Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Elder Kilmer Arrives in Oklahoma!

Josh arrived in Oklahoma today, just six weeks after leaving home.  Below is a photo of Elder Kilmer with President and Sister Walkenhorst, the mission president and mission mother of the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Mission.  His mission president is tall: seven feet, and a former basketball player for BYU.

Here is a short article on the Walkenhorsts when they arrived in the mission nearly three years ago.  They will be leaving the mission at the end of June, and Josh will have a new mission president for the remainder of his mission starting July 1st.  

We were able to speak with Josh by phone today as he was in the airport waiting for his plane.  When we asked him what he learned from six weeks in the missionary training center, hew was reflective and after a few moments, he said, 

“I really learned that it’s important that you know who you are and why you want to be that person.  It’s important to understand the why of who you are before you know the what and the how.”

We may not hear from him for a while until he gets settled in his new area and can send us an update.  We do know that he is having dinner with his mission president and family tonight and will head off to his new area tomorrow.  We will keep you updated.  Many thanks to those that have shown him support.  If you want to reach him you can send him an email or a letter to his mission home until we get his new address.  


Friday, March 25, 2016

Iokwe from a humbler Elder Kilmer, week 5 MTC

Hi everyone,

This is Josh's last letter from the missionary training center (MTC).  He leaves this coming Tuesday for Oklahoma.  We have new photos this week: below is a picture of Josh with his companion, Elder Hirinuki, and his zone (a group of missionaries). This week he told us he is about 10 pounds lighter since entering the MTC.  Hopefully he'll gain some of that weight back in Oklahoma.  

Josh gets to call us from the airport next Tuesday.  We are so excited to hear from him.  If you want to connect with Josh, feel free to email him and he will pick it up on his next preparation day (P-Day).  Thanks again to everyone for following and supporting him. 

We are so thankful for Josh and how his service is changing his heart as you'll read below.  We are also so thankful for Easter and the time we have to celebrate our Savior and the reason why Josh is out teaching the gospel. 


First off, my dad requested that I explain where my companions are going: Elder Hirinuki is going to Tonga. Elder McFall is going to the Marshall Islands. Elder Miller is going to Kiribati. Those are the elders in my room (Elder Hirinuki being my companion at the moment). Everyone else is either going to Tonga, Kiribati, Fiji, or Samoa. 

I don't have a lot of time this week, but that's okay because I don't have a lot of updates this week. It was my last full week in the MTC. That feels weird. I'm used to this type of schooling experience to last for another two months. I'm especially sorry to leave Brother Sherman and Sister Seegmiller, my teachers. Our classes have mostly devolved to us sassing one another in Marshallese, which has been both a blast and has lead me to cry myself to sleep at night. Brother Sherman knows how to trash people. I didn't catch all of it, but one of his comments ended with something along the lines of "and you won't be able to resurrect because you'll be in so much pain." I'll be sure to write that one in his teacher evaluation.

The zone has been like a roller coaster. Some days they're all super obedient and they even go to bed on time. And then there are days like today when I'm scrambling to get all of them to the temple on time and end up wanting to strangle-I mean... lovingly hug.... all of them. But, they have been making slow improvements and that is what matters. Mostly.

We get new zone leaders tonight, which means Elder Hirinuki can finally slack off and be lazy for our remaining time here. Actually, I'm excited because it means I can start to focus on my own studies again while silently influencing the new zone leaders and acting as a puppeteer from behind the scenes. I am determined to leave a lasting impression of obedience, diligence, and love on this zone and I might best accomplish it from small acts from outside a leadership position. We'll see how this goes.

Short on time, so here's my thought for this week: I've realized how important humility is. I used to think I was a humble guy. Yeah.... no. Thankfully, I've been smacked down many times here by every leadership position I've received. No way to find humility like failing miserably at helping others. The more I have realized how much I need the Lord's help, the more I have been able to find it. And, ironically, the more I have progressed versus when I tried to do everything myself. The reason is that when we are humble, we are teachable. Humility isn't weakness. It's not thinking less of yourself. It's being willing to sacrifice your will for a better way. 

