Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Email Where the California Weather Follows Me Everywhere


I hope you all are doing fantastic! School is starting or just around the corner for a lot of you, and I wish you all the best! The good old' mission saying is that "the days feel like weeks, and the weeks feel like days." It definitely is true. I'll write out a sample schedule for a typical Monday:

6:30 Wake Up
6:40 Gym
8:00 Breakfast
8:30-12:50 Spanish Study/Investigator Lessons
12:50 Lunch
1:35 Daily Planning
2:05-5:35 Personal, Companion, Spanish Study
5:35 Dinner
6:20-9:30 Spanish Study
9:30-10:30 Chill at Residence Hall
10:30 Sleep

So yeah, we spend about 11 hours a day in a pretty small room. But thankfully my District is really chill and we all get along great. I'm the oldest, and sometimes it shows, but I really like everyone and how they have unique personalities that show up more and more as we spend all this time together. We definitely have a lot of fun in the day in order to keep ourselves from getting sucked into the daily routine.
Unfortunately, Elder Salmon was in real rough shape at the hospital, so last Saturday he was honorably released as a missionary and went home. Just because of the guy he is, I expect him to be back on his mission as soon as his health permits him to. But please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He's a great guy and I hope to see him in Baltimore in a few months when I'm there.

So...this weather man. The crazy amounts of wildfires in California/Oregon/Washington created quite the buzz here. All the smoke from those fires blew east, and the air here in this past week has been pretty bad. It gave a lot of people some interesting problems, and it looked almost like a heavy smog when you looked toward the Mountains/the valley. But thankfully it rained yesterday so that helped out a bit in cleaning things up.

It's crazy to hear of all the places that people are going for their missions. I met a group of missionaries that were headed to San Jose, and some arrived just yesterday that are going to Eugene! It made my day to hear that city again. I'm so glad I choose to go to college before my mission, and Eugene is one heck up a place. I got them hyped for their missions and told them to look out for a few people. It's just fun to hear that missionaries are headed almost everywhere in the world. It's a real testament of the fact that this Gospel is for everyone, and that people throughout the world have the opportunity to hear it and rejoice in the peace and hope it gives. The gospel brings families together, and the knowledge that there is a life and purpose after earth is just beautiful.

I can't wait to get out to the Baltimore mission and work, but I'll continue to prepare while I am here and build my Spanish. Please continue to write me, and I love each and every one of you!

Con Amor,
Elder Ball


The whole district/squad and the sick Captain Moroni painting on the wall

Blurry selfie with companions, Elder Skarda (Baltimore) and Elder Peterson (Long Beach,CA)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Email Where It All Begins

Hola! Greetings from the Provo MTC!

Today is finally my P-Day, or preparation day, where I get to finally write emails, do laundry, and go to the temple. It definitely was needed. I miss all my family and friends and hope you are all doing well! I am glad I am here and doing the Lord's work.

Nametag Picture!
Needless to say, my first few days here were quite interesting. My companion, Elder Salmon, a quiet guy from Idaho, has Ulcerative Colitis, which is very similar to Crohn's. Interesting that we got matched up! Elder Salmon had one meal at the MTC, and later that night was in so much pain that he needed to go to the hospital, so I went with him. Apparently, his intestines knotted where he had some scar tissue from previous surgeries, which is pretty serious. I spent the first night with him at the hospital, and the next morning he went into surgery. The first few days of worrying about him and 43 hours of no sleep was definitely tough. Elder Salmon is still in the hospital, so please keep him in your thoughts/prayers. He's a great guy.

The MTC food definitely is something else. Jeremiah 4:19 pretty much sums up how 90% of the missionaries feel when eating the food. I'd definitely look it up if you want a laugh haha.

This place is definitely a culture change. I don't think I've ever been around this many Mormon people for this long before. It took a little getting used to. But the people are a blast and some of the islanders can be so funny. My district has 8 Elders and 3 Sisters, and all of them are a blast. We are all serving Spanish speaking missionaries within the states, with three of us serving in Baltimore, two in Houston, two in Boston, and the sisters serving in Arkansas, Iowa, and San Diego. Who thought Spanish would be so widespread within the US.

Speaking of that, the Spanish is coming along! Understanding is definitely easier than speaking. However we've already started teaching in Spanish and its been so much fun. Can't wait to get better and better. The "Gift of Tongues" is definitely real.

Cousins at the MTC! From left to right: Elder Crockett, Elder Ball, Elder Call
It's been fun to see my cousins, Adam and Connor, who arrived the same day I did. I've seen both of them quite a lot at meals, and they both look like they're doing well! It was also fun to see Sister Sheantala Abello around too! All three are fantastic people and will make great missionaries in Guam, Orlando, and Nampa Idaho respectively. They will all leave before me, and I will definitely miss them.

