Monday, August 29, 2016

Week 55--13 Months!! is 13 months since I have last seen my boy! It's crazy that we are already one full month into the 2nd year! He is doing great and sent a lot of pictures this week. Lots of changes in the Mission, but Elder Hopkin and Elder Griffin are staying put. Here is his letter and the pictures.

Hi Mom!!!!! :)

13 months! Ah that's so crazy! This month has flown by like crazy! Every transfer is a bit faster than the last. Thanks for understanding my short email needs :) It was a blast last week but those kinds of trips always make Mondays a little crazy! This Monday has been pretty exciting too, as usual. 14 new missionaries here - they're super great! I'm really excited for them this transfer!

So this week.... Lots of transfer stuff to take care of! It's been fun to kinda develop my administration skills though....I've improved them from about a 0.0 to a 0.5 on a scale of 10 :) We had a great lesson with our investigator that has a baptismal date. He's still trying to accept some doctrine, but he just wants so bad to do what's right and follow Christ. It's been a miracle seeing him gaining strength. He was able to come to church last week! He lives about 30 minutes away from the YSA building though, so some super nice Elders found a ride for him to the church in the city he lives in, since he wasn't feeling well enough to come all the way to Modesto. A couple weeks ago, while I was on exchanges with Elder Stewart, I had a pretty strong prompting to talk to this one girl, and she seemed pretty interested. I left her to the 6th ward elders, but they decided she'd be best with YSA, so we'll hopefully get to teach her soon! Her name is Heaven....I'm pretty excited :)

I've continued to learn a lot about testimonies this week. President Palmer sent out a weekly email about how we need to continue to believe until we know. He talked about how a lot of us want and kinda expect a continuous spiritual high, but the reality is that sometimes our testimonies will be stronger than others. He said that Heavenly Father loves us too much to let that happen, but that He allows trials of testimony to enter our lives. It reminded me of Ether 12:27. I've come to understand another perspective of that verse: not only does Heavenly Father make our weak things become strong, but our weaknesses of themselves make us strong. They humble us, and it's when we are truly humble and rely on the Lord that He makes up the difference in a way that we never could have, even if we had no weakness. So when the trials of our testimony come, they're there to keep us humble, and to show us that the witness always comes after the trial of our faith. Our testimonies are that much stronger if we can just hold on and believe until we truly know. I've seen over the last couple weeks how true that is. After a week of slightly weakened testimony, I started receiving witness after witness that reaffirmed that God is there and that this is His true church.

I'm looking forward to this next transfer. All of the zone leaders stayed the same, which I'm so happy about! I'm still with Elder Griffin, the perfect companion ;) And I'm really liking the YSA more and more!

Oh, real quick! In a meeting, President reminded all of us to make sure that we maintain privacy on the Internet, just to avoid any kind of bad situation. So I just wanted ask, if you ever notice anything that would give away any confidential or personal information, to not put it on the blog (if you're still updating it). I try to be pretty careful with my emails, but a double filter wouldn't hurt :) Thank you!!! :)

Thank you for your thoughts about the Tree of Life - those are some super good self-reflecting questions! Haha you almost remind me of Alma in Alma 5! ;) Thanks for the updates too, and the compliments! You're definitely the BEST Mom ever - I'm so grateful for you! You bless my life SO much! I really appreciate all of your hard work and love, so much! I love you!!!! I'll look forward to next week :)

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

Alright, lots this week!
1) Elder Griffin's idea....taken at 10:50 after doing transfer calls... :)
2) Pizza with chocolate filled crust at a member's house. Way better than you'd think!
3) Our district! Sisters Guilott and Rugg, me, Elders Griffin, Stewart, Petersen (the district leader)
4) ......
5) At Big Trees. Elder Griffin has his serious face down! He couldn't stop laughing though so this is a pretty good shot!
6) The group standing on a tree stump - they're that big! Sisters Arevalo, Webb, Dayton, Alcaraz, Martinez, Curtis, me and Elder Griffin :)

 This is Porter, a YSA that went out with us for a night - super cool guy! He's off to BYU so maybe you'll see him around :)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Week 54

Elder Hopkin and Elder Griffin

This came to my email from Sister Palmer on August 22, 2016. It was titled, "Big Trees". Looking forward to Connor's story behind it. Looks like they went on a field trip this P-Day.

