Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter Video

Loved this video!

Please comment on what you think and/or pass it along.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


As you may have guessed, we have been thrown to the wolves and are in full swing as tour guides in the Carthage Jail. Well, almost in full swing. It feels like we are in "trouble" too often for comfort when we leave a book in the wrong place, miss a light switch or two, or forget to notate the "Elder" or "Sister" part in the log properly. I think we are going to get a pay deduction any day now.  :)

Our "Preparation" day will be every Wednesday at least for the next six months or so. That means that if you come to town, we are available to share with you that day only. Any other time is hit or miss.

Starting next week, we will perform in Rendezvous on Monday and Thursday evening for the last week of April and the whole month of May.

In June we will be performing Rendezvous every Tuesday and Friday. We will be performing in Sunset on Wednesday and Saturday that month.

In July we perform in Rendezvous on Wednesday and Saturday while Sunset will be Monday and Thursday.

In August we perform in Rendezvous on Monday and Thursday with performances for Sunset on Tuesday and Friday.

Enough of the boring details, here are some pictures.

 Gregg and Amy at the MTC in Provo, Utah.

 Above are the couples that we roll played with. One couple is going to Nauvoo with us and the rest are going all over the country. Note the cute Sister Pace in the center. She was a recent return missionary and an awesome instructor.
 Gregg's brother, Gar, and wife, Cindy, visited us in Provo.

 While in Salt Lake Temple square visitor's center, we visited the Relief Society building and took this picture of Amy (I mean Sister Johnson) and the tour guide.
 Here are all the new senior missionaries going to Nauvoo. We are still in Provo.

 We went to the Provo temple on two different occasions. It was fun finishing up the temple work on Diane's family files.
 Here is the same group of new senior couples only this time we are practicing for Rendezvous in Nauvoo. 

  This is the Bushnell House where we live. Our apartment is on the 2nd floor in the back of the house, but we enter the front door.

 We use this beautiful staircase to climb to our apartment each day.

 These homes are the properties that Gregg would like to make part of a spook alley on Halloween. They are magnificent but foreboding.

Below is a picture of the old Carthage jail. The jail is on the right and the visitor's center is on the left.

This is the back side of the jail. Joseph Smith fell from the top window after being shot.

Here we are inside the visitor's center with Joseph and Hyrum.

My costumes all had to take on a new look. They were too bright so after talking to my mother about what colors to use to mute the brightness, I spent many hours adding color, taking it out, adding another color, and then taking some of it out. In the end, I saved all but one dress, but only one of the aprons. Fortunately, the sewing room had extra aprons that coordinated with my dresses so I didn't have to start sewing aprons again. Oh, to be perfect and goof it up.

We were in Salvation Army looking for a coffee table when we saw this oil painting for $3. I have many blank walls so I bought it. It is not on canvas and taped into the frame with blue masking tape, but if it weren't for that, one might think it is a "real" painting.

Here is a funny: Last night at Rendezvous, a child was heard asking their parents what kind of make-up was used to make the people look so old.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

We did it!

Our flight from Salt Lake City arrived in Denver at 12:30 noon on Thursday April 17th. Our daughter, Tiffanie,  picked us up at the airport and got us home by about 1:30. By 3:20 we were out the door and on our way. We knew we'd have to hurry because Gregg's ability to drive without sleeping seems to wane with the setting of the sun. We stayed in North Platte Thursday night and got up at 4 a.m. Friday morning and arrived in Nauvoo by about 1. Our goal was to arrive by noon so we weren't too far off.

We did forget a few items that we simply replaced today. However, there's one thing we might have to have shipped to us. Not bad for a two hour turn around time.

Spring has sprung here and Nauvoo is beautiful. Excitement is everywhere as new senior missionaries race to get settled. After all tomorrow is Sunday again (It seems like Sunday every day in our new life) and Easter Sunday no less. I think we saw about a quarter of our new friends at Walmart today which is about a half hour away.

Our son, Adam, got roped into helping us connect to the internet today. After a good hour of torture, the solution finally came when we turned off the lap top and started over. So simple yet so impossible if you don't know what to do. Yea for Adam--Thank you again! I may have started twitching without our internet working.

