
in random public locations in New York City, and one of them happens
to be at the Lincoln Center right by the temple. So for the first time
in my life, I got to perform on the streets of New York City! This is
a small dream of mine come true. Haha. See the attached video.

A* has had a big breakthrough this week. He told us that he now
believes the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Joseph Smith
is a prophet. He says he's still not ready to commit to being
baptized, but he is on his way! I'm hoping he gets there before I go

Our other investigators are still moving along slowly but surely.
Unfortunately, we haven't found anyone new to teach this week, but we
have had a lot of good conversations with some Christians from various
parts of the southern United States. A lot of churches sponsor these
"mission trips" for youth. So they ship a group of youth up to New
York City to be missionaries for a week or two of the summer. We've
been running into these groups all over the place. They're easy to
pick out because they come in herds, look very touristy, and all speak
with a drawl. It's always fun to see the looks on their faces when we
explain the way we do missionary work. So we've had some great
conversations and were able to teach the restoration to a few of these
groups, but so far we haven't had anyone interested enough to give us
any contact information.

That's all for this week! One month left now...



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

¡Esto es el fin!

This is it! The last transfer cycle of my mission has begun. Six weeks
left. I'm kind of terrified. Haha. Tomorrow I'll be attending a
meeting at the mission home for returning missionaries... That is, I
should be attending the meeting. However, there has been an issue with
the missionary support cards and now no one has any money for train
fare. We can't use the subways, much less the more expensive metro
north commuter rail. We also can't buy groceries and we're out of
food... Hopefully they figure this one out soon.

With the start of this new transfer, both Elder Richards and I will be
staying here, but Elder Moss, our roommate, is flying home right now.
He'll be hanging out with former-elder Tyler Johanson (my trainer)
later tonight! Haha. They went to school together. Elder Moss had been
replaced by Elder Tatafu, a Samoan from Alaska.

A few days ago, we met a Mexican woman in the street. This is actually
a very unusual occurrence, because most Hispanics in New York are from
the Caribbean. Mexicans are a very small group here. Anyway, we met
her on the street and learned she was a member, she insisted we walk
with her around the local CVS Pharmacy. I'm very proud of the fact
that even though she spoke hardly any English, I was able to carry on
a good conversation with her and learn a bit about herself and her
family. She's a third generation member of the church who lives in
Union City, New Jersey. She moved to the United States four years ago
and was joined by her son a year later. Her son is twenty two and is
about to serve a mission in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was in Manhattan
to do temple work. I got all the info and she was speaking Spanish!
Thank goodness she was Mexican actually--they have very clean, clear
Spanish, whereas the more common Dominicans and Puerto Ricans slur all
there words together and drop half their consonants. (No offense,
Bruce--for what it's worth, los PuertorriqueƱos are easier to
understand than los Dominicanos) So Elder Nate O'Brien, I hope your
proud of me for carrying out a full on Spanish conversation! Then,
when we walked out of the CVS she gave us a bag of groceries and ran.
Haha. I guess that temporarily solves our food problems.

This week has been great for our investigators. We had an awesome
lesson with D* and we were finally able to figure out at least a
part of what's been keeping him from being baptized for the last year
and a half! He also talked a lot with us about what's happened in his
life since he discovered the church and we were able to show him how
the gospel has been active in his life. He's developed faith, he's
repented, and now he has a strong desire to have a fresh start
committed to the new life he's embraced. We showed him how that desire
is the same desire that would motivate him to be baptized. It was a
really interesting lesson because he talked almost the entire time and
we just asked questions. Our questions lead him to discover it all for
himself, which makes it so much more meaningful. I'm hoping we can
quickly resolve any and all of his concerns and have him in the font
before I go home! He's so ready, he just needs to realize he is.

That's all for this week! Love you all!

-Elder Samuel Burton

1. New York Pizza in our apartment.
2. Elder Moss outside our favorite musical.
3. My shoe

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The High Life

As we maneuver the streets of Manhattan, my mind is a swiftly
calculatory instrument, considering velocity, direction, and intention
as I carry my person through the crowded streets in minimal time and
without incident. But when the tourist right in front of me comes to a
dead stop because she sees something pretty in a window display, and I
may as well have the brainpower of a housefly in a room made of glass.

