Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween-
We had another good week here of growth and progression in the language. We will get our reassignments this week, on Thursday from what usually happens. There are only a few missions in America that use Portugues so if I don't go to one of those, I think I will have a little time every day to review the language, but more than likely, I will have to work a little harder when I do get my visa to get it all back. It is hard to believe that we only have one more week here as a district and then we are off. We get so busy throughout the week that it feels like I just emailed home two days ago. I continue to develop more and more relationships with Elders whose testimonies and faith are so strong, especially for being teenagers!
Elder Werner and I continue to get along great. We have definitely benefited from the combination of our two personalities. Also, as we practice teaching, we have begun to flow very smoothly through the lessons, which is a great feeling. Hopefully this can happen quickly with my next companion since we will be leaving next week. He has got a very humble and strong testimony and I enjoy hearing him bear it. We were told that we might have the opportunity to teach this week in front a bigger crowd of incoming missionaries, so pray for us that we can have the Spirit if they end up wanting us to do it.
I enjoyed a quote I heard from Pres Utchdorf this week. He said "The more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more we extend ourselves to others". I am learning just how powerful, selfless, and Christ-like it is when we choose to give our service to others. I hope to be able to develop this trait not only over the next couple years, but over my life.
Apparently some of the Sister missionaries in my zone caught wind of me playing the piano in priesthood last week and asked me to play a song for them in sacrament. So I practiced everyday during meal time and prayed hard. Yesterday it all came together and they sang Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing to me thumping on the piano. No one said they heard any messups which was pretty nice of them. Evidently my stubborness paid off and I was able to remember how to play it with people singing behind me.
That is awesome that Campo football is doing so well - 8-0 last I heard. Vince- CONGRATS on the big touchdown against Miramonte and getting play of the week.
I got a letter from Buck with contained pictures of Adam Johnson's baby boy. That was way awesome. Congratulations Adam and Molly. Also, I got a letter from MaryJo. It is always a treat to hear from the Graziano's in Oregon. Especially Grandma Bunny. Her letters are so simple and sweet. And I love feeling the passion that she writes with.
I love the work, and love being able to learn so constantly. I am pleased with the relationship I am developing with the scriptures. I hope this will continue to grow, however, and my study habits will continue with me forever. Sorry if this email wasn't quite as long or detail as others, there were some distractions and it really does feel like I just emailed two days ago. Love you all!
With love and charity-
Elder Graziano

