Elder Colby Ross Smith

Elder Colby Ross Smith

The New Arrok

Iakwe Woj- ro jeiu im jatu, kab mama im baba

Some changes are coming to our small band of 20 missionaries here in Majuro. There’s a new intake of several missionaries coming in a few weeks, and some transfers have to be made before they arrive. My companion, Elder Logalaca leaves for home next Sunday, which means I will have a new companion. Also, we are combining our two zones into one since its getting pretty top heavy with the APs back this week. Then, some sisters will move into our area and we’ll see what changes can be made for them.
That brings me to our main area, Arrok. The Ward is preparing to split in June (President Pearson of the Area Presidency will be here for that), which has expanded our geography and given us way more ground to find people.  I’m utilizing my tried and true methods of getting prospective Elders engaged in the split preparation. And, as always, more less-active members ALWAYS leads to more people to teach. Man… I wish we had this situation earlier. Last week we started several new investigators and helped many prospective elders to make commitments, getting them active again.

I’ve learned a lot from the last 6 weeks, though… I’m really grateful for this time I’ve had to struggle and feel almost powerless to change things as quickly as President Weir was hoping for (unless he foresaw this and knew the Lord wanted to teach me a lesson in humility, hahaha). Back in Kiribati, my companions and I saw so much success and, despite our many failures, I felt very comfortable and was probably getting somewhat lax. Not in the sense of working less, but things were almost getting easier than they probably should be. I actually prefer difficulty since it’s when you’re in the deepest waters that you have the greatest opportunity to draw unto the Lord.

But, yeah, I’m grateful for all that I have been taught by my Redeemer. It’s been more than I could ever repay. I love that part about service; I am blessed and taught so much more than I ever do for others. It’s such a strange thing. It’s so beautiful how it works. Any burdens I’ve had or felt have propelled me and taught me. I love the principle of uncomfortability. It’s a greater blessing than anything temporal I could ever receive.

So, yes, like I was saying, we have an increased opportunity to find and teach due to border extensions and it’s led to a week full of little miracles. I see them so clearly now that I’ve been given the experiences of being cut down, struggling to find people, and, of course, trying to learn a new language quickly.
One of our investigators is Moen. We have been working with him since I got here. He’s a great guy and has so much potential. He’s almost there- just working on the Word of Wisdom and coming to church diligently. He struggles with reading, so it’s difficult to progress with the Book of Mormon in between our visits. I think he will be good to go in just a few weeks!

The APs' return this week will help a lot. We’ve had to spread ourselves thin, working half our time in Long Island. I’ve also been teaching the Kiribati people there. I will miss them. Several of their baptismal dates are coming up soon. One of them, Tenson, is really doing well. He’s from Kuria, an “outie” where I served over a year ago. During our time teaching he’s had a lot of ups and downs drinking-wise. Just 2 weeks ago he was drunk a whole week straight… then we taught on the Word of Wisdom and felt horrible the next time we visited and found him drinking kava. It was a sad sight. His friends and family aren’t helping. His wife and kids are still in Kiribati, but will come as soon as they get their passports and money. He arrived here over 6 months ago. The thing I like about him is that, despite his many failures, he really does want change. There’s so much apathy here in Majuro. His small desire and hope is a great light. His and the rest of the Kiribati investigators baptismal dates have been postponed to May 7th, which will be good for Elder Openshaw since it will be the last Saturday of his mission. (Elder Openshaw is the missionary that lost his family to an airplane crash in Utah last year)

Another female investigator we love is Mary Ann, 20 years old. She’s such a light. She’s another Kiribati girl that mostly grew up here in Majuro. She speaks Kiribati and English best, so we do mix-up lessons. It’s been a rocky road due to growing opposition from her parents. (She only told us of their disapproval recently). She was caught sneaking out to church a couple times. A member girl has been her support and guide through it all. She is so smart and has soooooo many good questions. Her parents are Seventh Day Adventist, and she compares our answers to what she hears from them. With her permission, I’ll write more about her in the future, because there’s some crazy stuff. I’ve learned a lot from studying for and teaching her.