No serious injuries occurred, and we were both able to laugh it off,
so all is well,

So we've had a great week! To kick it off, we had an amazing lesson
with A* at a members apartment. What we didn't realize is that this
member's apartment is sixty two stories up with a floor to ceiling
view of Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, both the East and Hudson
Rivers, the Freedom Tower, and basically all of Downtown Manhattan. It
was easily the nicest apartment I have ever been in in my life. But
that's not even the best part! The lesson went really well, teaching
the Doctrine of Christ, then on Sunday in Elders Quorumn, Trevor
Packer (the member who hosted our lesson), said he had an announcement
to make. He then announced to the Elders Quorumn that we were some of
the best missionaries he's ever known, that we taught the doctrine
clearly and with tact, and that he would definitely be willing to
introduce his friends to us and so should everyone else! Now we're
really hoping to get more support from the Branch. In the past,
missionary-member relations have been rough here. We're gonna fix

Also, on Saturday we got to participate in a baptism. A woman named
B* B* was baptized in the Manhattan 1st Ward. We had encountered
her several times around the church/temple building and got to know
her really well. We gave her a priesthood blessing on more than one
occasion. Then, when he baptism came, she asked Elder Richards to
baptize her.

I forget if I ever mentioned someone named L*. We have an awesome
member named Stephen, and twice now he's had us over for dinner and we
met his sister who is actually is brother named L*. She lives at
Woodstock and smokes weed with a guy named T.P. Bob who has never worn
shoes. New York has some interesting people.

This morning, we woke up early and met up with half the zone in
Central Park for morning exercises. We played kickball and it was tons
of fun.

Transfers are next week! I'm fairly certain I'll be staying here for
my last cycle, but we don't know what's going to happen to Elder

That's all for this week!

-Elder Samuel Burton

Photos: The view from Trevor's apartment. (Crazy thing is, the horizon
shows we're only at half the height of the Freedom Tower)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I can't think of a good subject line this week...

Elder Richards has been sick lately, which slowed us down a bit over
the last week. We've also been experiencing significant difficulty
getting our investigators to progress lately. A* is the only
exception. He is doing amazing. He's finished the Book of Mormon
already. We have lesson scheduled with him at a members home this
evening. He's coming to church. We just need to get our other
investigators to be so diligent. D* definitely has the most
potential of anyone we're working with, but he's at some sort of a
roadblock. He's entirely ready to be baptized, but he just won't
commit to it. He's been at church almost every week for almost a year.
Many of the members think he's already been baptized! We haven't been
able to identify what's holding him back.

We had zone conference this week. It was a really great meeting and I
have lots of notes, but the foremost impression I received from it was
to try to contact D* r*. If you remember, D* R* is a convert from when I was in the Bronx. You may also recall that while I
was serving in the mission office, his wife passed away and I attended
the funeral. At the time they were living in Harlem, and I believe
D* still is. If so, that means he's in our geographic area. He also
happens to fit into our demographic of single adults between the ages
of 31 and 45, though I don't think it's been long enough for me to
suggest he attend our Branch. Still, I feel like we should look him
up. From what I understand, the church has lost contact with him since
the funeral. Hopefully he would be willing to talk with me and we
could get him reactivated in the Harlem Ward.

On Saturday we had the privilege of hosting the Alma Academy. Every
year the Yorktown Stake take it's sixteen and older youth to Manhattan
to spend a day with the missionaries. We organized a bunch of APFs
(Area Proselyting Focuses--which is basically a big finding activity)
in different parts of the city and had them rotate in shifts through
them all. I was paired on a split with one of the young men named
M* who was super cool. He graduated High School when he was sixteen
and is getting ready to go on a mission this coming December.

On Sunday, I ran into the Wagstaff family at church! They were
attending the Manhattan 1st Ward in our building. Then I ran into
Emmaline Zenger, who was attending the YSA Ward! It's a small world in
the church! It's nice to see familiar faces every now and then. There
probably isn't another mission in the world where such encounters are
so common.

That's all for this week. I'll attach some photos. Love you all!

-Elder Samuel Burton

1. Elder Richards, Elder Newbold, Elder Moss, Elder Wulff, Elder
Sanford, and Me at Zone Conference.
2. The Alma Academy group.
3. A Chalk Drawing we did in Central Park for an APF.
4. Gotta love them baptists.

​Holly additions: I added  two pictures of 'Sam sightings'  sent by friends​.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pictures only!

I don't have much time this week, so I'm just going to send pictures.
1. Me on Roosevelt Island
2. A random statue we found that apparently survived the bomb at Hiroshima.
3. A selfie of Elder Sanford, who stole my iPad while I was getting a
haircut and took lots of funny pictures.
4 & 5. Pictures of Elder Moss from when Elder Sanford stole my iPad.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jeremiah 4:19

We've had a crazy week. Unfortunately, a good chunk of it was actually
taken up by a phantom ear infection (we're still not sure if it
actually exists), a bad reaction to some antibiotics, and an
all-nighter at the Emergency Room. But after some headaches, vomiting,
severe dehydration, then some morphine, Percocet, several other drugs
that weren't nearly as much fun, a CAT scan, and a full day sleeping,
things are more or less back to normal. Monday night, I digested my
first full meal since last p-day and we've been out and about ever

On the bright side, while we were in the Emergency Room, and after
they got me on morphine so I wasn't curled up in a ball and moaning
anymore, we struck up some good conversation with a woman who was
there with her boyfriend who was experiencing some severe abdominal
pain. She was from Russia, but was currently living in Washington DC.
We talked with her a lot about the church and sparked her interest
quite a bit. All she knew about the Mormons before came from the Book
of Mormon Musical (that's typical of half the people on the street in
New York), so she was really fascinated to hear about what our church
is actually about. By morning, we had her contact info to send to the
missionaries down in DC! She also told us about what it was like to
grow up in post-Soviet Russia, which was really cool to hear about.
She does not like Vladimir Putin very much.

