Monday, June 10, 2013

Æ ska heim.

 A pair of Holy Riders :]

In the past few weeks, people have asked me "are you looking forward to going home?" and I have found myself answering "yes" to each of their inquiries. As many of you returned missionaries know, the end of a mission is a time of extremely mixed feelings - and indeed it is. However, to answer everyone once and for all, I will say that I loved my life before the mission. I love my mission now more than I could have possibly comprehended then. And I figure if things keep going like they are, life is just going to continue in its simply awesomely splendid course. No fears, no regrets, just sheer joy. I'm going to miss this place more than I can now imagine, I'm sure. Norway will always be my home, my country, my crucible, my paradise.
Others have asked me "have you changed a lot?" At the beginning of my mission, it seemed as though every transfer was a huge shift in my self, my habits and my ways of life. That was then . . . and now I honestly can't remember who I was before the mission. So I figure this will be an adventure of self-discovery upon returning home. Who was I before? Who am I now? Who do I want to be one year from now? The possibilities and potential available before me just makes me giddy thinking about it.
I apologize that I don't have more time to relate the experiences I've had the past two weeks. They have been filled with referrals (Yes. In Norway.), appointments, and a "treasure map" for bonking doors provided by one of our most awesome members here in the branch. We've been flying. However, I feel that that is the best way to finish. I only have a few precious hours left; I might as well use it wisely. Heck, I can send emails back at home all I want, right? :)

Elder Burt from Stavanger held some rockin'
 splits with me in Haugesund :)
This mission means the world to me. This mission was the hardest two years of my life. This mission was the most rewarding two years of my life. It is impossible to describe the trials, challenges, moments of uttermost agony, joys, successes and moments of ecstatic bliss experienced while on a mission; though I have tried very hard to describe them, appropriately, in my emails. Luckily, for you all, you've seen most of the joys in brilliant detail. The challenges and difficult times, I've purposely removed for many different reasons. Know above all that a mission is worth every effort. One of the greatest reasons why, is due to the testimony I have
                                                                                                           received through it all.

Words cannot express the testimony I have within myself, for a testimony is built upon more than just questions, more than just a few solved doubts, and more than a feeling. My testimony is best expressed in my diligence and faith in obedience to my God's will. Since I am limited to only words here, I will try my best to describe my personal testimony.

I know that Christ is my Savior. He suffered and died for me personally. I believe that if any one of us was the only creature on earth, He would still have given His life for you and me. I know this because I have prayed for release from seemingly inescapable challenges. And I have been freed. A new light and balance in my spiritual, physical and social habits have been established because He provided it for me - a release, and fresh clean slate to begin anew.

I know that my Heavenly Father lives because when I pray to Him, I get answers and feelings in return that I know for certain do not originate from myself. From this communication, I sometimes laugh, and sometimes I cry. The breadth and depth of despair open before me, then the cry for help extended, and the sublime remission of weaknesses and mistakes washes over me. Challenges seemingly unimaginably defeatable 7, 5, 3 and 2 years ago are now daily, matter-of-fact ways of life. This is only due to a concerned, aware Father in Heaven imparting celestial communication to my soul because I ask, thirst, hunger and desire it so strongly.

My testimony regarding the commandments is simple. After a simple course of experimentation, the commandments clearly identify themselves as to why they are given to us. Self-development and progression are a huge part of my testimony. We are here on earth to develop ourselves, through obedience, to become the beings God designed us to become.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was the greatest blood of the 19th century. The Spirit confirms to me the truthfulness of his calling as the prophet of the restoration every time I bear witness of him.
The Book of Mormon is true. It works. Apply the principles within that book and watch your life bloom in spiritual splendor. Ask questions, and answers come to you as you read that book.
Through these restored truths, we have knowledge regarding our life before, during and after this life. The Holy Ghost bears witness of the Plan of Salvation so strongly, I simply cannot deny it.
I rejoice alongside Ammon: "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. . . . Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel. . . . Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land." - Alma 26:12,16,36

I am and always shall be eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father that I received the sacred privilege to be a part of His work.

This is God's work and His glory to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.
In the name of our Lord, Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

-Eldste Bryce Thomas Johnson

P.S. You are all invited to come to church with me! 11 am on 30. June 2013 at 29657 N General Kearny Rd. Temecula, CA 92591

P.P.S. Snip snap snute - dette eventyret er UTE!
Marilyn Monroe was born here in Haugesund. "Shield your eyes!!!"
Avaldnes church. Classic

Rawrr. Viking style

At the viking festival, they had diabolos :)

Dueling vikings!