Anyways, things are still amazing, as always! I love being a missionary. And, despite my weaknesses as a leader, I love being a Zone Leader!

Have an eventful week! Fill it with hundreds of invitations to come unto Christ, even if it’s just a smile or a heartfelt expression of gratitude to someone. Fill the world with light! Love you all! Talk to you next time, Elder Smith


Building a Temple of God

Bar Yokwe non bamle eo ao

Alright alright, where to begin? For starters, 12 WEEKS TILL GOING HOME. I do not know this number because of some sense of anticipation or desire to leave. Rather, it means its go time! Time to crack the whip! No regrets. Final quarter (actually less). Yeah, I’m stoked. My recently created personal vision is entitled ‘’Building a Temple of God,’’ based on Elder Holland’s talk ‘’However long and hard the road.’’ The scriptural base is D&C 64:33 and, of course, 1 Corinthians 3:16, ‘’Know ye not that ye are the temple of God….?’’ It’s about laying a foundation of good work for myself, still seeking diligently to be the son and servant the Lord has called me to be since the spirit world. Or, at least seeking for the Lord to change me into that person, to my fullest potential ‘’via’’ the Atonement.

I love setting and pursuing goals. Ah I love it. And what’s more, making goals and plans that are inspired by revelation that comes from the Lord when you’re on His errand. I have learned and been taught so much on my mission; by the people, the missionaries, and the Spirit. That’s the amazing thing about service… It will do more for you than you ever could do for those you’re serving. I’ve seen it countless times here in the islands. I love being corrected and changed and transformed by the Lord, and I am so grateful for these last 12 weeks to do all that I can to serve, and forever be changed while doing so.

President Weir often reminds me that “[We] are here to prepare [ourselves] to be good fathers and husbands! It’s funny, I used to have so many plans for my life, so many ideas, so many ambitions… and now, though I still have desires to do well in life, the worldliness of my hopes have been swallowed up, and from it born something new. It’s pretty sick how that can happen actually. A miracle itself! All I really want to be now is a good son to my earthly and Heavenly Parents- a good family member- and a good parent and husband. Maybe saying these things sounds strange to others hahaha, but that’s really a major reason why we are here on earth!

So, yeah, anyways, I’m stoked for these next 12 weeks. Gonna give it all I got! My plan will help me to be directed by the Lord to magnify this calling. And that’s good because, to be honest, work hasn’t been easy here on Majuro. It never was before, but it’s a different game than Kiribati: different culture, people, teaching methods... We’re really trying to lift this side of the mission the best we can. That’s a long story though, won’t get into that. 

Things are a lot more modern here, but that shouldn’t be the limiting factor in softening hearts. Maybe it is, though. Don’t get me wrong, I love the people here (: They’re awesome! Especially the members. I have met some amazing and courageous members here who are such examples of service and magnifying callings. But there is an apathy to change and desire to know the truth here. We have a decent amount of investigators, but scheduled lessons rarely work out. People forget or avoid us, even after great previous lessons. We did, however, have a baptism last week! That was sick. Joseph, our investigator got baptized. He’s a great kid- 16 years old. I greatly prefer to teach whole families together, but Joseph’s parents aren’t keen to participate and Joseph is such a stellar kid.

I’m beginning to wonder if teaching all the Kiribati people over in Long Island (an hour drive away) was such a good idea.  We may be spreading ourselves too thin. We’ve been searching for new people to teach nearby, but most don’t want lessons. That’s another thing! Kiribati people have concentrated into just a few of the larger religions like catholic and protestant. But here there’s like 30 churches! Soo many small churches. And, they’re all like social groups. The social aspect serves as a main motivation for church attendance here. Next week I’ll write about some investigators that actually are progressing and coming to our church, though.

My companion, Elder Logalaca, is one of the most Christ-like people you would ever meet. He believes that I’m here in Majuro mostly for the Zone Leader part, to be a small tool in lifting other missionaries. For now, I’ll just keep doing what I know and try to see things how God sees them, hoping for and planning on ‘’Good Things to Come.’’