So, my challenge this week is this: pray for humility. Or, if you don't believe in prayer - seek after humility in your life. I promise that as you pursue humility - true humility - you'll find it. And it will suck. Because it doesn't come easily; it comes from falling on your face. But, when you stand up again, I promise that you will stand with a greater strength than you did before. Because you will be standing while being supported by One who is stronger than us all. 

Thank you all for who you are. Talk to you all next week, when I'll probably laugh at what I thought was humility now, since I'm guessing I'm going to fall on my face every second of this next week. Go fight win!


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese speaking

Fudoshin:  immovable spirit

Friday, March 18, 2016

Iokwe from Elder Kilmer: Lessons in Leadership (week 4)


First off, I have to share an experience that happened my first week here that I have forgotten to relay to everyone: So, in the MTC, President Willes is our Branch President. He's super nice, very wise old man ish and leads everyone very well. He called me to be the District Leader for the (then) five of us on our first night here (which you already know). Well, I figured that I was doing very well as a District Leader and being very mature and responsible. And I was. But one night, probably four days into our stay, it was 9:05. Planning time. I was board. Elder Miller was slightly late in walking in to join our planning session, like he did every night. I heard the door begin to open, and I happened to be holding a pencil, so I figured I would punish his tardiness by hitting him in the leg with my pencil.

I timed it perfectly. I threw it slightly early so that as soon as he opened the door enough to expose his body, he would get hit right in the leg. The pencil arced through the air in the most beautiful parabola I have ever seen, right on target. It was all so perfect, except it was President Willes who had opened the door. In my haste to time things exactly right, I had forgotten the number one rule of throwing things at other people: MAKE SURE YOU AREN'T THROWING SOMETHING AT YOUR BRANCH PRESIDENT. Surprisingly, he deftly dodged my projectile and said "That was close!" I have never been able to describe my emotions as mortified before in my life, but that was the exact word to describe my feelings at the time. I wanted to dig a hole in the floor and precipitate myself into it. Thankfully, I haven't been reprimanded and it was never brought up again. But I've definitely learned my lesson and I will never ever ever throw anything at someone ever again. Unless I've appointed a lookout to signal me when the right person walks through the door. 

As for how everything else is going, class is great. I've reached the point in the last couple of days where things have really clicked with Marshallese. As long as I'm not feeling way tired, I can chat with my teachers in Marshallese pretty easily about most common topics. Which is really fun because now we mostly laugh and joke around because it's all part of practicing the language still. Elder McFall is doing really well too. I'm able to turn to him during the lesson and let him take over without being worried about what he might say. He's still got a ways to go, but seeing how much he's improved makes me so happy.

That's about all that's going well though. The zone as a whole.... Man. We've got a lot of problems with disobedience. All of the Fijian Elders are just fine. They are super humble and obedient because they know why they are here. But everyone else... It's like trying to work with a bunch of toddlers. "I just cleaned up the mess in the kitchen and now you've thrown up on the living room carpet!" They don't like to stay with their companions, they don't use the internet properly, many of them waste time by sleeping and playing games rather than studying, and no matter how many times we talk to them, it only amounts to them trying to do it behind our backs, rather than openly. 

It's especially hard because one elder has a real desire to be exactly obedient, even more than those in my district who have been here for as long as I have. Every morning, at exactly 7:00, I find him studying in the lobby because his companions are still showering. And one of his companions is a District Leader, who we have talked to several times about being an example. We see this elder trying so hard to be obedient, but being forced to babysit his companions all the time and it just kills me because I know it's really hard for him. 

I'm not saying this to ruin your image of missionaries. The majority of them are obedient. But the missionaries in our zone are just all about their own feelings. They are too hard-hearted to care about making change. They hear all of the same things that changed our hearts, they are spoken to lovingly and sternly and it doesn't matter. They haven't decided who they want to be yet. So they are stuck between both worlds and it is uncomfortable for them and uncomfortable for us.

However, this ties into my message/challenge for the week. Elder Hirinuki and I have been trying so hard to do what is best for this zone and for each individual missionary, but it's been so difficult. We honestly have no idea what to do. My natural inclination is to sock them all right in the face and get in their faces, because that's the only way I actually learn anything. That was what I needed back when I had the same problem as them. But, I know that's not the right way. So, we've been praying. All the time. And it has become a huge blessing.