Roast beast. MM!
Viking ship!

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Eldste Schulz and I's last moments!

On the way to Hardanger fjord!


Bridge under Låtefossen!

Elder Callister taking a picture of Låtefossen

Låtefossen :]

One of our member's home farms!
 Hangin' with a sjømann :)

One day, the farmer found this rock in his pasture. No joke.
 The lake right before Odda.
  More of the lake right before Odda. 
Count 'em. 11 kilometer tunnel. Yeaiah.
Odda city
 Odda church
Odda city and church :) (It looks like a temple!)

 Bondhus lake!
Another random waterfall on the side of the road.
One of the Bukkene Bruse defending his family :)

Bondhus glacier!
On the ferry from Rosendal to Skånevik
Rosendal city

- This is a monument put up by Torleif Knaphus's relatives in Utah. He grew up in the Haugesund area, and is a famous artist for the Handcart pioneers. If you see old art of the handcart pioneers - chances are, it's his work.

 Look familiar? 

We found this while bonking. Hahaha. Wasn't me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gutten min skal til Alta! (My Boy's Leavin' for Alta!)

Kjære alle sammen!

Looking back at the past week, I catch myself thinking "Wow, a whole week went by already." Then 3 minutes later I think "Man, it's only been a week? That was forever ago!" Yet again, the mission throws you a warped sense of time. Ahh, but "sånn er livet!" ("such is life!")

Sunday morning moves call came around - and Elder Schulz and I huddled around our phone in a conference call. Huge changes are happening in the Norway Mission right now - especially by the fact that 17 sisters just barely arrived in addition to only the 14 sisters currently serving. Some sister missionaries who have been out for only 3 weeks are now training the brand new arrivals! It's crazy! But very exciting for the Norway Mission!! Another change was that our mission of usually 3 zones (North, East and West) has now been split into 4 (North, East, West and Telemark, or in other words, Central/Southern). Thank goodness, too. The East zone has had a very unbalanced number of areas to take care of in comparison to the North and West. But there I went digressing about Norwegian mission organization . . . . I think it's cool and exciting. Man, I love this mission. But anyway.

The announcement came that "gutten min" ("my boy") Elder Schulz, who began his mission with me, will be leaving me! His next area of assignment will be the land of the midnight sun - Alta. Yes that's right, Elder Schulz will be the northernmost missionary in the entire world along with his new companion. I have a lot of mixed feelings regarding our transfer ending - I've come to really enjoy serving with him. He's taught me more lessons on being teachable, willing, humble and filled with faith than any other individual I've met on my mission. Not to mention his intensely thorough project on finding and developing every Christ-like attribute and their possible interconnections with one another. Regardless, however, of his questions and concerns, the answer will probably show up in the book of Hebrews (Sorry everyone, inside joke. Every time he gets a super cool idea or revelation - it always seems to stem from the book of Hebrews :P). Elder Schulz, I know you'll be reading this, so at least you'll get a kick out of that :). I'm going to miss him though. And I know it's going to continue to be an epic ride of a mission for him. Luckily for me, I can keep up on his blog!

As for more projects completed this week, on Friday, May 24th, Elder Schulz and I spoke no English to each other the entire day - 100% Norwegian. I've always wanted to achieve that goal - and it seemed that Elder Schulz was the only one brave enough to truly commit and accomplish it. We felt awesome afterward! Another project completed this week was our donation of multiple language copies of the Book of Mormon to the local library.
This is what happens when we have to go pick up our package of new copies of the Book of Mormon a few miles away. Hello sore shoulders.
Since Norway is such a mixture of cultures and languages from the entire world - making the Book of Mormon available to everyone in their languages will be a valuable resource for sparking interest in these foreigners.
This is what happens when we have to go pick up our package of new copies of the Book of Mormon a few miles away. Hello sore shoulders.
As for spiritual experiences this week, the family that came to church last week met with us. They come from a Buddhist, non-christian background, so approaching their lesson was very different from our usual run-of-the-mill lesson. The mother in the family is particularly spiritually sensitive: "When I read in the Book of Mormon, I feel enlightened as if someone is teaching me." After we explained our basic doctrines regarding God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, she understood that it was the Holy Ghost assisting her to understand the Book of Mormon. We also discussed the doctrine regarding eternal families, and how we can be eternally linked to our forefathers. This struck a deep chord in her as she began to express her closeness to her family and other relatives. I shared an experience about how sometimes I feel my grandfather nearby - who passed away 8 years ago. She turned to us and said "I can tell that your ancestors are helping you - you have a light with you as if someone is helping you." She is certainly a prepared, spiritually sensitive woman. It was also a testimony to me of the role of family history work and the Spirit of Elijah.