Elder Logalaca is from the outer island of Taveuni in Fiji. He is a 2 year+ convert to the church. He talks about the changes in his life daily so I know a lot of his stories. In short, Loga was your every day average drug dealer. He had a gang, got into lots of fights, loved to party, smoke and drink, and do anything and everything he could to feel good, even stealing money. He was a starting rugby and volleyball player and has almost died several times. His most recent near death experience happened 6 months before his baptism, after another drug overdose. He passed out and had this immense pain all over his body. At some point he had a vivid dream: I won’t go into all the details, but he promised God that he would change his life and serve God. He wanted to be happy. He began changing his life, though falling again every now and then, until the day the missionaries came to his island and he was taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ and baptized a month later. Less than a year later he sent in his Missionary application. (this is a really condensed version of the story).

It wasn’t an easy path, severing ties with old friends while being practically disowned by his own family. His family angry anymore, but he hasn’t heard from them since leaving for his mission. (even after the big Fiji storm, he doesn’t know what happened to them) But Loga has big dreams for his future and his family and kids one day and also his village (he’s the only member). Every day he lets those around him know how happy he his. He always has words of wisdom (usually quotes by scripture, latter day prophets, or reggae, like Bob Marley hahaha), and he’s always looking to help others. He’s another example of what I meant when I said I’ve been taught so much more on my mission than I have taught others. Love this guy. Seriously, almost every day he throws his hands in the air and yells ‘’Yeah! I don’t know why, man, I’m just so happy all the time!’’ He often talks about how his life was saved, how his eyes are open now, and how grateful he is that Heavenly Father loved him enough to cut him down so he could grow. 

He’s still enduring certain challenges, but always smiling and positive. He is living proof that ‘’the future is as bright as your faith.’’ So that’s Logalaca, and I’m Elder Smith. And we are West Zone Leaders of the MIMM! Best mission in the world! I love my mission! And I’m so grateful for every second of it! Peace out till next time!

Elder Smith

1st Report from the Marshall Islands

Iokwe Aolep,

Things are all good in the West Zone here in the Marshall Islands. I‘ve now been here for 2 weeks and time has flown by. I'm loving the work, people and new language, despite the many many differences with things I love about Kiribati.

It's starting to get fun now because I'm able to speak a little. All last week I taught the entirety of our lessons, with Elder Logalaca following up to make sure they're on the same page due to my accent and limited vocabulary. Really having a blast learning Marshallese. Just speaking all the time and not worrying what others think, combined with lots of study, and even more prayer and fasting makes for a good combination of learning quickly. Already knowing another language (Kiribati) helps a little, too. Which brings me to another point...! We've been given authority to teach all Kiribati people throughout our zone (as ZLs, we have a car). I'm now the only Kiribati speaking missionary here since the assistants just left for Kiribati for a couple months because we are having a senior couple shortage. So...we inherited all of their Kiribati investigators, which is good because, though there are no Marshallese in Kiribati, there are loads of Kiribati here in the Marshall Islands. And that means more time teaching for Elder Smith, which makes him very happy!

Our immediate area of Arrak, though beautiful and lush as it is, it is not exactly ripe with prepared individuals. Hahahaha. Nah, there are plenty, I’m sure. We're just having trouble finding them at the moment! I remember times in Kiribati, such as my last area of Betio, there were many prepared people. It took lots of praying and fasting and hard, hard work to find them. But Elder Christensen and I did find them, and it was the same in all my areas. We intend to do the same things here and show everyone that this place CAN and WILL have many baptisms, despite the differences in culture and life here, and despite the low population of our area (we are in the “bush” of Majuro). There have been very few baptisms here. BUT WE BELIEVE. We have a vision, and goals for that vision, and plans to accomplish those goals. Mostly this consists of work, work, work, work, and more work (We can sleep or rest when we die, right?) Of course, all hard work must be combined with much prayer and fasting, since we can’t accomplish anything without the Lord’s help.  

Anyways, yeah, things are on the rise. Average lessons a day? 2. But it’s on the rise. And I'm stoked (though I love this language) to be able to also teach in Kiribati. Man, I love Kiribati. 

