Friday, September 11, 2015

Welcome home gathering...

We had an informal gathering in our yard the day after Joel got home.  A few neighbors old and new came, also Devin Ashcroft, Mallory Doxey and two people who served in his mission.  His former companion "Elder" Williams and "Sister" Moberg who are both here going to school!  Also one of his converts, Samantha and her mom Melissa came.  They have moved to Springville. It was fun to meet them!  Joel also got to meet Nate and Lilly Dibb...who will soon be joining our family! The weather was great and we just enjoyed eating and visiting!  The kids had great fun in the yard and especially finding a huge spider web! Now we wait to hear him speak in church and report to the high council, then his mission will be officially at an end!  We love having him home!!

 Judy and Garry Guymon, our sweet and wonderful neighbors from Lindon!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Elder McKinney returns home!

 Everything is ready.  Signs are made and colored by the boys, banner made by Amanda, Back to Babylon basket is made, his room is ready, WE are ready!!  Tuesday, September 8th finally arrived!  Joel's grandpa McKinney's funeral was that morning in Sacramento.  Dad got on a plane right after it was over and flew in to Salt Lake just in time to get dinner and drive to the mission home!  We are all very excited!!  It was a bright sunny day!  There was a sign on the door of a classroom for us to wait in.  We could hear the missionaries in a room next door singing.  The last meeting for all those going home the next day.  They would all stay at the mission president's house until their flights out the next morning.  Except for Joel. He got to go out to the parking lot and drive home with us!  

We waited anxiously for their meeting to end.  Missionaries started down the hall, they would all peek in to see Elder McKinney's family.  FINALLY, Joel walked into the room!  Momma gets the first hug!!!  It was awesome!!  Words cannot describe it!  I did not want to let him go...and I swear he is taller than when he left!  Dad was next, followed by the boys.  Amanda got her hug too, but she had the camera in her hand!  She took one in the parking lot right before we drove out.  President Chambers and his wife and son came in to meet us.  That was really special and we enjoyed it.  They had wonderful things to say about Joel.  The one that stuck out to me was from Sister Chambers.  She said when she thinks of Elder McKinney she thinks, "Still waters run deep."  She said he is often quoted by the other missionaries and what a wonderful missionary he is.  Several of the missionaries made comments to us, especially Elder Hauta.  He loved serving with Joel and told us how much he learned from him and enjoyed being his companion.  Joel said his goodbyes and we went to get all his stuff which was stacked in the nursery room.  We got it all loaded in the van and headed home!  It didn't really feel real to us!  And being as Joel had never seen the house we live in now, it probably was a little unreal to him as well.  

We had oreo ice cream cake for him at home.  Then later, President Ivins and Bishop Angus came over to the house to release him.  President asked Joel several questions, had him share a few stories, and then had him bear his testimony.  He also asked each of us (Dad, Mom and Amanda) to share what blessings we felt we received while he was serving.  It was very special.  Then he released Joel and had him remove his tag.  An emotional time for all of us.  He admonished Joel to keep his tag with his scriptures to remind him of the work and of his time as a missionary sharing the gospel.  To remember all the spiritual experiences and being close to the Savior.  

We can't believe it is all over just like that.  In hindsight, those two years went really fast.  We are so grateful that Joel served a mission and we look forward to hearing his stories and seeing what all will happen in his life from this point on.  We love you Joel!!  Welcome home!!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Day 729, the last 24 hours...

Well, the end has finally come. I leave for home tomorrow evening. I will be reunited with my family and friends and life will continue on. It's a weird feeling. I'm not sure what to make of it. I had some neat experiences last week though! On Thursday I had my departing interview with President Chambers. It was the normal stuff to talk about when departing; education, career, dating. It wasn't very long, but it was enough to help me feel confident in the future. Then on Friday afternoon we were able to attend the Salt Lake Temple and go through a session there. It was my first time to the Salt Lake City temple. It's beautiful. Very easy to get lost inside however. After leaving the celestial room we were about to head down the stairs but a man was going into an office nearby and invited us to come and see. We got to see the apartment place where President Snow stayed while he was president of the temple and got to see out the southeast door where a lot of wedding pictures are taken. The man told us some interesting things and then we went on our way. It was neat too to stand in the approximate place where Jesus Christ appeared to President Snow right outside the celestial room. Overall it was a great experience.