I'm super glad that tomorrow can be a day of rest. We didn't get to our apartment until about 4 pm and the locks had all been re-keyed, and we had the old keys. No fun to be so exhausted and can't do anything about it. However, we found a Mexican restaurant (Yes, they exist here in central America...notice I said central America not Central America) and we collapsed during our feast. We started moving in by 5 and had the car empty before darkness put Gregg in a coma. I on the other hand couldn't sleep so I spent most of the night unpacking.

So, here is the real news. When we arrived at the visitor's center in Nauvoo, we met with several different office workers. The housing secretary said with joy in her voice, "You will be living in Carthage Jail."  She didn't use the term "near" or "around", but clearly "in". I was slap happy by then and replied, "Wow, our reputation precedes us." Had I had my wits about me, I would have added, "May we pass go and collect $200?" Gregg on the other hand was thrilled at the prospect of being assigned to the visitor's center where Joseph Smith was shot and killed. There is a remarkable Spirit here and we're happy to be spending the next six months about 30 minutes from Nauvoo. The not so good news is that we will have to drive into town everyday for the singing and dancing part. The other not so good news is that we will have to move back to Nauvoo in six months. I hate moving.

Our apartment is nice. It's in a home built in the 1890's--quite ornate, unique, and beautifully remodeled. There isn't a dishwasher but the kitchen is a good size with plenty of storage space in the front room for all of our supplies. I'm now glad that I brought what I needed to make cooking simple, fast, and relatively inexpensive. As we were traipsing upstairs with all our "stuff", I was having major second thoughts.

Carthage is full of mansions built at the turn of the century--two centuries ago that is. Some are kept in good repair like the one we're in while others look a little scary. Gregg noted that a neighborhood spook alley would be appropriate on some blocks during Halloween season.

Our mission president is new to his position as of two weeks ago. He and his wife seem really sweet and only a little overwhelmed. Isn't that the way it works with callings in the church--ready or not, go figure it out. With a little divine help (okay, maybe a lot), it most always works out better than imagined.

President Gibbons described Gregg and I as "on fire". I'm not sure if that is good or bad since he probably wasn't referring to Hunger Games. I let him in on the fact that our grandchildren are cuter than his so he may have been retaliating a bit.

Here are a few more facts of interest.

  • There will be around 250 site missionaries in and around Nauvoo which of course includes Carthage where we will be.
  • Of those 250, there are 20 young single sister missionaries.
  • Also, there are or will soon be 20 single senior sister missionaries. (Six from our group if you remember.)
  • There are no single elders.
  • When the BYU students come this summer there will be about 400 of us (The BYU students are required to try out so they are actually skilled singers and dancers.)
  • There are also missionaries called to the Nauvoo Temple. They alone do not have to sing and dance. The rest of us are all included regardless of our skill level. Yikes!
  • We all meet in one ward so tomorrow we'll meet and greet all of our new friends.
  • We start training for site work on Monday.
  • We start rehearsal for Sunset and Rendezvous Wednesday of this week.
  • Our first assignment at Carthage Jail is this Thursday. Like I said, "Ready or Not...."
  • The pageant will run through the month of July.
  • Sunset starts on my Birthday (May twenty-something) and runs through the summer.
  • Both Rendezvous and Sunset have groups that rotate so we perform each only twice a week.
All is well, but we miss you lots!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Goodbye MTC (Mission Training Center)

We don't fly back to Denver until tomorrow so I have a little time this afternoon. However, we will be crazy until we get settled in Nauvoo so I'll take the time now to give you a feel for the Mission Training Center here in Provo Utah. (Pictures will come later.)

Here are a few facts:

  • There are 126 senior missionaries who arrived on April 7, 2014 in our training group. They are from all over the country.
  • 22 of the 126 are going to Nauvoo. All missionaries going to Nauvoo will arrive sometime in April.
  • With some senior missionaries leaving and others arriving, as of April 15th, there were 180 senior missionaries.
  • There are 876 missionaries currently in the Provo MTC which includes young women 18 and over and young men 19 and over. They are from all over the world.
  • Last summer at one point there were 4,000 missionaries in the mission home--the largest number ever.
  • There are 15 MTC's throughout the world.
  • There are currently 1,100 missionaries at visitor's centers throughout the world. This includes senior missionaries.
  • There are currently 23 church visitor's centers around the world.
  • There are currently over 83,000 missionaries throughout the world.
  • Meals are served in a timely manner. I've never seen a more efficient manner of serving so many people. We have never waited for anything for very long.
  • Food is fine with plenty of options and adequate preparation. Some people complain but I typically like most food I didn't have to cook. :) 
  • We dress up for meals. Men are in suits and ties with women in skirts or dresses. Actually, we dress this way all day unless we are in the exercise room.
  • There is an exercise room that we utilize every morning, we take lots of walks during our break and we've had a long walk every evening.
  • There are over 4,000 staff members  to help run the MTC. A vast majority are volunteers. I imagine many of them are part time. The paid employees are typically return missionaries going to school. They seem to know their job well but nothing outside of their responsibilities. There is probably too much to know.
  • Some 19 year old missionaries look the size of a deacon (12-14 years old) while others are so men-like that I fear if they step wrong they might crush the deacon size'd ones. 
  • The young missionaries are not only all sizes, but they speak many different languages. They are all well groomed and well behaved. Being nervous and reserved seems the norm, but at the same time they smile and possess a sense of peace and many times even confidence. I know that it sounds like an oxymoron, but it's the way it is some how.
  • We had 5 days of classes in which we studied Preach My Gospel and then 2 1/2 days of helps for working at a visitor's center.
  • We were most impressed with the chat room. Young missionaries chat with people all over the world answering questions, giving discussions, and they are extremely successful. It was fun to see the boiler room and how well it functioned.
  • Our group of 126 missionaries in training was labeled the "most interesting". I believe Gregg gets credit for part of that. On the first day we were asked to tell everyone where we were going and what we would be doing. Rather than saying that we would be working in a visitor's center, Gregg said that we would be singing and dancing. The song and dance trend followed us all week.
  • We are not the youngest senior couple but all most. Most senior couples are in their early 70's. One is 86 and another 81.
  • We feel the "Spirit" a lot at the MTC. Some say it is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Others say that it is within each missionary as they are striving to serve God and be the best they can be. Whatever it is, Gregg and I feel something that is not like anything else we have ever felt. What a great place to prepare to serve.

Here are a few notes I took.
Elder Bednar was asked how you know when you feel the Holy Ghost verses when you're having your own thoughts. The answer was, "Don't worry about it". He then told of a time when he was a young missionary in Germany. As an assistant to the mission president, he felt impressed to give 30 franks to Elder Packer for food while on a train between east and west Germany. Elder Bednar found out many years later that the money was used to keep Sister Packer from being retained in east Berlin because she had a 3 year passport with a two year extension. It would have otherwise cost far more than 30 franks to get her out. At the time, Elder Bednar was responding to a feeling that they might need money for food. Was it the Holy Ghost? Of course.

Elder Holland rephrased a French poem:
He said, "Go to the edge." I said "No, I'll fall."
He said, "Go to the edge." I said No! I'll fall!"
He said, "Go to the edge." so I went to the edge and He pushed me.
I flew!

What makes the biggest impression on investigators? I thought perhaps temples, focus on families, or something. The answer is MISSIONARIES!  Cool, that's us.

Elder Eyring said to a small group of missionaries, "Jesus Christ is kinder than you imagine, and closer than we dare believe." That brings chills if you think about it.

Kathy Andersen, wife of Neil L. Andersen, said that her husband often has 15 drafts for a talk he is going to give in General Conference before he is content with the outcome. In other words, apostles work very hard on what they say to the whole church.

Elder Andersen gave some survey results taken from 18-20 year old individuals. He said that recently it was concluded that 1 in 5 people are skeptical that the Bible is inspired of God and were unlikely to read it and/or use it as a guide in their life. The same survey taken in 2005 was 1 in 10. That is a pretty significant decline. He talked about how to get the doctrine of Christ down into our heart.

Elder Maxwell said that when we try to counsel God it is like counseling someone who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars when we only wear a wrist watch.

It's hard to leave our families, especially our grandchildren. However, we sacrifice a few years of our life so that other families how to be together forever.