Elder Logalaca is the best companion! He's great. At some point I'll probably talk a little about him and his life because it’s a crazy story. We're having fun and working hard, just sad that the time is flying by...

I signed a paper last week for my return home... something about my flight. It's been moved forward to the 23rd of June. Just about 3 months left.... I don’t know where the time has gone. I'm excited to go home, of course. Many great things to come. But, I don’t know.... I just don’t know what else I want to do, really. I don’t know how to live and not be a missionary every day. Of course that’s what I'll continue to do when I get home, but yeah, you know what I mean. It’s not the same. It has gone too fast.

A little sad about that... but doing great. I love my mission. I love my home of Kiribati, but I also love the Marshall Islands. I love the Lord, His church, His atonement, and the gospel created to access its power. I love to serve!
Until next time, 

Elder Smith  

Transfer to Marshall Islands

IAKWE my family! 
Alright, where to begin? I’m writing this update report from a different country- the Marshall Islands! I was transferred here on Friday from Kiribati, to be Zone Leader with Elder Logalaca from Fiji. Super stoked to be here.

I feel pretty green again- different language and all. Elder Logalaca and the other missionaries in the zone have been helping me out a lot. I feel good- I've got them and a great deal of help from the Lord on my side. The only thing I don’t have is a lot of is TIME. The most I’ll have is just 3-4 months here in the Marshalls to give it everything I've got. That’s nothing. That’s a blink of an eye. Seriously, so much has got to happen in such a short amount of time with the work here in my zone and the country and within myself as I prepare to enter a new field (America) in just a few months.

I already love the people and the missionaries here, though I really miss Kiribati. I miss the people....all those people. I love them so much. I miss all the recent converts and investigators from Betio. A lot of Good stuff
happened there in my time with Elder Christensen, then Elder Tune (my Kiribati companion that was waiting for his Visa). I haven’t written an update in quite some time, but WOW! I wish I could tell it all in a short period of time.

After the baptism of Buren, Retia and Baenana (who just had her baby last week!), we had more. Manna is a 20 year old girl, practically disowned by her family for getting baptized....she’s awesome… and Siniva (from Tuvalu, moved to Kiribati last year after getting married to Tautii, an RM, who was going less active, and has had a huge amount of changes in her life. She went from hating the church to becoming a strong member again) were baptized on January 30th.
One of my favorite couples of all time, Bouneta and Kaakoa, got baptized on the 6th of February with their niece that lives with them. Together they have just one kid (5 years old) and are starting a family. Man, they have the coolest conversion story- some of my favorite investigators ever. So smart and good at English, always had loads of questions. So happy for them. So proud of them. They went through a lot of repentance and other changes to be baptized.
Lastly, Taeka’s family (he and his 3 kids, the wife being a loonnggg time less active member who came back) all were baptized on the 13th. That was a sweet baptism, and my last on Kiribati. They were a tough case to help get there....but so worth it- hard core Catholic to new found Latter Day Saints. They went through a whole deal of change to comply with the word of wisdom and overcame a great deal of mocking from everyone in their village (no one is Mormon there). Nei Kaata was also baptized that day. She’s also a 20 year old girl who changed a ton, especially regarding the word of wisdom. 
I loved our Gospel Principles class in Betio. It was the best. They’re all so close and have a big goal to go to the temple together a year from now. There are 7 couples currently in the class, well, it’s starting to go down due to recent converts getting callings...... That’s a GOOD problem though. So stoked about that. They gave me a shirt with all their faces on it and me in the middle, with a bunch of other departing gifts when I left Betio this week. hahaha the shirt is so funny- and the best!