Every time Elder Hirinuki and I get together to discuss what needs to be done, we have ideas coming into our meeting (mine usually involving my fists). But after we begin with a prayer and ask for the Spirit to guide us, we always sit and listen and then without fail, we've received quiet promptings on what to do. I have never been directed like this before. Probably because I used to think that I knew it all. But I've been so humbled here and that means that I've been teachable. So when I've sincerely sought to be directed, I've received guidance. And not just in general. Specific things. Like who needs to give lessons and exactly what we need to talk to the District Leaders about. It's never come with a voice of thunder, but I have never been unsure of what answers I have received.

The point I have in sharing this story is this: Right now, being a Zone Leader in this zone is super challenging. I'm not very wise and I don't really know how to help the others. But, through this struggle, I've not only grown through opposition, but I've also received a major blessing in learning how to be directed by the Spirit. So, my challenge this week is this: Don't just view trials as a challenge. Look for ways to receive a blessing from the opposition. 

We all hear so many times that trials are blessings in disguise. Well, sometimes trials are just trials. But. At those times, if we humble ourselves and turn to Christ, we can discover blessings that wouldn't ordinarily have come. If I hadn't prayed and sought direction, yeah, I probably would have grown a little in the wisdom of the world and would have learned a little more about leadership (and how I should use my words and not hit when I'm upset). But I never would have learned to receive specific revelation from the Spirit. So, when you are struggling: turn to the Savior. If you do, you will not only grow temporally, but also spiritually, and you will enjoy a closer relationship with him than you understood was possible before.

Thanks for all of your emails and support! Again, sorry if I don't respond to everyone, but know that I do read everything you send and it means the world.


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission

Fudoshin: immovable mind

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dramatically Titled Letter #3

Here is letter #3 from Josh, who reached his halfway point in the missionary training center last Tuesday.  He will be leaving for Oklahoma in two weeks and four days.  How the time has flown.  Feel free to reach out to him via email, MTC delivery service (for same day free letter delivery) or via mail.  His contact information information is on the side bar.  Thanks for your support!

Josh with his companions, Elder Miller and Elder McFall.

Elder Kilmer and Elder Tatia, the brother of Josh's former roomate Moni.  Small world!

I think Josh is telling us that he's running out of honey.

Sister Tutu'ila on the left and Sister Heni next to her. From California and Papa New Guinea, respectively. Both Kiribati.   Josh's companions Elders Miller and McFall.


This week has been great. We've had some changes in our zone this week. The ASL and Fiji districts left, which meant that we got to wake up at 3:00 and then 4:00 in the morning for two days in a row, respectively. I'm surprised that I managed to magically keep myself awake during the devotionals. Which was good, because they made me one of the zone leaders, so I'm kind of supposed to set a good example (which makes me question why they chose me; I wore my shirt backwards for half of the day today). 

Some basic responsibilities of a zone leader: literally everything. We plan the majority of our meetings, including Sunday meetings, interview the district leaders, make sure everyone does what they are supposed to do, pick up new elders and sisters, and anything else they ask us to do. So we got to pick up the new 18 elders and sisters that came to replace Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa this Wednesday. About 13 of them are from Kiribati, which made the Kiribati class pretty happy: more language practice opportunities. They all speak great English, though they were amazed by elevators and washing machines. 

Language is going well. I'm probably more fluent in Marshallese than in Spanish and Japanese combined. I can teach entire lessons for an hour at this point (though that's including the awkward silences......). I've had some opportunities to use what little Spanish and Japanese I can remember at this point too. Though it's getting way hard to remember anything but Marshallese! I know that I know certain words, but all that comes to mind is the Marshallese word for it. It's super frustrating. But, I can study those two again after the mission. I also met some Cambodian elders and sisters! It was fun to tell them "jom reap sur" and be reminded of my two week stay with my friends over in Cambodia. 

I don't have quite as much time today as usual, but to make up for it, I included some pictures. What I didn't include is my new companion. Since so many missionaries left, we combined our classes into one district with Tonga, Marshall Islands, and Kiribati in the same district, with Elder Miller as the District Leader. My companion, Elder Hirinuki, is also a zone leader. He's from New Zealand and he's just about the most loving guy you'll ever meet. He's always asking how people are and talks to everyone. Since he's in the Tongan class, he tells everyone "Ofa'atu" (hope I spelled that right), which means "I love you". Great guy and I'm learning a lot from him.