We had a whopping four investigators show up to church this Sunday!
(maybe that's nothing for some of my friends in South American
missions, but here that's a big deal). One of them also stayed
afterwards to watch a baptism. That particular investigator is named
A*. He's super awesome! I've experienced some of the best lessons of
my mission with him, but he has one pretty major roadblock right now:
he's gay. He has so much desire though, I honestly could see him
choosing to live a chaste life and being baptized anyway! We're
hoping. He loved church! Luckily, there are a lot of openly gay
members in our branch who are active and keeping their covenants, so
he would have a lot of very understanding supporters if he did join
the church.

Also, I don't think I've ever mentioned a man named Ryan Koch. He's
the director of the Church's public affairs office in New York (one of
three such offices in the United States). He's a super cool guy. He
lives in New Jersey, but we see him all the time around temple/chapel.
He knows he missionaries here better than the ones in his home area.
The other day, he was at the UN, and he happened to run into S*! (That's the woman I mentioned last week).  He was able to recognize her at a meeting because we had told him about our encounter
with her, so he approached her an talked with her for a while. From
what he's told us it sounds like she might be a very good connection
for him and for the church at the UN.

Today Elder Richards and I get to go to the temple for an endowment
session. That will be a treat! It's been a while since I've gotten to
do that. Fun fact: it takes me less time to walk to a temple than it
does for my parents in Utah to drive to one! I'm looking forward to
that and to another week here in the Big Apple!

-Elder Samuel Burton

1. Elder Newbold, Elder Moss, myself, and a Elder Richards in Central Park
3. Me in the Emergency Room

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


We had an unbelievably awesome experience yesterday! We were just
leaving the temple/chapel when one of the local priesthood holders
stopped us and directed us to a small Taiwanese woman named Sister
Wendy. She said she had a nonmember friend who would be there in a few
minutes who needed a blessing. So we stuck around for a few minutes.
The woman who needed the blessing was named S*, and Sister Wendy
emphasized to us that she is in a very high-up, influential position
in the UN. Sister Wendy told us that S* had just called her and
said that she felt like she needed to pause her work and come spend
the evening with her. Sister Wendy told her that she was going to the
chapel to pray and invited her to come. When she arrived, we talked to
S* for a while and she told us about some of the trials she was
going through in her work. Realizing her specific position UN dealt
primarily with different religions and also with humanitarian work,
and that she was currently focused on the refugee crisis, I had the
impression to tell her about the Church's recent "I Was a Stranger"
initiative. She was very interested, and should soon be in contact
with people in the church who are more knowledgable about the new
relief effort than the missionaries are. Then we gave her a blessing.
Afterwards, Elder Richards said he felt impressed to share with her a
personal experience from his life. He then told her about how his
older brother had died at the age of eight and how his family turned
to God when it happened. Then S* opened up to us and told us all
about how her son had recently passed away and how as a result, even
though she deals with religion so much in her work, her personal
spiritual life has been "shut down."  We then testified to her of
Heavenly Father and the Plan of Salvation. She said she wants to learn
more and find answers to all the questions that have come up in her
mind since her son's death. We exchanged contact information and
scheduled an appointment to come to her office tomorrow. She lives in
New Jersey, so we will also be getting her in contact with the
missionaries over there. It's so amazing how there are these prepared
people in all walks of life and how God leads them to the gospel.

So that's one of many miracles this week. We've been keeping very
busy. I've only been here a week, but I have already met most of the
people we're currently working with. We have an investigator named
O* with a baptismal date for June 4th. He seems be struggling to
grasp idea of the restoration, but he has tons of desire. We also are
working with a guy named D* (yes, like from "the Office") who has
been coming to church for a long time. He seems really cool. We just
need to figure out why he hasn't been baptized.

There are several other people I could mention, but I don't have time
to. Things are going really good though. This area has so much
potential! It's unusual to be in an MSA branch, but so far it's been

-Elder Samuel Burton

1. View of Manhattan taken from Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island is
sooooo cool!!! I might want to live there one day.
2. The Manhattan Temple
3. We found a mirror on the ceiling of the Columbus Circle subway
station. Clockwise from top right: me, Elder Richards, Elder Newbold,
Elder Moss