My heart is full....I love them with all my heart. One of the best things to hear was Retia and Buren talking about a time when all them were together planning my departing gifts and they all talked about all the changes that they had been through, how they used to hate the church and mock the members of it, but now know it’s true with all their hearts and how they have been so blessed because of it.
17 solid baptisms in 3 solid months of the crowded and dirty and awesome town of Betio (: Ah man....I’m so happy. I’m so grateful for them, and for all the mighty miracles the Lord wrought in Betio, with all the recent converts, and investigators on their way, and all the members, men preparing to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.  He has done so much. I love the Ward and the members. I'm so grateful for them and my two companions there and for everything they did. Nothing would have been done without them.
I'm also grateful to be here now. I LOVE KIRIBATI. And I'm now a lover of the MARSHALL ISLANDS.
Well, there’s a quick update. I'll add more details in the next email if you want to send me questions about either Kiribati or the Marshalls. Love you all. 
Till next time,

Bar lo eok!

Lots to Do!

Mauri moa n te ririki ae boou!

Wow, so many things I could talk about! Don’t know where to begin. It’s been a while since I’ve written, so I have quite a few updates. For one, Betio is a great area!

After about 6 cancelled meetings with the Bishopric and Ward Council, many prayers and reminders, we finally got one! It went great. We felt so good after. It’s amazing what can be accomplished. I hope they all felt the same, so we can have another meeting soon. We discussed about 25 men- recent converts, less actives, or soon to be baptized, who could receive the Priesthood in May. Finally, we have a list to work on.

Our main challenge, as usual, is the lack of time. Our recent converts and investigators are all on track. The key is getting Bishop and other members to fellowship them, so they don’t ‘’leave out the back door’’ once they’re in. We just started doing splits with prospective Elders- we’re aiming for Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Saturdays, we split with the local returned missionaries so they can get to know our investigators and help with fellowshipping (our Ward Mission Leader is still new and learning). These splits won’t last for much longer, though it was so nice while it lasted; last week we taught 60 lessons and started with 10 new investigators that are sooo legit! I am so over-joyed with the great lot of couples and families we are teaching now.

My companion will be leaving soon to Aranuka, his first “outie,” and my new companion will be a Kiribati missionary that is waiting for a Visa to go to another mission…. We’ll still have an extra tag along with us each day, in addition to some returned missionary sisters since they are such a great help and bring such a nice, bright spirit to the lessons.

Hey… It’s now a couple weeks later- never finished the previous update. Elder Christensen is gone and after flying solo for a few days I got my new companion, Elder Tune. He’s part a pioneer family that helped establish the Church in Kiribati. He graduated from Moroni High School a couple months ago and is waiting for his Visa before her transfers out to New Zealand, Hamilton Mission.

Things are pretty sweet so far. He’s a champ. Still learning a lot, though, since he hasn’t been to any missionary training center yet. We’ve had a lot of fun the last week! He’s a really hard worker.

As for the work- things are better than ever! We had 7 baptisms so far this month. 3 more are scheduled for January 30th. And, once February arrives, the real fun begins! All of those are people that started taking the lessons since I arrived here in Betio. Ah gosh, I love them. The idea of using returned missionaries is going well. We’ve been pushing the members to fellowship investigators/recent converts and they’re really beginning to put forth an extra effort.

Four of our most recent baptisms all required marriage first. One of them, Joe, in his thirties, married our Bishop’s adopted daughter. He was previously a devoted catholic, but has been coming to our Church and Institute classes independently and never even had lessons. All the Ward members thought he was a member; he already knew so much basic doctrine. He started lessons just before my arrival. We helped him finish up his divorce papers and got them married. The marriage took place just one day before his baptism, followed by a fun party. They have a baby on the way.

Another, Baenana, married our Stake President’s nephew, Kaiea. She has such a sweet heart- an easy crier. She’s only 19 years old, pregnant, and due in the next few weeks! She’s had taken lessons with missionaries for several months before my arrival and has had a testimony of this Church even though she had never read the Book of Mormon and asked God if it was true. She wants so dearly to have an eternal family and peaceful and happy life for herself, husband and daughter. Once she received her witness of the Book of Mormon and her marriage paperwork was ready, she was married just before getting baptized- a huge baptism and marriage that included their entire family, including the brother-in-law that baptized her. There was a big party at their house last Saturday night.