Which brings me to my lesson/topic/monologue that most of you skip for this week: it's on the importance of love. I am not a very loving person. Actually, I've spent most of my life not liking people. I much preferred to be alone. I probably still prefer being alone to being around people, but what I am learning is that I've been really hard-hearted when it comes to those around me. I've been praying for the gift of love in my life and, although I am not perfect at it yet, I am beginning to feel more love for those around me. Being a Zone Leader means that you give up a lot of your own will to help other people. I missed exercise time because an elder arrived the day after everyone else. I had to spend this morning teaching the Kiribati elders how to do their laundry. I'm constantly looking out for everyone else and trying to make sure that they are doing okay. I don't think I've really been able to spend much time studying Marshallese at all this past week. But, what I've noticed is that it doesn't matter.

I may have spent more time on others than myself. But I've begun to really care about how they feel, how happy they are. When they smile, I smile. I genuinely care for their well-being. And I don't miss the time that I could have spent on myself. I think some of that is due to blessings of being a missionary, but I also truly believe that when we care about other people's problems or their lives, we'll stop caring about our own. We'll find that when we are helping them, our own lives fade to the background and become less important. I'll probably talk a whole lot more about that during my last week here (I'm halfway through by the way), but since it is such a recurring theme, I thought I would include it here as well (Also, I've learned nothing else in class this week. Stay awake in school, kids).

So, here's my challenge: seek for the gift of love in your life. It is a gift; it's not something that we can give ourselves and it's not something we can develop on our own. But it's also a gift because we receive something in return. Allow the gift of love to be a central part of your life. I don't know where you need to improve. But I challenge you to sit down and think about where you are being too stubborn to let yourself love someone else. Do what you need to do to make it happen, and I promise that you will find that your life will take on new meaning and you will discover a joy and a sense of peace and satisfaction in your life that you never realized was missing, because Christ will be in your life.

That's all I've got. You're all great. March on.


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission

Fudoshin  (note from Josh's mom:  For those of you not fluent in Japanese, the translation for Fudoshin is literally and metaphorically, "immovable mind", "immovable heart" or "unmoving heart". It is a philosophical or mental dimension to Japanese martial arts which contributes to the effectiveness of the advanced practitioner.  To say that Josh was obsessed with the Japanese culture and language before his mission is very much an understatement and from it he has found his personal mission motto. He asked me to send him the kanji (Japanese writing) for it. P.S.  Special shout out to the Jonson family who among other things sent him 3 "straight up avocados."  He said it cracked him up.  Grandma Corine: he's almost out of honey if you have any more local stuff straight from the beekeeper, it would be SWEEET of you to send more! )

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Farewell Talk– His Grace is Sufficient

Josh gave this talk in one of his last Sunday meetings with us before leaving to serve as a missionary.  I thought I would post it for the benefit of those who were not there.  Looking forward to next week and Josh's half-way point in the missionary training center.

We feel that we have many things required of us, and we strive our best to accomplish the tasks we are charged with and follow the example Christ has set for us. But we constantly fall short. We are supposed to be saved by grace, after all we can do, as Nephi tells us. But what is all that we can do? And where does grace fit in?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, “Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .
. . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .
. . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us.
This is what I want to address today.

Piano lessons analogy: Mom pays the piano teacher. Does the child’s effort pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s effort repay mom for paying the piano teacher? No.
Mosiah 2: 20-21 [23-24]

The child’s practice and effort are a demonstration of appreciation for the lessons that mom has paid for, and mom’s joy comes not from being repaid, but from seeing her gift used and her child living life on a higher plane.
Likewise, Christ is not repaid by our efforts and our practice. He receives joy when we choose to use the gift that he has freely given us to help us live our lives on a higher plane.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.

The purpose of this change is for our own benefit. As Brother Wilcox puts it, “We are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven.” We are learning to become a people of God.

“Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly” – Alma 12: 14
This does not mean that we must live a perfect life so that we will not be faced with the guilt of our past misdeeds on Judgment Day. It means that we must be changed by grace, so that when we look back on that fateful day, we can say “That’s not who I am anymore”, and leave those sins behind us in the past. The more we allow grace to impact our lives, the more our lives will look more like Christ’s life, and the more comfortable we will be in his presence.