We all can feel an added measure of God's Spirit as we come closer to our families (1 Nephi 5:16-17). Try it out for yourself!

-Eldste Bryce Thomas Johnson

P.S. Oh yeah, and here in Haugesund, Elder Callister will be joining me. He was in my district back in Oslo, as well as when I served in Tromsø. We go pretty far back - so we're excited to serve together!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Syttende Mai! (Seventeenth of May!)

Some flowers on a rainy day :)
I apologize that for the past two weeks there have been no emails -
Poor bunader :(
last week our "preparation day" (our day off) was moved back from Monday (as usual) to Friday the 17th.  We weren't allowed to proselyte(on 17. Mai, so we took it as our day to clean, prepare and then go
celebrate the holiday with our fellow Norwegians!

17. Mai, for those of you who didn't get the low-down from last year's
celebration, is Norway's national independence day! It is normally
celebrated with parades, the gorgeous traditional Norwegian dress
"bunader", Norwegian flags and expressions of "Gratulerer med dagen!"
The Norwegian flag!
(literally translates to "Congratulations with the day!", which also
happens to be the same expression used for "Happy Birthday!). Since we
were in western Norway, it was only tradition that it should rain on
17. Mai. But don't worry, everyone brought ponchoes to cover their
beautiful bunader. As per tradition, we watched the barnetog (child
parade) put on by all of the local schools, and the folketog (people
parade) put on by all of the local groups and organizations. The
russetog (Russ parade) was forbidden for us missionaries to take part
in, so instead we grilled food and played Phase 10 with some members

Oh yes and before I forget, Happy Birthday Dad, Duncan and Elder
Matthew Putnam :)! You are all excellent examples of what a priesthood
holder ought to be. I love you all!

As for other events this week, we've been prioritizing our efforts
between members and investigators a lot. Our members are extremely
valuable to us, and since our arrival here, we have been able to stabilize and strengthen them. However, now they seem to be doing well on their own, and so it's our duty to now step back a little bit and let them continue progressing, while we go out and find new investigators. All of our investigators dropped us last week, so it's time to go find some 
The parades in town
new ones. Indeed, like Elder Hazen and Elder Woo in China, we've been going out to find some of God's prepared children!
 Tåkelurfabrikken - The fog horn factory :)
This is not to say that we've dropped our members completely, not in the least. One such less-active member that we've worked with for 2 and a half months, finally came back to church two weeks ago! And
earlier last week she asked "is it okay if I bring a family tochurch?" Umm. That's only the very question we want every member in the entire church to ask the missionaries! So we had an additional 4
people show up to church  - making it a total 33 in church on Sunday! For Haugesund, that's astounding compared to our average of15! We have also been assigned to teach the Primary every Sunday (as
of a few  months ago), so it was one crazy Primary class with 8 kids for us to shepherd. Whew! Add crowd-control to the list of things you learn on a mission.

 Skudenes - J. took us on a trip to see one of Norway's oldest cities.
Some of these houses were built in the 1700s
Recently while out on the street people have asked how old we are. One ten-year-old kid even made the mistake of asking if Elder Schulz (my trainee) was my dad. The nerve of some people! Haha - I'm only
kidding. Poor Elder Schulz though. I remember in Mo i Rana that everyone thought I was 15. At least now people think I'm 19. Elder Schulz: "No, little boy, I'm 19. He's 21." "Hæ??" You've got to love little kids.

Teaching this week has primarily consisted of new convert lessons,
reading in the Book of Mormon together for understanding, and helping K. (from the Stavanger days) get immersed in, and begin to understand,

After a drought of no service projects the whole entire winter - we
finally were given some service to do by our neighbors! It was a
glorious day. They asked us to mow their lawn and insert wooden posts in their yard. I almost went into shock as my nostrils filled with the scent of freshly cut grass, and my slightly obsessive-compulsiveartist within me emerged through the trim, neat patterns on the grass. Needless to say, I love yard work. Yeah, you heard me right, Mom. I love yard work. Our neighbor was pretty hilarious at the end: "Wow you guys are really nice, why won't people talk with you more often?"   That's a really good question! We're trying!! "By the way my father in Bergen could use some help in his yard, too. Are there missionaries in
Bergen??" You bet there are. What blessings indeed!
 Skudenes bay!
With regards to studies, two projects were completed this week. The
first of which was a goal to read the entire Norwegian Book of Mormon
(Mormons Bok) out loud, underlining and defining every confusing
word/phrase. I began that project back in the MTC, August 2011.
Finally we made it to Moroni 10 this past week. Woo! The second
project was to translate my entire patriarchal blessing into the
Norwegian language. That was a very neat experience as different
words, phrases and expressions were translated, giving me added
insight to what the Lord meant in my patriarchal blessing. I highly
recommend doing such a project to all of you foreign-speaking
missionaries :).