October 24, 2011

Hello family-
My companion and I have had another good week here. We continue to progress in the language as well as our teaching ability. It is such a blessing being able to feel the Spirit so often. We heard from Elder Richard G. Scott last Tuesday. One of the main points that I took with me was to pray as if time did not matter. At times I have felt tired and was worried about having to get up early again the next morning, but after he spoke about this subject. I have recomitted myself to making sure God knows how grateful I am every day for all of my blessings.
It is hard to imagine that it has already been one week since my last email. It feels as though it was just a few hours ago I pressed "send" last week. It is also interesting to think that in two weeks my time here in Utah will be up. 3 more Elders in our district received Visa's last week. They leave tomorrow. There will only be 5 of us left after they leave. We started with 12. It feels a lot different in class and doing things together with Elders continually getting "picked off" to go down to Brasil. I still haven't done my electronic visa, so I am sure I will have the opportunity to visit another part of the US before I end up making it to South America. This makes me even more excited to develop more relationships and learn from different Elders and mission president. I may find out this week what my reassignment will be, or next week, not sure yet. One of the Sisters I met that was supposed to go to Brasil just got reassigned to Billings, MT... I was jealous. Also, a counselor in our Branch Presidency served in the same mission as Uncle Steve - the Navajo Reservation - although about ten years prior. His last name is Gale. I asked him to pull some strings for me too. However, whatever happens, the work of the Lord is GREAT.
Neat to hear that Campo and Miramonte would be playing each other as undefeated teams. Hopefully that turned out great for the Cougars. I played bocce ball the other day with an Elder Black from Palo Alto. He is going to Porto Alegre North as well. He hopes to play football when he returns at either BYU or Stanford. He has a good frame for a tight end and if he puts on 20 lbs he would be great. Too bad here at the MTC they won't let us get any football games started, even flag, because there are some very athletic Elders. I feel so privileged to know so many young 19 and 20 year olds whose faith is so fortified already. This gives me more fire and motivation to dedicate myself deeper to my service.
I also enjoyed reading Elder Harries email home. It is so awesome thinking how happy Grandpa Barnes is. Sister Harries and I comment often on how we can feel his love and support around all the time.
Here is something that you may or may not believe. I played the piano in our priesthood meeting. Before I left I practiced a few songs on Jennifer's keyboard in Reno and memorized two of them. All of the Elders that could play left, so I was the last resort. They somehow played themselves without a hitch - prayer works... Anyway, if I have to play again, we are going to get real good at singing We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet and Let The Holy Spirit Guide.
Grandma - Thank you so much for the caramel popcorn. It is so good. As much as I've tried to share with others, I still have more to get through. Thanks so much for thinking of me.
Mom - That was a neat story about the snake at the tennis courts. Thanks for thinking of me through your letters this past week. I am doing great and really don't need anything more. I feel spoiled enough as it is from your prayers and love and letters from not only you, but everyone else too.
Dad - Thanks for Dan's address. If I could ask another favor: to call him back and get the address of his parents. His # again is 918-899-4084.
Aunt Diane - Thank you for telling Sister Harries to lend me a few Halloween cookies. They were nice and crumbled by the time I got them so I didn't have to waste any of the Lord's time chewing! They were very tasty though. It has been an enormous blessing in my life and a boost to my faith to get to know her better while she has been here at the MTC. I am excited for her to get to experience the Peru MTC as well.
Aunt Kathy - Thank you for thinking of me and filling me in a bit Brett. That is a big bummer. Having seen so many talented athletes, I also saw many of them never truly get to show their full potential due to injuries. You know this too I am sure due to your extended activity in and around sports. I will make sure to remember him in my prayers. How is Kyle doing in San Diego? I am sure his legs are stronger than mine now if he is working the pedals hard everyday up and down those hills.
I love all and am ever mindful of the immense love and support and prayers that are offered on my behalf. Until next week,
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 17, 2011