Back to the piano analogy, if you live your life like I played piano back in the day, you long to play the beautiful music you hear others preform so wonderfully and seemingly easily, but when you turn to the keyboard, the sounds are more discordant than pleasant. So, like I did, you give up. It’s not worth the effort. The dichotomy is too great. What we fail to recognize is that the only two options in life are not playing in Carnegie Hall, or quitting.

Brother Wilcox shares the following email he received from a student: “I know God has all power, and I know He will help me if I’m worthy, but I’m just never worthy enough to ask for His help. I want Christ’s grace, but I always find myself stuck in the same self-defeating and impossible position: no work, no grace.”
Brother Wilcox’s response is that, “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch.”

Steve was a seminary student that had been kicked out of several classes. One teacher, Brother Christianson, was kind enough to let him in. One day, he pulled Steve aside after class and asked how many push-ups he could do. Steve responded that he did about 200 each night, but after Brother Christianson earnestly asked if he thought he could do 300 in sets of 10 that Friday, Steve was unsure, but thought he could.

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, Brother Christianson pulled out a big box of donuts.  Now these weren't the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. 
Bro. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, "Cynthia, do you want a donut?"

Cynthia said, "Yes."

Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?"

Steve said, "Sure," and jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk.

Bro. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk.

Bro. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe do you want a donut?"
Joe said, "Yes."  Bro. Christianson asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?" Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut.

And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut.

And down the second aisle, till Bro. Christianson came to Scott. When Bro. 

Christianson asked, "Scott do you want a donut?"
perspiration coming out around his brow.  Bro. Christianson started down the third row.  Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.

Scott's reply was, "Well, can I do my own pushups?"

Bro. Christianson said, "No, Steve has to do them."

Then Scott said, "Well, I don't want one then."

Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?"

Steve started to do ten pushups.  Scott said, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!"

Bro. Christianson said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and my donuts.  Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it."  And he put a donut on Scott's desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little.  He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down.  You could start to see a little 

Bro. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?"

Jenny said, "No."

Then Bro. Christianson asked Steve, "Steve,would you do ten pushups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?"  Steve did ten, Jenny got a donut.

By now, the students were beginning to say "No" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve was also having to really put forth a lot of effort to get these pushups done for each donut.

There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.

During class, however, some students had wandered in and sat along the heaters along the sides of the room.  When Bro. Christianson realized this; he did a quick count and saw 34 students in the room.  He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.

Bro. Christianson went on to the next person and the  next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time.  He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.

Steve asked Bro. Christianson, "Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?"

Bro. Christianson thought for a moment, "Well, they're your pushups. You can do them any way that you want."

And Bro. Christianson went on.

A few moments later, Jason came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled, "NO! Don't come in!  Stay out!"

Jason didn't know what was going on.  Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come."

Bro. Christianson said, "You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him."

Steve said, "Yes, let him come in."

Bro. Christianson said, "Okay, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now.  Jason, do you want a donut?"


"Steve, will you do ten pushups so that Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort.  Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

Bro. Christianson finished the fourth row, then started on those seated on the heaters.  Steve's arms were now shaking with each pushup in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity.  Sweat was dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two girls in the room were cheerleaders and very popular. Bro. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, "Linda, do you want a doughnut?

Linda said, very sadly, "No, thank you."

Bro. Christianson asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten pushups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?"

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda. Then Bro. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. "Susan, do you want a donut?"

Susan, with tears flowing down her face, asked, "Bro. Christianson , can I help him?"

Bro. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, "No, he has to do it alone, Steve, would you do ten pushups so Susan can have a donut?"

As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

Brother Christianson turned to the room and said. "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, plead to the Father, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he collapsed on the cross and died.  And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.” 

 Students didn’t reject the doughnuts because they were angry or apathetic. They rejected the doughnuts because they didn’t feel worthy of the effort Steve was making. When we think, “I don’t want to make him do more push-ups”, we really are thinking “I am not worth ten more push-ups. I have not earned the reward from the pain he will suffer.”

Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Paul, in Romans 6 says “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Jesus likewise says in Matthew 5: 48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Grace is the presence of God’s power. It is His power to change imperfect beings into something greater.

[Ether 12: 27]