Hi Mom!!!! :)

So... I'm cashing in my opportunity to send a super short, lame email. President and Sister Palmer took me and Elder Griffin, and the 6 Sister Training Leaders, up to the Big Trees State Park today! It was so much fun!! I got to drive the big van for about 3 hours total and we all drove up, and hiked around seeing beautiful and ridiculously big sequoia trees, and it was a blast!!! So we got back super late and I'm all but out of time to email! I hope that's ok....

But thank you so much for your email!!! Sounds exciting with school starting! I don't really miss that...but kinda a little bit at the same time... I kinda miss math and science that weird? :) I hope this week goes wonderfully for you, because you deserve every week to be wonderful! :)

I had some wonderful experiences in church and afterwards yesterday. We had the chance to bring an investigator on a church tour. It was completely miraculous because his health has been such that he hasn't left his house for a year. Over the last couple weeks, his strength has been increasing until he was able to come to the church yesterday. The Spirit was so strong as we talked about the Sacrament and looked at all the pictures. Elder Griffin, the punk, made me play a hymn for him, but I was grateful for the opportunity to use that little talent God has given me.

Next week is transfers so it might be short again. As soon as I get the chance, I'll send the best email I've ever sent, ok? :) And I took a million pictures at Big Trees so I'll send you all those in the next couple weeks :) I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!!!

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Week 53

Hello Mom!!!!! :)

I'm glad EFY went well! I really wish I could have been there! I don't think I'll ever make it back...I'm a little too awkward to be a counselor :) It was fun seeing Bryn's pictures of her company - they all look so young!! It's crazy! It's such a good program; it strengthened my testimony so much each time I went, and I look at the sessions I attended as some of the many blocks that have helped my testimony today. It's really cool that you and Dad are able to take part in that experience and help those kids come closer to their Savior.

I kinda freaked out when you said "Aspen and her husband"... eh that feels weird to write :) I'm sure other kids my age have gotten married recently, but this one is super weird cause we used to be such good friends! I'm glad she looked happy, and that her family is doing well too! I had totally forgotten that Dallin is in Fresno right now!! I've heard so many storied about the Fresno mission.... :) And that's so exciting for Jared!!! Thanks for telling me hello for him - if you get any kind of emails from him, I'd love if you could forward them! If not, no worries :)

Thank you so much for your thoughts!! I totally agree - I wish I was better at accessing the power of the Atonement. I feel all the time that I don't appreciate or use it quite enough. It's just a gift sitting there waiting for us to take it, and I just forget about it or refuse to take it sometimes! I frustrate myself so much :) I loved your testimony about prophets and apostles too! That's another blessing I take for granted so much too. I love how you said that God is so anxious to tell us what we need to know, and He's able to do that through prophets. Why wouldn't we listen to and apply everything they say?? As I've studied, I've realized that God's commandments are basically just a road map to happiness - that's all! And we can learn of it through the prophets. Thanks for reminding me of that!! And that quote is super good! I'll have to print that and study it for a few days :) Thank you so much for always expressing your love and compliments to me...they mean so much. I'm so blessed to be your son and be able to talk to you every week. You are and always have been such a huge strength and example to me.