Here are a few notes I took about our roll as missionaries.
  • Many members of the LDS church use language that other's don't understand. We should be careful what words we use. We should keep messages simple and clear.
  • We should teach people not a lesson.
  • We need to be prepared to answer questions clearly, simply, and truthfully of course and in a short amount of time.
  • We need to live in such a way that we invite the Holy Ghost to be a constant guide.
  • We used roll plays part of every day. Sometimes we played people that we know that are struggling or have deep concerns. Other times converts were brought in for us who were playing the person they were before their conversion. (Gregg and I were told that we work well as a team--go us!)
  • When we feel overwhelmed and under qualified, we should count our blessings and comfort each other. We can also build our relationship by looking for and bringing out the best in each other.
  • It is hard to leave our families and life. It will be just as hard to leave our friends in the mission field at the end of our mission.
  • We should study the scriptures every day. It doesn't really matter which ones.
  • Don't be afraid to answer hard questions. Make sure you understand the question, emotion behind it, and where they are going with it. Practice on each other to gain confidence and skill.

What an amazing week and a half we have had. I feel so empowered, so equipped with usable tools, so full of love for the Savior and mankind. I am incredibly excited.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


During a break today, Gregg and I went for our usual walk. As we were returning, we had a conversation with an elderly gentleman. He asked us where we were going on our mission. He was excited to hear that we were going to Nauvoo because that was where he was currently serving as a Nauvoo Temple missionary. The temple is currently closed for two weeks for the annual deep cleaning so he and his new wife were back in Utah visiting family. Apparently, his first wife died a few years ago.

As we were heading back to class, we exchanged names. Gregg recognized the name Durrant and asked if his son was the BYU basketball player Devin Durrant. Not only is Devin his son, but his new wife is Susan Eastin Black. Many of you know that Susan was married to my cousin, Doug.

We'll anyway, that was kind of fun. Gregg looked Elder Durrant up on the internet and learned that George Durrant was also an author and co-author of 50 books, religion instructor at BYU and mission president among other things.

Actually, the main reason I wanted to mention our encounter was the epiphany that I had afterwards. Elder Durrant mentioned during our conversation that it was difficult to get a calling to the Nauvoo Mission. We have heard that many times from people who seem to be in the know. I have occasionally wondered if we somehow got in the back door or if really had a purpose for being there. The epiphany was that we had been feeling the desire to serve there not just because it would be fun for us but because that is exactly where we will be needed. It obviously took the whole six months to get our lives in order and it was good that we got started when we did. Basically, it was reconfirmed to me that the call is inspired. That felt good.

Thanks again for all your prayers that helped us get out the door. Betty and Steve are real troopers holding down the fort for Gregg's business. If any of you get a chance, please let them know how awesome they are. Phone number is the same 303 422 8400.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Easter 2014

We have been at the MTC for one week. It has flown by with only two days left. I will add pictures later when I have my computer rather than Gregg's iPad but won't have much time until we get unpacked in Nauvoo so I want to add an Easter message now while I have a minute.

So HAPPY EASTER everyone! Sunday evening we attended a devotional. Many things have been note worthy and worth commenting on but that will have to be said at a later date. My message to you is taken from what we gleaned after the devotional from Elder Bednar's talk at the MTC on December 25, 2012 entitled The Character of Christ. It is worth listening to if you can find it.

Here are my thoughts.

Our goal in life is to strive to be like the Savior. However, we are all born with Cookie Monster tendencies--Give me cookies now! Cookie is consumed with self and immediate gratification. Christ is the very opposite. To be like Him is to be completely selfless and consumed with needs outside of ourselves.

We would all be destined to remain Cookie Monster forever had it not been for the atonement of Christ. He opened the door to change. We cannot overcome our weaknesses without use of the atonement but we must be proactive about it. We must use our agency wisely keeping a positive, optimistic attitude towards others. Choose to think the best whenever you can. Trust God and lean not  on your own understanding. Life is full of trials and set backs. Look for how you can be strengthened by them rather than pulled down.

Besides controlling what you think, do good. Look for ways to help or lift others. Be kinder, friendlier, happier. As you make an effort to do these things, the power of the atonement will enable you to be more and more successful at it. In time and with persistence, you become less Cookie Monster like and more Christ like.

So sweet grandchildren and anyone else reading this blog. Will you try a little harder? I will won't you?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

President Jones set us apart this morning (Sunday April 6, 2014) as official missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Huntley's were here for the blessing and setting apart.

Here we go! Ready or not.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nauvoo address and scheduled trips

If anyone needs our address, it will be:

Gregg and Amy Johnson
PO Box 215
Nauvoo, Illinois 62354-0215

UPS and Fed-Ex packages add: 975 Young Street

We will be in Provo until April 17th and in Nauvoo by April 20, 2014.