The MTC had the chance to hear/sing with the Nashville Tribute Band. What an experience. I'm usually not a huge fan of gospel/country, but they are so talented and the spirit was so strong when they played. We also got to hear from Elder Echo Hawk of the Seventy on Tuesday. He had a very inspiring story as a convert to the church.

I'm so glad that I am here. There is a feeling within me of peace and I know I am supposed to be here doing this work. It is definitely a lot of work, and hard studying, but I am glad I am here doing it. I already feel blessed in so many different ways, and I know that I am doing God's will by sharing his restored Gospel.

Don't forget to write me letters amigos! I definitely want to hear from all of you, and my email time is limited, so you can write me letters! Yes, physical letters!!!! They still exist haha. I'll respond to every one.

My address is:
Elder Thomas Crockett Ball
2007 N 900 E Unit 60
Provo UT 84602

I love you all and I cant wait to hear from you!

Hasta luego!

Elder Ball

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sunday Farewell Day

Thankful to all my friends who came out and listened to my farewell talk. I'm excited to see what you all do in these two years and cant wait to hear from everyone!


I have a family here on earth, They are so good to me. I want to share my life with them through all eternity.

It is a joy and pleasure to stand in front of you today. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Thomas Ball, and this last year I have been attending the University of Oregon.  I have been called to serve in the Maryland Baltimore mission spanish speaking, and I will be leaving on Wednesday to the Provo MTC. Out of pure coincidence, two of my cousins will also be reporting to the MTC the same date despite us all turning in our papers at different times. I am eager to see what the Lord has in store for me and I look forward to serving the people of that area. At the ripe age of 19, I know that I am still at the cusp of what life has to offer me, but I hope that each and every one of you gets something from what I have to say and that the spirit will be present.

One year ago, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to serve a mission. I didn’t have the burning desire to go, and I didn’t know if I would ever have that feeling. Throughout highschool I struggled at times to be an example of the church. I often felt inadequete with who I was and the way I was representing myself. I went off to Oregon, and I really struggled my first quarter of school.  But it was in those struggles, in some of my hardest times, that I developed that burning desire to leave everything behind and serve a mission. There was one thing that I clung to during those tough times, and it was the idea, the thought, that through this gospel, families can be together forever. So today, I wish to talk a little about Coming unto Christ through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gift of Eternal Families.

God, our Heavenly Father, loves us. He knows each of us individually, and He knows what each and every one of us are going through, and what we need to succeed in life. God does not see us for who we are in the moment, but who we can become, the finished picture. In order for us to become like God, we were sent to live on earth, to see if we would make the right choices that would bring us back to live with Him after our time on earth. We were given a body made in God’s image, and we retained our agency, which gave us the ability to make choices on earth and to choose for ourselves who we would become during our time here. He knew life on earth would be tough for us. God understood that we could not be perfect like Him.  He knew that we would make mistakes, and that we would suffer through tragedies, afflictions, doubts, things that would push us to our limit. He knew we could not do it alone.

So he sent his Son.

The famous scripture, John 3:16-17 reads,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

The primary song “He Sent His Son”, begins with the words,

“How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?
He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.
How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go?
He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.

Jesus Christ came into the world in most humble circumstances, born in a manger among livestock. His life on earth was in complete service of others. He performed many miracles of healing, he cast out evil spirits, and he gave the breathless life. But compared to all the miracles He performed, all the love and compassion he showed unto the imperfect, it was one of his final acts that will always and forever be the greatest act of compassion to ever take place on this earth.

The song continues,

How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?
He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.

In order for us, as imperfect beings, to reach the kingdom of God and live with Him again, there had to be a mediator: someone that would take upon himself our sins. Jesus Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, and gave us the chance to live for Eternity with our creator, as long as we believe in Him. The atonement that Jesus Christ fulfilled allows us to repent for the mistakes that we make, and through Christ, we can make it into the Kingdom of God.

Those of you who know me know that I have a passion for sports. One of my favorite 49ers retired this last offseason, and in his speech, he said something that struck me. He said, “Here I stand in front of you today, not as a perfect man, but as an honest man.” Particularly, I thought this was interesting because it touched on the attitude that we can have in this life. We know that we are going to make mistakes. But if we can look at ourselves honestly, and repent for the sins that we have committed, and strive to live righteously, we will be rewarded with all that God has to offer us.

The song concludes, stating,

What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?
Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.

What does he ask?
Live like his Son.