Well, that is about the extent of my stories for this week. As this is my last email I will send as a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to end with my testimony.

Before my mission I couldn't say with a surety that the Book of Mormon was true or that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that this is Christ's church on earth. That has changed over these two years. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know he lives and leads this church today. I know he restored it through the prophet Joseph Smith along with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon truly is the word of God. Translated by the power of God it is available to all as a witness of the truth. No other book will bring us closer to Christ than the Book of Mormon. I know also that the power of the atonement is real. We can find forgiveness, healing, and power as we apply it in our lives. I still have a lot to learn, I still am not perfect, but I know these things are true. The spirit has revealed to my heart that this is the case. Come unto Christ, that is the invitation. Don't put it off and forfeit the blessings of eternal life. It is not worth it! Set your sights on the end goal and work until you achieve it. Christ is there to help. This is not a one man journey. We can be with our Heavenly Father and our Savior again. We can be with our families forever. We can have a fullness of joy not available in any other way except by following Jesus Christ. That is the truth, and it will never change. Work for the temple, receive those blessings. It is the only intelligent thing to do. May the Lord bless you in your efforts and aid you in your journey. Know that I love you as well and I am grateful for you in my life.

Feel free to keep in touch with me throughout the years. I would love to hear from all of you. My personal email is You can also look me up on Facebook. Take care, I hope to see you soon.

- Elder McKinney

Here is a picture from our zone training meeting. It was my last meeting and I was able to conduct it. This is afterwards in the foyer. I am waiting for someone to send pictures from the salt lake temple trip, so when I get those I will send those.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Last Week, this is it...

The thought that this is my last week as a missionary registers in my mind, but not in my heart. It feels as if I will continue on being a missionary forevermore. I wouldn't mind that. I know however that the time must come for me to go on. It won't be that my mission is over, it will just be redefined. So now my focus will be to make this the best week I have ever had on my mission. Our area has been struggling, so I look forward to putting in everything I've got this week. Our zone has done great this last week! We had higher key indicators than we've ever had before. There are over 20 people who accepted a baptismal date and over 18 new investigators! We had plateaued for a few weeks and so I'm glad to see things start to go up. We will go from good to better now with the hopes of seeing best in the not too distant future.

We were able to have an MLC meeting this week. This was my last one. We took a picture of all the zone leaders who have been trained by each other. For instance, Elder Hauata trained me as a zone leader, he also trained Elder Kulu as a zone leader, I trained Elder Covington and Elder Aquino as zone leaders, so on and so forth. Kind of a posterity picture. I will include it below. There is only one who isn't attached in any way, but Elder Hauata says he adopted him so he joined in as well.

There is a Mormon message online about forgiveness. A man tells the story of a car accident that killed his wife and two of his children. He talks about how he applied the atonement of Jesus Christ and was able to forgive the young man who had gotten drunk and run into their car. It is a really touching story and the spirit helps us to know the power behind the atonement. The video can be found here: We had the neat opportunity to hear him speak at a fireside last night in our stake. He married a woman that used to live here in the stake. He came and spoke to all the youth. He told the same story but also told some stories from previous in his life that prepared him for that event and then talked about the atonement and how he was able to forgive that young man so quickly. It was a very spiritual experience. We didn't meet him personally, but we met his wife as we were walking out.

Now, if you're wondering what I plan on doing once I get home.... I have no idea. In terms of school and work I haven't got a clue yet what I'm going to do. I will probably try to go to school in the winter, I don't know where. That means for a few months I'll just try to work. I'll try to visit people from my mission as much as possible. It won't be too hard since I'm only about 20-30 minutes away. So as of right now, that's an update about what will happen once I'm home haha. My family may have other plans, I'm not sure. Now, pictures.

Some streets in south Jordan.
Posterity picture
Another trip up to the mine
My companion in his Jordan pose 

Take care everyone! I will write one more next week, and then I shall be done. Love you all!

Elder McKinney

One Week! It's getting real!