One special experience happened yesterday as I was reading through
some family stories. My relative back in the 1830s/1840s, John Tanner
was miraculously healed and converted in the course of very few days
by two missionaries, Elder Jared Carter and Elder Simeon Carter. As I
related this story to Elder Schulz, he said "Oh you mean Elders Jared
and Simeon Carter from the Doctrine and Covenants?" Umm. What?? Lo and
behold, the very missionaries who baptized my forefather are the same
missionaries mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants sections 52, 75,
79, 94 and 102. Family history is awesome!!

Section 79 was particularly meaningful, as it was written directly to
Elder Jared Carter.

 "1 Verily I say unto you, that it is my will that my servant Jared
Carter should go again into the eastern countries, from place to
place, and from city to city, in the power of the ordination wherewith
he has been ordained, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy, even the
everlasting gospel.

 2 And I will send upon him the Comforter, which shall teach him the
truth and the way whither he shall go;

 3 And inasmuch as he is faithful, I will crown him again with sheaves.

 4 Wherefore, let your heart be glad, my servant Jared Carter, and
fear not, saith your Lord, even Jesus Christ. Amen."

It's interesting to note that I, among thousands of other relatives to
John Tanner, am one of those "sheaves" promised in verse 3. As well as
the work and fruits which the Lord has given me in Norway.

Blessed be the name of our God!

-Eldste Bryce Thomas Johnson
Wakin' up for a run :)

The gateway to Djupedalen! (Djupedalsporten)
Elder Schulz biking on top of the Djupedalen dam

Djupedalen lake :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A.'s Dåp :)

Goin' on a hike! Goin' on a hike!
Some ruins we hiked by today. Cloudy cloudy.
Kjære dere,
So much has happened. Where to start?
A. was baptized this past Saturday, and we had a good turnout  as well! She really enjoyed herself, and the meeting certainly had a special spirit about it. The Holy Ghost seems to affect everyone a little differently. For some, it makes them cry. For others, it's a very warm fuzzy feeling in the chest. And then for others it may just give you a feeling to be quiet . . . because everything is just so peaceful. The latter seemed to be A.'s reaction. The Spirit is a spirit of peace, and of joy. What an honor it was to see her enter into a covenant with the Lord. Our God is Wonderful.
We are all on our way to become more like our perfect Heavenly Father. Baptism is a step on that path. Another step in that path is the development of Christ-like attributes. These attributes are gifts from God, that we are privileged to be granted by our studying, application and development of such. In my mission, I've made it a tradition that on the first of every month, during personal study, I would take all of the self-evaluations found in Preach My Gospel. One of those self-evaluations is that of Christ-like attributes. It was extremely interesting this past week because the two attributes I've struggled with my entire mission have suddenly switched to two completely different ones. Needless to say, I have changed immensely due to this mission, and it seems to only stack up multipliers of change as we near a not-too-far-distant end.
Our primary lesson on missionary work turned into a portrait of us :)
My previous companions Elder Godfrey and Elder Levine both returned home last weekend. I absolutely loved serving with both of them, and will always treasure our camaraderie and friendship. Elder Godfrey's "dying" words to me were "Set some goals that you want to accomplish before the end. And do everything you can to achieve them." Since then, I've been so fired up on goals and plans and achieving them, I feel like I'm back at the MTC! Preach my Gospel activities to finish, copies of the Book of Mormon to translate, a new missionary to get up and running 100% independently, an area to get up to standard, and a district to get up to standard as well. Give this man Mountains to Climb!! I love life.
Other cool things this week include Elder Schulz talking in his sleep for two nights straight - in Norwegian!! Ahh, just like my trainer Elder Passey used to do every night. As well, one of my goals I've had since the beginning of my mission has been to translate my Patriarchal Blessing completely into Norwegian. I've always felt that there would be hidden meanings and patterns within my blessing through translating it to a different language, and sure enough, there are. And I've only begun translating it. What a great wonder our Lord's plan is!
"Give me Mountains to Climb, Give me Rivers to Cross!" - Mountains to Climb by Erin Thomas
-Eldste Bryce Thomas Johnson

Temecula Root Beer. I never thought I'd see it on Norwegian soil.

 Yeah that's my town!