Good Monday-
First off, Mom, I know I have forgotten to respond to your questions about the food and beds and such and I just remembered - finally. The cafeteria food is fine, nothing like home cooked meals, but I have never been picky and am grateful for the options there are. On Wednesdays and Sundays they bring in BYU Creamery ice cream, but I usually only eat it once a week if you can believe it. Last night at our MTC Fireside, Sister Harries and I sat next to eachother and the first speaker was the wife of one of the District Presidents here. She began giving a course on table etiquette... The whole time Sister Harries and I kept looking at each other and noting how we would probably be invited to leave the table at their house. Not really, but it was certainly different than the family dinners we have when all the food is gone so quickly. My companion and the Elders in my district also said that this was personal revelation as a result of me always being the first one done and waiting on others to finish. Gives me something new to think about. The beds are fine, I have gotten used to skipping around from one place to the next over the past six years, and I sleep hard every night. If I don't, I tell myself I didn't work hard enough the day before and make sure the next night is better. We did get two new Elders in our dorm room because they are remodeling a lot of the MTC. So now there are six in one room with the same amount of closet space and desk space. Things are cramped, but working well since we are rarely in our rooms anyway.
I heard there was an article in the Deseret News about me. That is interesting, and hopefully it can have a similar effect as did the one in the Moraga paper - be used for missionary work somewhere along the line. I told my district about the call I got from the 49ers and having an agent and other things, yet I had received answers to prayers that this was the decision to make. I received some nice compliments about how that was going to change their missions with respect to how they view putting their nametag on every morning and the dedication they would put into the work. I didn't know that would result, but it was humbling to acknowledge that God has given me all these experiences to not only bless me, but all His other children I am privileged to come in contact with. Apparenly I didn't say to keep it quiet, because shortly there after, many Elders around the MTC starting asking me about that. I just love talking about myself...
We had another fine week here at the MTC. The language continues to come, but we have been getting more and more into "subjunctive" verb forms which are a little tougher. The proper conjugation is coming, but will certainly need practice. The weather has continued to be very nice here, except they shut off all the AC to the buildings I think and it is certainly not cold enough for that. We are getting prepped for the hot days of Brasil I tell myself. Two more Elders in my district got their Visas last week, but no more on mine. I still haven't filled out my electronic portion of it, so nothing will happend too quickly. I will be excited to serve no matter where though.
Last Tuesday we heard from Sister Julie Beck. She gave a wonderful talk mainly focused on love. One thought I remember right now was in reference to those people we come in contact with that are a bit harder to love than others. An idea to develop love is to pray to Heavenly Father and find out how He and Jesus Christ love that person, and the Holy Ghost will then be able to work with us on how we too can develop charity towards him/her.
I got some neat notes from a group of young women in the Moraga Ward. What a smile those sort of notes bring to me. It is wonderful to think back on the teachers I had that influenced my life for the good. I especially remember the great influence Bob Garff, Bishop Sorenson, Wes Hilton, Jeff Logan, Carter Hemming, Jim Pierce, Dave Pahnke and others had. I am privileged to have grown up in an area with such incredible Priesthood holders.
I am sad to read that Grandma's thumb is still giving her problems. I am also excited for Shanel as she gets to leave next week and have the experience of the Peru MTC. The story about Uncle Michael running into one of the Elders I knew was wonderful. His name was Elder Empey and he was a very knowledgeable and spiritual Elder. As we read scriptures together with the whole group, he was always one to point out hidden treasures that only a certain type of intelligence was able to remember.
I have to ask again as I did not receive anything this last week, but I still don't have Dan Martin's address or his parents. His phone number is 918-899-4084. So if Dad or Mom or Jennifer Whitaker could call him that would be great. I have some letters written for them, but nowhere to send to. That is awesome to know that Vince's football team keeps winning.
One little thought that I came across while I was studying this week. The Law Tithing and the Word of Wisdom - two "physical" laws - have two of the strongest spiritual blessings attached. In Malachi we read the the devourer will by rebuked on our behalf as we pay our tithing and through obedience to the Word of Wisdom, the destroying angel will pass us by (Doctrine and Covenants 89). It was reconfirmed to me that these commandments are all about faith, especially tithing.
You all are cherished,
Elder Graziano

