Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On top of the world [trade center]

Well, this is it.

So Alexandra, Elan, and Mary (all from back when I was in the YSA
Ward) all showed up at our branch's sacrament meeting! I got to meet
up with three of my favorite New Yorkers for my second to last Sunday.
That was awesome.

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to send pictures from Finding
Neverland last week. We went to dinner with Ray right afterwards and I
didn't get a chance to send off any more emails until after p-day was
over. Today we're going to be going up to the top of the Freedom
Tower. It's the tallest building in this hemisphere, so it should be
quite a view!

So, about this time next week, I'll be on an airplane. Is that crazy
or what? This will probably be the last you'll hear from me as a
missionary in New York. It's been amazing—indescribable really. I'm
sure you've gathered from my emails that I've had some awesome
experiences, but in reality (as I'm sure most every returned
missionary knows) there are some things an email just can't contain
and there are some things that are kept just between me and God. I now
have a burning conviction for the Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ. I
know there is a God, and he loves each one of us with a perfect and
unconditional love. Jesus Christ is his Son and my Savior. The Holy
Ghost and it's gifts are real. God's love is manifest in the truth
that he has reached out to us, sending the Savior, the Holy Ghost, and
the Gospel. I know that even when the world rejected and turned away
from those things, God yet again reached out in love and restored the
Church and Gospel to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. That
Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is led
by men and women who are truly called and inspired by God, and they
love us with a love that comes from God. The Book of Mormon is the
word of God and anyone who desires to know God, his Gospel, his true
Church, and his prophets can know them by reading it, praying about
it, and applying what it teaches.

As I said, I have a burning conviction for these truths. Why? Because
revelation is real. It may start out as a good feeling and or gentle
nudge in the right direction, but when we are diligent and faithful,
grander revelations cannot be withheld from us. No one can ever tell
me that any of this isn't true, because God told me first that it is,
and He did so in the most beautiful, personal, and undeniable ways. I
promise He'll do the same for anyone who sincerely, diligently, and
faithfully seeks after these thing. And that is a testimony after
these two years of striving harder to be more diligent and faithful
than ever before.

Well, this is it. I guess I just have one more thing to say: Mom, you
get the first hug.

-Elder Samuel Burton

1. Mary, myself, and Elan.

2. Finding Neverland

3. The sunset over the Hudson River.

I'll send pictures of our trip up freedom tower later today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


The other day, we were walking down the street in Harlem and a guy
started calling calling out in our direction, "Joseph Smith! Joseph
Smith!" Immediately, our guard is up and our minds are racing. Who is
this? Is he crazy? Is he wanting to argue with us? Or is this just a
good teaching opportunity? These questions tend run through my mind
multiple times a day. So the guy walks over and he has a big smile on
his face, which makes me hopeful. He clasps his hands together and
bows, saying "Brothers! I am Joseph Smith. Good day to you!" Then he
walked away. So I put a checkbox by "crazy" in my mind and we continue
on our way laughing.

But today I'm going to be with a man who's name actually is Joseph
Smith! Ray Smith, from Poughkeepsie, is going to the Broadway show,
Finding Neverland with me. (His full name is Raymond Joseph Smith.)
This is the one and only Broadway show of my mission! I'm super
excited! I'm especially excited to be going with Ray as my companion.
He's one of my favorite people in the world.

Anyway, the work has been good this week. We're still working closely
with Alex as he continue use to strengthen his testimony. Dwight is
still having some reservations about being baptized that we can't
quite pin down. Oscar, unfortunately, is starting to become rather
unreliable, though he always texts us telling us how eager he is to be
baptized and reminding us of his baptismal date, though we keep having
to move it because he's not meeting with us consistently. That's
frustrating, but I'm sure he'll get there eventually.

So a few weeks ago, something funny happened that I think if forgot to
mention in my email. Elder Richards and I were walking down Ninth
Avenue and suddenly we here someone call out "Elder Burton!" We turn
and see a yellow taxi has come to a dead stop in the middle of the
street, much to the annoyance of other drivers, and Will Cosper is
dodging traffic to run over to the sidewalk. You may or may not me
mentioning Will Cosper from when I was in the YSA Ward here. He was a
less active member we were working with. It was great to see him! I
really liked working with him. Since my time in the YSA Ward, he has
been officially reactivated. Yesterday he had us over for dinner at
his apartment and took us to get gelato afterwards. It was great!
Talking to him, I could tell his knowledge of the gospel has grown a
lot over the last several months.

Also, I may have forgotten to mention that Zachary, Rhonda Cady's son
in Poughkeepsie, was baptized a few weeks ago! He wanted me to come
baptize him, but unfortunately President Smith didn't give consent to
take a train up for the baptism.