I'm blanking for the week. So....I'll start writing and hopefully it will all come back :) Let's see....we have a 'specialized training' coming up tomorrow and Wednesday, so we got to spend some time with President and counsel about what topic and trainings there should be, and fun stuff like that. We spent some time with him and Sister Palmer last night, and had a great time! We of course talked about the meeting, but got off on random tangents, and it was just super fun to sit there and talk to them; they're super funny!! I got to go on two exchanges! One was with my district leader's companion, who is a new missionary and is super impressive. Their area is downtown Modesto, and it was fun to bike around that area. We had some really cool experiences too! We were teaching one of their investigators, and we were teaching her about prophets and the Book of Mormon, and at the end she started expressing how lost she feels. My companion-for-the-day shared one of the scriptures he's been studying recently; it's in 2 Timothy, and it talks about how God fills us with peace and clear minds, not fear. She all of a sudden broke down crying and said "That was an answer to my prayers! My dad just passed away a year ago, and his name was Timothy." She said she'd read and find how the Book of Mormon would help her in her life. The next day, we were biking and saw a family outside and felt like we should go back. We went back, and they weren't interested, but as we were retracing our path, we saw the neighbor sitting on his porch. We talked to him for about 20 minutes, then he got his wife and we talked to them for about 20 minutes, and it was incredible to see how their hearts softened more and more as we talked to them and read in the Book of Mormon. We talked to a lot of other people that seemed quite interested too! When I got back with Elder Griffin, he had good news about investigators and such - it was a pretty cool day! We found a new investigator and taught a couple other lessons. The work seems to be slowly picking up!

See, once I get started I don't stop :) Those are the biggest highlights I can remember. I've felt God's love a lot and felt Him help me with lots of different things too!

I hope you have an awesome week! Thanks always for all the emails; I love them so much!!! I love you LOTS and hope everything is going well for you! Thank you for being such an incredible mother!! You mean so much to me!

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

Hi Dad!!!

We had a crazy day today, and I'm on the computer late, so that was perfect :) Thank you so much for your prayers!! We did find one new investigator this week, and having some promising potential investigators, so it's helping a lot! Teaching really is the best way to be happy, as weird as it might sound! The hardest work is the most fulfilling. However, I've actually been tasked with the job of creating an outline for our transfers schedule and to-do list, and I've actually really enjoyed it. I love feeling like things are getting organized, and I've gotten to use some of the nerdy computer skills you taught me :) That's so cool about Elder Bancroft!!! That really is a blessing.

I'm glad EFY went so well! I've told some of the members in my past area that you do Education Week, so it's possible they might visit your classes. I'm looking forward to coming back and hearing those classes you teach!

A couple questions! Several weeks ago in mission leadership council, President Palmer kinda off-handedly mentioned that if any of us missionaries know any senior couples in our wards back home, President can request they come here; and he said we need senior couples. So I figured since you're the Bishop, I'd mention that to you in case there are any senior couples that are looking to come out any time soon. Also, we had a fun conversation in a downtown Modesto McDonald's a couple weeks ago with a Bible-basher. He was SO sneaky, but we held him off :) Anyways, he brought up that there were verses in the Book of Mormon that had tiny tweaks to them, so the copies we have now are slightly different than the original copy. The example he used was in Moroni 8, I think, and he said there was a switch from something like "the Son of God" to "the Lamb of God'...something like that. I was wondering if you had any comments or ideas about that? Maybe it was a printing mishap or something?

Thank you so much for everything you do for me! I love you so much and hope you have a great week!! Thank you for the example you always set for me!
Elder Connor Hopkin

​Had some fun trying a new tie knot....Elder Griffin's actually worked so he completed the picture with his sexy face... I don't know what the hand gesture is for but maybe it makes him more desirable? Mine didn't quite make it unfortunately :)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Week 52

Here is Connor's email home this week. He also wrote a group email that will follow. Pictures are at the end. He finally got around to sending one in his half-way clothes. And, another with his companion, Elder Griffin. They seem to be getting along great!