This momma can't wait to hug this Elder!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Great Week!

This week has been great! The highlight of the week was meeting with President Ronald A. Rasband of the seventy and Elder Evans also a seventy. We met with them as well as with President and Sister Chambers on Saturday to discuss how the focus on sabbath day observance is affecting missionary work. Elder Rasband was asked to give a training on this in their meetings before general conference in October and so he asked Elder Evans to find a mission who would let them meet with the MLC(mission leadership council) and discuss the topic. It was a really neat and personal experience with them. There were only 15 of us and we met in the relief society room of the mission office. Elder Evans started with a training on the organization of the seventy which was really neat. I learned some new things I hadn't known before. I still don't understand why there are seven presidents of the seventy, but I'm sure I'll figure that out over time. Elder Rasband is the senior president of the seventy. After the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve he's the next man in the line. He then started the discussion on the topic. We talked about how the focus on the sabbath day helps us as missionaries, but mainly we focused on how we can use the sabbath day to reach outward. It was neat and we could all feel the importance of the sabbath day and I think we all realized we have room for improvement, both in how we observe it and how we use it to reach outwards.

One of the things that we talked about, which stood out to me, is that we tend to make a lot of effort to invite friends and neighbors to Ward activities and such, but we don't make that same effort to invite them to church. The sabbath day is one of the strongest things that will bring them to Christ, yet we focus more on activities that do nothing to strengthen our faith in Christ. Not to say that we shouldn't have activities or invite people to them, but our first and strongest effort should be to help others to come to church. When you see the leftover bread and water at the sacrament table after the meeting, think about who could have taken it but didn't. So that was a really neat experience. One that I may never have again in my life.

After the meeting we had lunch. Elder Aquino and I were privileged to sit at the same table as the two visiting authorities as well as our mission president and wife. Elder Evans is the brother of the other Elder Evans that lived in one of my old areas in Sandy.

Other than that, we weren't able to meet with any of our investigators this week so it was a little bit slower. We talked to Lacies grandparents and they said she told them she doesn't want to be baptized right now. So it looks like it probably won't happen for another couple years. After talking about it however Elder Aquino and I feel it will be for the best. We prefer she stay active after she is baptized and we think if she was baptized now that probably wouldn't happen. The zone is doing pretty well. We have had consistent key indicators this transfer and we have had six baptisms so far this month. There are three more lined up for this weekend. With only two weeks left I'm praying that we can find someone here before I leave.

Both my companion and I gave talks yesterday in one of the wards. We were the only speakers and so we both had 20 minutes. That's the longest I've spoken yet. Hopefully they didn't struggle to stay awake ha. It is an older Ward. We had a missionary in our zone go home this week for medical. It was quite a bummer, I've worked with him closely throughout my mission and I thought I would beat him home. His companion joined another companionship to be a trio and cover two stakes.

Well, I hope that all is going well for each of you. I love you all and I am grateful for all that you do. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. If I've learned one thing this week, it's the importance of the sabbath. I believe there is an untapped power and potential in keeping the sabbath day holy that most of us have yet to experience. Have a wonderful week!

- Elder McKinney

I forgot a few things. Last Sunday we met the family from meet the Mormons. The one with the missionary. They used to live in this stake. He got his call here. They were here for a homecoming of someone. We only met them briefly, but it was cool! We also got to meet sister chambers sister at the mission office. It was really funny, sister chambers was so excited and was introducing her to everyone there. I can't remember if I mentioned it before or not, but Elder Allen lives in this stake. He's an area authority I believe but he also works for the mission department and does a lot there. We also saw sister Williams this week. She is a sister who used to serve in this mission, she went home a month or two ago. When I first became a zone leader she was a sister training leader in the zone. She served here in the Westland stake towards the beginning of her mission and got close to a family. We were having dinner with that family and they invited her to come as well. She was in the valley applying for a job. So she was there and it was weird to see her without a nametag and all. So those are some other interesting things I forgot to tell. Have a great week!