So from my encounter with Will Cosper and hearing about Zachary's
baptism from Rhonda over Facebook, I've gotten to learn about some of
the future effects of what I've done in past areas. It's cool to know
that there are these "ripples" that I'm not always there to see. It
gives me hope that maybe there have been other good things that have
come from the work I've done that I don't know about.

Well, that's all for this week... Wow, I guess I'm only going to be
sending one more of these emails. AAAAAAHHHHHH! That's a strange
feeling. Well until the next and last time, love you all!


Picture: We found a selfie machine in a subway station, so... Haha.
Sorry, that's pretty lame, but it's the only photo I've got from this
last week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Flashbacks to Union Square

This week we had a miraculous encounter with someone I taught in the
Union Square Ward: Kevin Ortiz. You may or may not remember him. He
was almost baptized when I was there, but got discouraged and lost
contact with he missionaries. Today we turned around a corner down in
Chelsea and literally ran into him and his girlfriend, Sauce. They
were freaking out when they saw me again. He was so excited! Heck, I
was so excited! Some of the best lessons of my mission were with him.
I don't think I've ever seen repentance change someone's life so much
before or since. He told us he felt like this encounter was God
telling him he needs to start coming to church again and preparing for
baptism. We took him straight to the fifteenth street chapel and
introduced him to the current Union Square Ward Elders, who he set an
appointment with. We then committed him to start living the word of
wisdom again. He said he wants me to baptize him, but it probably
won't happen until after I'm home already. Bummer. He said he'll pay
for me to fly back if he has to, but I kind of doubt that will happen.
Regardless, I'm so excited about it! I've been wondering what had
happened to him since I heard he had stopped meeting with the

On Sunday, Alex had a meeting with our Branch President, which went
really well. As of our last lesson with him, he fully understands that
in order to be baptized he would have to live a chaste life in spite
of his attraction to men, and yet he still wants to continue
strengthening his testimony and has said he still sees it as a
possibility in the future. I have high hopes that he will be baptized
one day, though, again, it will probably be after I'm home. As an
unimportant side note, last Sunday, Alex discovered the missionary
dinner calendar, so we will be enjoying Chinese food and a word of
wisdom lesson tonight.

Dwight, who is also moving right along, gave us tickets to go to the
MoMA, so we'll be going there later today. I'll try to send pictures
later. He's been busy with work all week, but we have an appointment
with him and President Comstock for dinner Thursday evening. I think
we're really close to a breakthrough with him.

I've been really joyful this week for some reason. The work is great!
Life is great! I feel so happy with the way my life is right now. I've
got almost two years of good work and memories behind me, three more
weeks of the same to come, and I'm sure great things beyond that too.
I'm going to be super busy with the work over the next few weeks and
it's going to be hard leaving with so much unfinished business, but
I'm still excited to come home and see you and get started with
whatever the Lord has for me next! 

That's all for this week! Love you all! See you all soon.

-Elder Samuel Burton

Photo: view of the sunset from Battery Park

​Pictures from the Museum of Modern Art

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 8, 2016

...oh, and I guess I'm 20 now.

So Elder Richards has been sick in bed for most of the last week, so
unfortunately there is not much to report this week. He did muster the
strength to get to church on Sunday and I was able to go to a few of
our appointments on splits, but much of my week has been hanging
around the apartment trying to be productive while he sleeps.

On Thursday I had the returning missionary meeting. That was cool. It
was kind of strange to sit down with my mission president and hear him
talk to us all about all the taboo subjects for missionaries: girls,
dating, marriage, etc.. Of course he also talked about college and
gave advice for being successful in life.

I had a pleasant surprise when Lindsay Boucher showed up in our
sacrament meeting on Sunday! It's nice to see a familiar face, and the
Bouchers are always a treat!

Yesterday we had a special meeting with Elder Randall Bennett of the
Seventy, who is touring our mission. That was awesome! As far as
general authority visits go, this one was right up there with Elder
Cook and a Elder Holland. The more I get to meet and have these
interactions with general authorities, the more apparent it becomes
that these are inspired men called by God who lead the Church.

Yesterday, I found out that someone I taught in the Bronx is becoming
a member of the church! The weird things is, I thought they already
were. You may recall a man named Ricky Quiñones. He had one leg and a
cat named Macho. Turns out after he was baptized in Puerto Rico, he
was never confirmed. So he's been coming to church consistently for
the last several weeks, and now he's going to be re-baptized and
confirmed this Sunday! It's funny to hear about those kinds of things
and realize, oh, the work does go on after I leave. Haha.

That's all for this week. Now I'm off to find something fun to do to
celebrate my birthday!


The view from the roof of the Met.

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 Puertorriqueños 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