Lastly, my other favorite couple, Buren and Retia…! I love them so much- I love all these families and couples here…. Ahhh, gosh it’s the happiest thing in the world to teach and help families increase their faith in Jesus Christ by preparing for Baptism and the Temple afterwards. Couples and families are my favorites. Luckily, we have 4-5 more marriages to go and a couple more full families being taught! Betio is on fire! 12 adult investigators at church yesterday, along with their kids. A couple of them are YSA who are typically fellowshipped like crazy by the 10+ RMs in our ward. Anyways, Buren was another who had had lessons for some time but nothing clicked…that is until Retia joined in right when I got here. He’s protestant, she’s catholic. Now they’re Mormon! What better combination?! She was a huge deal changer. Buren has changed so much lately. They came my first week here and have not missed since (8 weeks in total), attending Church for all 3 hours (that is an accomplishment….hahaha- seriously). So I’ve had a lot of marriages and couples baptized together in my time, but that was definitely one of the coolest. Like Baenana and Kaiea’s wedding, they came in tux and dress and invited their non-member friends to attend (they’re totally embracing the member missionary thing), and we had a small wedding reception at their house where they wore matching outfits. Three days later they were baptized and their testimonies were some of the strongest I’ve ever heard. Both were so well prepared.

More to come. I’ll just end this for now…sort of rambling on. I’ll relate more investigator stories next week. A lot of other good ones. I’m attaching a couple pictures this week! I’d write more but we need to get going! Lots to do! Things in Betio 1st are great! I love it here and I love the members and our investigators so much. Till next time,

Elder Smith


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

Just a thought for this week- Lately here in Tarawa, due to recent modernization (more portable video players and laptops), an anti-Mormon video against the validity of the Book or Mormon as scripture has been spread around like a sickness from the other churches who take pleasure in bringing our Church down. I’ve seen stuff like this before. They’re actually easily answered questions if you know a thing or two about history, the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Frankly, they are pathetic ploys made to maim members’ faith and testimony. But, if you’re a member here and you’ve never heard of something like this before, it affects ya, I guess. Consequently, a lot of Kiribati members are a little shaken up from it. I’m sure this happens around the world. Actually, things have been this way since the beginning of time. But the internet has escalated misinformation to a new level- I’m sure many of you have seen.

Anyways, last Sunday was fast and testimony meeting and it was really cool hearing testimonies from about 25 people (there were so many), telling stories- most of them being about how the Book of Mormon changed their lives. So, Elder Christensen and I were talking and he shared a Book of Mormon scripture, Alma 62:41. It reads, ‘’But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.’’

Affliction, sorrow, sickness, temptations and even ploys fixed by the adversary to damage testimonies of Christ and His church come to everyone! It’s inevitable in a fallen world. But, we can choose how we react. That’s where desire, action and faith come into play. You all know numerous scriptures that support this simple and crucial truth. We’re all given the same gift of agency- it being a central part of God’s plan built on Christ. When adversity comes, we can either become ‘’hardened’’ or ‘’softened.’’ I love how because of it, while some have been hurt, most have found humility, growth and strength in times of adversity.

I love the members here. It reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures in the Epistle of James. So many in his letters. James 4:10, ‘’ Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.’’

Though we live in a ‘’fallen’’ world, if we will simply humble ourselves in times of doubt or challenge, and exercise just the morsel of faith we have left, to walk the path shown by our Savior, Jesus Christ, He will recreate us. He will ‘’lift’’ us up, in faith, knowledge, strength, and He will make us into all we are meant to be. When we were ‘’softened’’ and like clay, we can be made into all the Master desires, but when ‘’hardened’’ we are left to our own abilities, which is hopelessness, never to truly progress in this life or the next, or receive the fullness of joy that comes from being humble enough to follow Him, and be made into more than we can imagine.

But remember this at all times: ‘’The Lord cannot give you something that you do not choose.’’ Your personal desire is required! Elder Dallin Oaks said, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming. It is our actions and our desires that cause us to become something, whether a true friend, a gifted teacher, or one who has qualified for eternal life.”

The Book of Mormon contains many teachings and lessons about the importance of desire.

Till next time,

Elder Smith