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 10, 2011

Hello everyone-
Another fast week. I still feel so blessed to be able to be here and learn in the presence of such a great spirit of learning and teaching. Grant Barnes sent an email reflecting on how awesome it is to wear the nametag. I agree 100%. That is one thing that I put on as soon as I'm out of the shower and it doesn't come off until after my prayer at night. I love being able to rub my fingers over the indentation of the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I heard the saying this week that we should be the type of messengers that match the glorious message. Elder Ballard said that to Br Marion, a member of our Branch Presidency. What a statement to remember now of course, but also throughout life.
I need to be sure and say thank you to all who continue to consistently support me through letters and packages. It is such a wonderful blessing to hear from loved ones and there was not a day this week that I didn't get something. I don't expect that kind of thing every week, but I do want to say thank you for these physical reminders of how much I am thought of. The other thing that is helpful beyond words is all the prayers for not only me, but all the missionaries who are serving. Please keep them coming, as they are working! Last wednesday marked our fourth week here and our teacher said we should not speak english anymore in class. It is amazing to realize how much the Lord has blessed us with being able to learn this language. Even after that, all the Elders in our district try to speak portuguese as much as possible throughout the days. I even had the experience of having to think a little harder to speak english one night when I had to talk to some other missionaries in our zone in english.
That was a neat article that Alex Espinoza wrote in the Sun. The Jex's also sent me a copy of it, which was awfully thoughtful of them. Thanks mom also for the copy of it and also the nice thoughts about how many people it had touched. I know I never did appreciate the reporters as much as I could have (maybe at all in some cases) but this article was definitely unique and the work I am doing now made it all the more meaningful. It is neat meeting other Elders with athletic skill here. They shut the soccer field down during the poor weather, so I played a lot of basketball this week. There are a couple of Elders that played there first year of college and can dunk and all. But since I like a challenge, I always take them on and end up frustrating them pretty good. That's about all I'm good for though is hustle on defense. When I shoot how my natural strength tells me too, I also push it far, so my shooting % is not great. But I still like hustling for rebounds and throwing good passes.
Another Elder in our district got his visa this week, he leaves tomorrow morning. All of us that are going to Porto Alegre in my district have not even done our electronic visas which is the first step in moving closer to getting the visa. I have learned there are a handful of portuguese missions in the US, including Florida, Alabama, Massachusetts, Alberqurque and Portland from what I here. There are way too many Elders waiting on visas than those missions need, so many Elders get reassigned to english missions while waiting.
We received a little cold weather this last week which was nice. No snow stuck on the ground at the MTC, but the mountains around us were shining brilliantly with the pure white powder on them. Certainly reminded me of Reno and the wonderful mountains to the west, although here, they are just to the east of us.
Sorry that I don't get to write more handwritten letters to more people, but Pdays go fast here and I will continue to try to make the most of my time. We got to take a picture of the three of us here in the MTC from Reno. Elder Calinog, Sister Viland, and myself. Too bad Sister Forman aleady left. It has been wonderful to continually see familiar faces. The opportunities to continue serving other missionaries come frequently and I can feel the Lord's hand guiding me in what to say and do.
A neat thought I had this week was that Christ's kind of love is charity towards us. He not only loves us, He cherishes us.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nick recognized in the Deseret News

Mormons in Sports: Former college QB suits up for mission field

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Typically, Mormon football players serve their two-year LDS missions before starting their college careers, or they go after one year.

Nick Graziano of Moraga, Calif., played his entire college career first and is now learning Portuguese at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. The former college quarterback is going to preach the gospel in the Brazil Porto Alegre mission.

An article in the San Jose Mercury News and Oakland Tribune, by Alex Espinoza, chronicles Graziano’s roller-coaster football career that led to his decision to serve the Lord.

As a sophomore at Campolindo High School, Graziano, started out playing running back and linebacker, but moved to quarterback when the junior varsity QB was promoted to the varsity squad. Graziano was so good that coaches kept him in the pocket. Graziano threw for 5,991 yards and 71 touchdowns in two seasons and was an all-state selection as a senior. He was showered with all kinds of recognition, honors and accolades.

Each summer during high school, according to the Mercury News, Graziano and his teammates attended football camps at the University of Nevada-Reno and coach Chris Ault eventually offered Granziano a scholarship.

Things went well at first. Graziano, 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, made his debut in the fall of 2006 and played in eight games. He became the starter for Wolfpack in 2007, but only played in five games before suffering a season-ending foot injury against Fresno State. He was replaced by talented freshman Colin Kaepernick, which marked the end of his career at Nevada. (Kaepernick became a 4-year starter and is now in his rookie season as the backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers.)

Following the 2008 season, Graziano was ready to transfer. He and some roommates began looking for potential schools on the Internet. “One of them looked at me and said, ‘Hey Graz, why don’t you go be a Wonder Boy?’ ” he told Espinoza. Less than a week later, “Graz” was bound for Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark.

Within days, the California kid had fallen in love with the southern lifestyle and drawl. Graziano went on to lead the Wonder Boys to their first playoff victory in years and was named a Division II all-American. He threw for more than 4,300 yards and 38 touchdowns in 12 games and was named a top-three finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman. He finished third.