Hi Mom!!! :)

My week went great! I got the chance to go on exchanges with Elder Feltman again, and with another zone leader named Elder Brough, who's awesome too! Let's see.... so we had dinner with our new bishop on Thursday, which was super great, and then we took his wife to a lesson with our investigator, and that went well too! She might not be able to come to church anytime soon though, which will be hard. We'll keep working with her! I'm trying to think of the highlights of the week and I'm blanking. I got some great answers to my prayers this week, which is always a wonderful testimony builder. I had a district meeting on Thursday that was super great, but I didn't get a whole lot out of it; then two days later, I looked back at my notes and it was EXACTLY what I needed that day. So my district leader is very inspired! (It's Elder Petersen, by the way, who was in my district when I was first a district leader - so that's been lots of fun!) Oh, yesterday was pretty good! We went up to Riverbank for a little bit to bike around and visit a few people, and I got pretty discouraged because people weren't interested, and we haven't been finding lots of investigators recently. But I remembered the counsel that our mission president gives to all the missionaries: whenever you're upset, or angry, or sad, or tempted, etc, sing your favorite hymn! So I started singing "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" and a few of my other favorites, and we were able to talk to a lot of people on the street. As we were finishing up the night and putting our bikes on our car, this man yelled from the next house over "Good job guys!!" We went over to talk to him, and his wife happened to be a less active member, and they were super nice to us! They weren't interested, but they gave us 3 referrals for the Riverbank elders. Then that night we were on the phone with President Palmer, and he was reading us his weekly email that he sends, and it was exactly what I needed! So, in short, Heavenly Father watches out for us! The end :)

I'm not exactly sure how long I'll be here. Elder Griffin only has 3 transfers left after this, and President wants him training for his last two. So I might be staying for a few more! It's possible I could be done this transfer, but it isn't looking like that will be the case. I think we're mostly getting used to it all, but the great thing about being an assistant is that you never know what's gonna come up. So we've had more than enough situations where we have no idea what to do :)

That sounds like a pretty busy week! I'm glad things are going well. I hope you have a wonderful time at EFY! Those sessions I did have been such a help to me and my testimony as I look back on them. I'm able to share my testimony in part because of the wonderful directors and teachers I learned from at EFY. That's crazy that school starts so soon! It seems just a little ago that it was starting LAST year! I remember that being so weird for me - school starting and me not being part of it. I think I'm used to it by now though :)

Dang that's so exciting about Jared!!! He's going to do such a good job! Keep me updated on him if you can! He's such a good guy. And I was wondering about Russell!! It's funny thinking about my friends on their missions about to go home, and comparing them to the missionaries about to go home here. Crazy stuff!

Thank you so much for working on the debit card for me! I think it'll get here today or tomorrow probably. That will be super helpful! :)

I think I'm gonna send a group email today, so my spiritual thought will come through that. Something you taught me at the beginning of my mission has been brought back to my mind a lot lately - the fact that Heavenly Father changes us, that our Savior's grace is what changes our hearts; nothing we do will be enough, but with Him and His power, it can be. He changes our hearts, and we need to ask Him to do so. Thank you for teaching me that!

I love you so much! Thank you for the wonderful example you are to me and the love you have for me. Your love and your efforts in my behalf have provided me the best possible chance to be happy and make good choices, so thank you for all that you've done for me :) You're the best and I love you so so so much!! Have a wonderful week and throw some good wisdom at those immature EFY boys, yah? :)

Elder Connor Hopkin

Hello family and friends!!!

I hope everyone is doing well! I wanted to send a quick update and a couple things I've learned recently! My thoughts are pretty all over the place, so hopefully they'll make a little sense :)

A few weeks ago I got a new companion, Elder Griffin. He and I, along with our companions, shared an apartment in Tracy about 10 months ago, when I was in my second transfer and he was about 7 months out. We became really good friends there and always joked that we would be companions. He's a Spanish missionary, and I'm obviously English, so we were pretty surprised and happy when we found out we would be companions. There was an odd number of English and Spanish elders, so he was moved to English for a little bit! He's teaching me a lot, and he's one of the most humble and obedient missionaries here, and I'm loving the chance to be his companion!! Along with the transfer, I got moved from the Riverbank ward to the Modesto YSA ward. I had told my mission president that I was intimidated of YSA wards, and I'm pretty convinced that ensured my being assigned to one! It's been super fun though! The members and investigators are so humble and teachable, and we've made some really good friends!