What does it mean to come unto Christ? Throughout the scriptures, we are often compared to as sheep, with Jesus Christ as our shepherd. Now any of you that have worked on farms can vouch for this, but sheep are said to be the dumbest four legged creatures alive. Although in brain capacity they are not all that dumb, their reliance on their basic instincts more often than not fails them. The shepherd has the demanding task of watching over his flock of sheep that, without training, will follow their instincts and each other instead of following the shepherd. But the shepherd is patient. He spends and dedicates all of his time, every hour of the day, watching over his sheep. At night, the shepherd builds a circle out of what materials he can find to create a barrier. The circle has only one entrance, and with his flock gathered within the fold, he lies in that entrance, the only thing standing between any predators that wish to reach his flock.

The shepherd knows each and every one of his sheep. He has names for them, and can quickly call to a specific sheep in his flock, and if the sheep knows and recognizes the shepherd’s voice, they will come. However, in times of urgency, when the shepherd must gather all his flock together, he will not call the individual names of his flock. Instead, the Shepherd will call his own name, and if prepared, the flock will follow him.

Alma 5:38 in the Book of Mormon reads,

“Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.”

As children of God, we have a choice to make. We have been put on this earth to choose who we will become. There are many names or titles that we often strive to achieve: CEO, VP of Marketing, assistant regional manager, top 90% GPA of your graduating class. The most important decision we can make, the most prestigious title we can earn is when we take upon ourselves the name of Christ and follow his example.

2 Nephi 31:19-21 reads,

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus said the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby men can be saved in the kingdom of God.”

Brothers and sisters I bear my testimony that I know this is the truth. There are so many things grabbing and demanding for our attention. We are being pulled and pushed in so many directions, and many times we have no control over what we face in our lives. However, we do have the power and ability to build our foundation on Christ. And as the scriptures put it, “that when mighty winds of hail and storms shall beat upon you, they will have no power over you to drag you down to misery and wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall”

Even though the shepherd does his best to lead his flock, sometimes sheep have the tendency to keep their heads down as they graze, and they continue to walk further and further away from the flock, most of the time without even realizing it.  The shepherd soon realizes that he is missing one of his sheep, and makes a decision that would be poor in the eyes of many business and economics minds. He leaves his flock to seek out the lost sheep, and makes the journey into the wilderness, exposing himself and his unwatched flock to turbulent storms and danger. But he makes the journey anyways.

Matthew 18:12-13 of the New Testament reads,

“How think ye? If a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”

There are going to be times in our lives where we feel like the lost sheep. We don’t know how we got to the position we are in, and there was not a defining choice we chose that led us to where we are. We are going to feel uncertain, afraid, and sometimes abandoned. I have sometimes felt like the lost sheep. I felt alone, and questioned myself and what my goals were in life. I realized that I was not where I was supposed to be, and that my spiritual growth had stalled. I was coasting in life, and I neglected to keep God as a priority. But there is always hope, always room for change. Like the shepherd, Jesus Christ will never abandon us. There will never be a day where Christ looks at us and says, “you know, they just are not worth my love”. God will never write us off.  Brothers and sisters, it is not the distance that we are from God, it is not the things that we have done in our life that take us away from him that matter. It is the direction of our life that matters. If we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and choose good, virtuous things to fill our lives, and strive to do good at all times, we will be blessed.

Brothers and sisters, I know without a doubt that this church is true.  I know that Jesus Christ suffered for our sins, and that he was resurrected, so all mankind may be saved. I know that Joseph Smith restored this church to the earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is Christ’s church. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that if we live righteously and take upon ourselves the Name of Christ, we can have the blessing of the comfort that comes with knowing that families can be sealed together forever for all eternity. I know that marriage does not end at “till death do us part”. This world is already so hard, and some things are so uncertain, but there is a joy in knowing that you will see the ones you love after this life. I am serving a mission because I want to give other people the hope and love that comes with knowing that there is a life after this earth, and that you can live it next to those you love most for all eternity. I am so thankful for my friends, many of whom are in attendance today. They have been by my side at all times, and I consider them as family. They can be the first to tell you that I am not perfect, but they have encouraged me, and have made the transition into my mission so enjoyable. They have been very supporting of my decision, and I wish nothing but happiness to each and every one of them. I am thankful for my Young Men’s leaders, who have also always unceasingly believed in me. They taught me that we have the ability to make our own choices here on Earth, but in the grand scheme of things, the time we spend on earth is just a mere speck compared to what is coming.

Elder Thomas Ball's Family
I have a family here on earth. They are so good to me. I want to share my life with them through all eternity. Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father’s plan. I always want to be with my own family. And the Lord has shown me how I can. The Lord, has shown me how I can.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Thomas Crockett Ball