“I guess it was where I was meant to go,” said Graziano, an Eagle Scout. “I can see how it was meant to be, just from the experiences I had.”

His days in the Ozarks over, Graziano returned to Nevada to earn his degree in civil engineering and worked out for NFL teams. Despite interest from San Francisco and Dallas, Graziano decided it was time to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Before he left, Espinoza compared Graziano’s situation to Kaepernick’s. Graziano said he has no regrets.

“I guess he’s serving football and I’m serving God,” Graziano told the Mercury News. “He’s doing what he wants to do and I’m doing what I want to do.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3, 2011

Hello all-

This week was rewarding with General Conference creating a great atmosphere around here. Then on Sunday night, we were able to hear from Chad Lewis, who served his mission in Taiwan, played for BYU and then went on to play with the Philadelphia Eagles and helped them reach the Super Bowl a few years back. The weekend was full of good messages. Br. Lewis spoke about how important it is to let our light shine to the world, and how the light of Christ can affect the lives of others. One of the conference talks that I liked the best was by Tad R. Callister on the Book of Mormon. The way he composed his talk and delivered it reminded me of how strongly I liked his book The Infinite Atonement - thanks dad for referring that one to me.

Last Monday, after prepartion day was over, my companion and I had to teach a lesson which we hadn't prepared for. Even though we are more or less practicing our teaching abilities here at the MTC, it still is a great opportunity to learn and to feel the Spirit if you prepare correctly. Last week, we didn't prepare and I felt just terrible as we walked into the lesson with a minimal amount of time having been dedicated to reviewing our notes and thinking about the words we were going to say in Portuguese. I was upset at myself for letting that happen, but was glad it happened here at the MTC rather than out in the field. It certainly made me commit to never doing that again - in reference to not preparing for something in which I know I will need the help of the Lord in.

As part of my responsibilities here, I get to welcome new districts into our zone when we get one. This week I was looking over the list and noticed that Leslie Viland heading to New York City North is coming into our zone. For those that don't know, she was a member of the singles ward in Reno. It is always a treat seeing familiar faces here and this will be no different. Speaking of familiar faces, it has been so awesome seeing Sister Harries. I have felt so blessed to have been able to sit next to her during firesides and parts of conference. She impresses me so much with her Spirit and attitude. We shared similar thoughts about not having gotten to know one another very well growing up, but have shared some of our experiences over the last couple years and it has been a blessing to me to see her here.

I scored another goal during the last week. This time I actually had to swing my leg forward and not stand idle where the ball basically bounced off my foot. Still, I like playing defense more. Most of the missionaries don't think I am going to stop when I am running at them trying to get the ball so it usually works out in my favor. That is awesome that the Campo Cougars are 4-0, hopefully 5-0 by now. Mom, thanks for letting me know that Alex Espinoza wrote that article. It sounds like he did a great job with it. That is neat that he was able to make me sound like an alright person.

Last week a bunch of Elders from the East Coast received their visas and took off for Brasil, but no one else from our district. I am really not worried about that, and I don't think there is much worry from the Elders in our district either. I am excited to begin service anywhere because it is all for the same God, whether in Brasil or in America.

I found out one of the members of our branch presidency here, Br. Marion, owns a factory where they produce Stetson and Resistol cowboy hats near Dallas, TX. I saw him wearing his boots and wranglers one day and it made me think of how much I don't like my sneakers and jeans that I wear for service. I told him when I get off my mission I would be looking him up for a deal. Apparently he used to train horses and sell them to Hollywood for movies.

Jennifer Whitaker said she started up a blog of some sort tracking all the letters and some of the pictures. I think the website is That was awful nice, and I'm sure will be an effective way to get more communication out. How is Elder Higbee and Elder Harries doing? I think of them often.

Time is running out quickly,

Much love and thanks for all your love, support, and prayers.

Elder Graziano