We've had some fun experiences with people shouting profanities at us, and some great times with people so nice we could barely believe it! I continue to see the huge blessings that Heavenly Father is giving me. I wish sometimes that I was better at not taking them so much for granted. The missionaries in my district and zone are incredible. My mission president is so inspired. I'm loving my mission more and more!

I've been reminded this week about something my mom helped me realize early in my mission. While I was homesick and struggling in my first transfer, she told me that she was praying for my heart to be changed in a way that would help me enjoy myself more and find more happiness in my mission. Last week, we were in a zone training and the question was brought up asking how we can become more diligent. I remembered this lesson from my mom and thought about how it's truly Heavenly Father's power and our Savior's grace that can change who we are. As it says in Moroni 7:48, we must "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that (we) may be filled with this love", and if I might add, any other virtue or Christ-like attribute. Throughout the mission, and throughout our lives, we're constantly striving to become more and more like our Savior. As we strive to be obedient and do the very best we can and pray for help and grace, Heavenly Father will help change us and make us more like the Savior. As we partake of the sacrament, that symbolic representation of Christ's body and blood become literally a part of us; we become one with our Savior and more like Him. Like Nephi, we can bring our lives in line with God's will through repentance and pray "Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?" (2 Nephi 4:31). I know that if we have faith in God and Christ, and ask for Their help, we will receive it. I've seen so many times in my life where my Heavenly Father has answered my prayers. It's a slow process, but I know that Jesus Christ died so that He can make us more pure and holy, and change our hearts and very selves to be more like He is. I find myself sometimes taking for granted the immeasurable blessing of His Atonement, but I hope He can help me be more grateful. He died for every one of our sins and pains and is there with us when we allow Him to be.

Thank you all so much for the things you've done to bless my life! I'm so grateful for each one of you and the love and support you've given me. I hope all is going well, and I always love to hear life-updates! I love you all!

Elder Connor Hopkin

Hump Day or Half-Way Clothes
August 8, 2016

Elder Hopkin and Elder Griffin
August 8, 2016

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Week 51--Half Way Done, People!!

Well, here we are. Half Way!! Connor entered the MTC on July 29, 2015. On Friday of this week an entire year had passed. One year to go! We sent him a "hump day" package this week. In it we had a pair of pants, a white shirt, and a tie that we had cut off half way. We also sent one shoe and one sock. I've requested a picture of him wearing his "new" clothes. Hopefully we'll get one we can post next week. We also sent a half a can of Pringles, a half of a package of Oreos, half a dozen donuts, half of a bag of chips, and one half of a Reese's PB Cup, Twix, and Almond Joy. Here are some pics of all of this. It was fun putting it all together. We are officially on the downhill--which is supposed to be faster, right?  :)

Here is Connor's email.

MOM!!!!!! :)

Hi!!! Thank you so much for that letter and those thoughts! That's such a cool quote from the Primary: "Because He misses us." I love that! Our mission president just sent out a letter saying that it's so incredible that Heavenly Father allowed this plan to take place, where He receives so much heart-break from those that distance themselves from Him and choose to not follow Him. But it's the plan of happiness, and He knew it's what we all need for our own salvation. He and truly does miss us so much, and that helps me remember to share the gospel with everyone; so He can see His children again. That's a really cool thought, about our covenants allowing us to be closer to Him.