If you need to call first:
Gregg 303 919 8425
Amy 303 919 0597

Hope to see many of you there!

FYI: Scheduled trips from family members are--

Adam, Becki, Mia, Zoey the end of April or 1st of May
Julie and Becky's families June 6-8
Aaron, Michelle, Blake, and Dylan August 18-22
Chelsea, Alma, coming for Ellie's baptism during the week of Aug 18-22

If you would like to add your name to the list email

This is sooooo fun!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sewing cloths for Nauvoo

Several friends have asked to see the cloths sewn for our mission. The following post was taken from my other post entitled, Amy's new project.

Gregg and I will be wearing pioneer cloths 6 days a week for the next year and a half. Nauvoo has their own pattern styles which they want us to follow specifically. There is a great deal of detailing that can't be seen. I have spent about 3 weeks working 8-10 hours each day to complete the work. It was fun once I finished up other projects and then got motivated to start cutting.

Below are two of my dresses with coordinating aprons. The pink apron can be worn with either the green or pink dress.

The apron below actually has a small purple print that is hard to see. It can be worn with other dresses as well. Nauvoo is very specific about the color of fabric. It can't be chosen from primary colors, can't be faded, but should be some what muted. I hope I did it right.

 I had the fabric store cut the blue dress fabric below after I had already cut the apron material. They were short 3/4 of a yard and I was a bit worried about having enough material. In the end, it worked great and I was glad I had experience as a youth working pattern pieces to fit on smaller than recommended pieces of fabric.

 This was the first dress I made. I bought the dress fabric without the apron fabric and then had trouble finding fabric to coordinate. Gregg actually found the gold print used for the apron and it is one of my favorite.

 I need white aprons when I work in the prophet's home. The tucks at the bottom are called grow tucks. I suspect I won't be growing taller while on my mission but I guess it's better to be prepared. :)

 Below are three vests for Gregg. They were taken from a regular men's vest pattern and altered to fit the style of the time which means no pockets, ties, and straight across on the bottom.

I needed a couple of pantaloons and a petticoat. This was the only garment I could add lace and/or ribbon. Most of the white cloths were taken from sheets rather than buying fabric by the yard. I hope I don't regret it.

I made four shirts for Gregg. As you see, the collar is different and the sleeves are fuller than a man's typical shirt today.

Then after talking to the sewing department at Nauvoo, I took their suggestion and visited a Goodwill. I bought 9 more shirts and remodeled them to fit Gregg and the time. With humid temperatures in the summer, it was recommended to have plenty of shirts and I was happy not to sew any more than needed.
So, there it is. I am finished for now but plan to take my sewing machine with me to Nauvoo for repairs or remakes. I feel much better with this project behind me.

(Side note: the craft room worked marvelously for the large project. I could spread out, make a mess, keep the different projects separate and organized, heat and cool the room only when needed, had plenty of light on demand, and didn't have to clean up for 3 weeks since it was out of the way.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mission officially begins on April 7, 2014

This is the beginning of a new phase of our lives. We (Gregg and Amy) have been called as missionaries to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Nauvoo, IL mission.

We gave our farewell talks on Sunday March 30th. Chelsea and Alma were here and sang, Because He Lives. our friend and prior piano teacher, Shari Despain, accompanied in place of Tiffanie since time was short and Tiffanie had not played the song before.

 Picture to family members at sacrament meeting

Other friends who were not in our ward but attended our farewell were Ron and Shari Despain, Neil and Deann Schow, Larry and Nel Barker, Frankie Barr, Russ and Denise McNeill, Jeff and Wendy Tyus, Colleen Riggs who is currently working in the singles ward, and Kim Carlson.  What a treat to have so many of our close friends support us.

 Olsen Family

 Sunday afternoon, we had the grandchildren perform a piano recital.

John and Diane's family came for the farewell as well, only they came a couple of weeks early when their children were out of school for spring break.While they were in Denver, we took a care package to Jacob who is currently serving a mission in the Loveland, Colorado area.

Now that our company has gone home and the house is cleaned up, I will start packing. We will fly to the Mission training center in Provo for 10 days and then drive our car from Denver to Nauvoo. We are filling the mini van with everything but the kitchen sink. Why not?