Pictures from a P-day Outing...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week 101

Only three weeks left to make as much of a difference as I can. All things are counted unto the Lord so I don't feel bad counting ha. Things are going well here in the Westland stake. I've realized my emails each week are probably boring and short. I apologize for that. Before my mission I never said too much, though I do better now. My writing still lacks however. So I will attempt to write more interesting emails for the next four Mondays.

So, Lacie has not been baptized yet. We've tried to contact her mom who lives in another stake but she hasn't responded. We have tried to work through her dad but he never talks to us in person we always have to go through the grandparents. So it's been rather tough to get things going. Both parents have given permission so all it is now is just scheduling the baptism. It's a little frustrating because I just want it done. The Lord has His timing though, and I will be patient. Everyone else we are teaching won't accept what we are saying though and are looking to be comfortable with sin rather than with God. It's hard because I want to see something happen before I leave. I haven't had a baptism in my own area for over 8 months now. It's been a little bit depressing. Every time I would get transferred before someone got baptized. Now I stayed for once and the one baptism that was scheduled for Lacie fell through. There's still time for plenty of miracles though so I'm looking forward to those. If nothing else I want to leave some people scheduled for baptism when I leave.

The members here are great and we are seeing the Ward mission leaders in the stake really start to step up their efforts. The stake president is really great! He's one of my favorite stake presidents. He's defended us and is doing all he can to assist us in the missionary efforts throughout the wards. We have breakfast every now and then with his family on Saturdays. It's supposed to be a weekly thing, but with crazy summer schedules it doesn't happen as often. It's nice to have that time to talk with him though. He always has something for us to study and discuss as well, which makes it all the better. It's like a cool little study session.

I've been grateful to hear so much about the sabbath day these past few months. I feel like ever since cobble creek every area I get transferred to is starting to discuss it so I get it all over again. They discuss it in Ward councils and have talks in sacrament meeting and things. It's really helped me learn and grow as I've been there for some of them. It's helped me better understand the sabbath and get more out of it each week. The sacrament means a lot more to me now and it gives me everything I need to keep going.

We found out yesterday we are going to have a meeting with the mission leadership(zone leaders and sister training leaders) on Saturday for a few hours with a general authority. We don't know who it is, but the topic will be on how the focus on the sabbath is affecting missionary work. Our zone is doing pretty well. We have a few companionships who are struggling, but overall we are looking to have at least 8 baptisms for the month. It's a lot lower than we'd like, but grateful to see the miracles we have. Our goal is 12 for the month. Our goal as a mission for the year is 475, I think we are starting to fall behind though. We will need to catch back up.

I am excited for my return home. I will miss it here for sure, but this new phase in life will be exciting(and probably a little scary at times). I used to worry about what I was going to do for school and work. I'm not worried anymore. I still have no idea what I'm going to do, but I've felt at peace about it. We will see what adventures lie ahead. For now, I will do all I can to leave this mission better than I found it. May the Lord bless all of you in your individual challenges and concerns. He is watchful over you, so never feel alone. Have a wonderful week, love you all!

-Elder McKinney

Monday, August 10, 2015

Super short!

Not too much to report on this week. Went on an exchange with one of our district leaders. Taught a new investigator who is soon moving to Alabama to be with his wife and kids. Went crazy over the fact that I only have 4 weeks left. Same old same old. Things are going well. We are seeing many miracles, but most of them are for other areas. For instance we taught a young man yesterday who is willing to be baptized, but he doesn't live in our area. So I kind of want to see that for this area before I leave. But I am grateful that we are able to witness the Lords hand even if they aren't in our area. I know the Lords work is continuing to go forth. It is true! I just need to be more specific in my prayers so that we can find someone who lives in this area :) Well... That's super short. I want you to know though, that I know the Savior lives! There is nothing that will stop His work from going forward. We can either choose to follow Him and be changed and become like Him, or we can end up in misery because we didn't follow His footsteps. Life is hard, the gospel is easy. The choice is simple. Blessings come when we choose to follow the savior. I hope you all have a wonderful week! I don't feel like my mission is coming to an end, so if you don't see me in four weeks, it's because I forgot to go home. Love you all! Take care, may the Lord bless you in your individual circumstances and challenges.

-Elder McKinney

Picture is our last district before transfers. Elder Aquino was in another district meeting.