Hi, this is Brad's mom. The pictures he talks about in this blog are on http://matsonamission.blogspot.com/
This is Elder Matt Squires' blog, who is the Assistant to the President who helped pick Brad up at the airport. The pictures (scroll down the blog a bit) show transfer day (which is the picture Brad is in), a picture of President and Sister Dance and some other AAM pictures! Here is Brad's e-mail ...
That is definitely me in the picture, and that is Elder Wallace's head covering my face. I have been taking pictures, and you will get some. Here's the problem, though. The computers here are very, very slow. And the pixels on my camera are many, making for a large file. The process of converting them to a smaller file takes about 10 minutes per picture. So, in effort to be highly efficient, I have purchased a jump drive; I have been downloading pictures onto the drive, and I will send you the jump drive in the mail with like 100 pictures for you to move to your computer and then send me the jump drive back. This is a risk-free way of doing things: if the drive gets stolen, I still have all the pictures saved on my camera. You will get a jump drive sent to you in a few weeks. I'm going sledding today at Hatcher Pass, so I'll be sure to take more.
I'm not sad that Elder Luke is leaving. I'm very happy for him. He's served an honorable mission. He's got so many new family members to meet (Both his parents remarried). He deserves to go home and meet them all. I will miss him, though. He's been a tremendous companion. I am looking forward to see who my next companion will be. I do know Elder Squires and Elder Gledhill, and I know it won't be either of them. But they're great missionaries, and I wouldn't mind serving with them.
I have not been to the Anchorage Temple and don't anticipate going for a while. Only Anchorage missionaries are allowed to go, and only once every quarter. We're here for missionary work, not Temple work--Temple work is reserved for you, so get going more often! And get Dad out there, too. I know it's been closed, though--heard that somewhere but forgot.
For your Restoration question: I would like you to read pages 31 through 45 in Preach My Gospel. Will you do that for me? By next week, okay? But to answer your question, which was a similar question I had the other day. Why did there have to be the Great Apostasy? Answer: There didn't. There shouldn't have been. But there was. Why? Because we all have our free agency on earth. That was the design before we ever got here--we were to choose our way.
Throughout time, God has called prophets in each dispensation. And throughout time, as recorded in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price and D&C, we read of people rejecting prophets, sometimes on a large scale, which times we call apostasies. The Great Apostasy occurred because people rejected the Apostles. Read D&C 136:36-38; Amos 8:11-12; 2 Thes. 2:1-3.
But we know that God loves all His children. And when the time was right, he called another prophet on the earth-- Joseph Smith, the Prophet to restore the Kingdom of God on earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Savior.
As for Joseph Smith: Read 3 Nephi 14:15-18. The Book of Mormon is literally a fruit of Joseph Smith. Now, you tell me--it's for you to decide--is the Book of Mormon good fruit or bad fruit? If it's good fruit, if you decide from the witness you receive through prayer from the power of the Holy Ghost that it's good fruit, then you've received your answer about Joseph Smith. That's what we teach people. Any problems or issues they have about Joseph Smith, the early Church, the Pre-existence, the Godhead, the Atonement--any of the doctrine that we preach--any problem they have comes down to their testimony and faith on the Book of Mormon. That's why it is the keystone of our religion. It's either true, or it's not.
Thank you so much for sending me the package. I haven't received it yet, but I'm sure I'll get it shortly.
I love you. Thank you for everything you do.