Also, thanks for the pep talk! :) I loved that! It's a bit scary, that I only have one more year to give it all I have. And I forget the urgency of it so quickly! I hope I can continue to grow and be a better missionary, and really be able to bless the lives of others... Thank you so much for reminding me about talents, and I loved how you said "Heavenly Father has made you who you are"; I've come to a better understanding of the fact that everyone has their own unique talents that God can use for the benefit of others. And, by the way, I know its hard to be like Jesus, but you're pretty dang good at it :) I've always been impressed with your faith and the incredible testimony you have. And, going back to covenants, I've always seen you keep your promises with the Lord and I can see that you have a strong relationship with Him from that.

Hahahahaha that package!!! Somehow, my candy seemed to disappear twice as fast as usual :) It was really funny; I was going on exchanges the day I got it, so I wasn't going to have the chance to open it that night. But I thought there might be a tie in there, and I wanted to wear it for my year mark. So I opened it and got distracted with the fact there was only one shoe...and one sock... and then I got it! Suffice it to say, I didn't wear that tie for my year mark :) All the office staff and a couple missionaries were there and they thought it was pretty dang funny! I haven't taken a picture yet, but I promise I'll send one next week! Thank you so much for sending me that!!! :)

On a more spiritual note... :) I was on exchanges with a zone leader, and we studied "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and I got the chance to think about it a bit more. I thought about how every time we serve or help others, we're doing it to our Savior. He suffered so much for us, and the way we can "give back" is by following Him, particularly by serving others. The zone leader said that whenever he sings that hymn, he wonders if he would die for Christ, and I had to think about it too. He died for us, but would we die for Him? Afte the man in the song says he will die for Christ, He shows Himself to him. I realized that almost always, we aren't asked to give everything away for Him. If we can be like Abraham, and be willing to give all we are for Him, He will accept it - and won't actually make us give it. King Lamoni's father was willing to give his whole kingdom, but all that God asked of him was to repent. When we're so converted and have so much faith that we're just willing to do all He asks, then He shows Himself to us. I want to get to that point eventually.

Life's going good! :) The work here is going well. We're having a hard time finding investigators, but we're getting our feet under us. We have an investigator that committed to be baptized, and we're now working with her to set a date. She's a super cool girl! The branch combination was cool to be at. They took from both branch presidencies to create the new bishopbric. It'll be super nice to just work with one unit.

Thank you so much for the email and update! I love you so much! I miss you too!! Thanks for all of your love and all you do for me! I'm so lucky to be your son! I hope you have a great week and a fun time at girl's camp!! I LOVE YOU!! :)

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

So, this last paragraph I hesitate to share a little bit, mostly because Connor didn't really want me to. But, I thought it would be good for all of us to remember that these missionaries do come across difficult situations and aren't always treated the way we would hope. It reminded me of the scripture in Matthew 5:10-12 which says, 

10  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

And, of course, we know that the Savior was the MOST persecuted of all. These young men and women truly do represent Him and preach His gospel. At times they may have to experience even a little bit of what He went through so that they can understand His mission a little better. It was a good reminder to me to pray for them all that they can have the courage and strength to react well and respond appropriately when those difficult moments come. Here is the paragraph (and, maybe, don't mention it to Connor--ok?)

"On Saturday, Elder Griffin and I were walking down the street and saw a a bra. We try to talk to everyone, so we said hi and she got super upset and said "Man, you guys know you can't solicit here, come on!!" As I pondered everything wrong with that accusation, I adjusted my tie, and she yelled, "What? See, you're just grabbing your (blank) right in front of me!! You're both (n-word)s!" At that point we decided to walk away, but she kept yelling for about a straight minute, "You dirty n...s, you n....s, you dirty filthy n....s" :) I would have been pretty upset except she clearly wasn't in control of herself :) About 20 minutes later, we were walking down another street and this lady was riding her bike on the sidewalk towards us, and moved out onto the street to avoid us. She said "Fine, I'll (blank) move into the road for you gay-lords!" I said, "Excuse us!" and she said "(Blank) off". SUPER nice people :) That's a pretty rare occurrence though, and it was funny they happened so close together."