About Me

The adventures of Christian Toronto, a full-time missionary serving in the Rome Italy Mission (Dec 2016-Dec 2018). Christian grew up in Minnesota, then moved to Colorado right before his senior year in high school. He is the third of seven children. He was attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah prior to his missionary call. Christian's older brother Simeon completed his mission in Rome, Italy a day before Christian left for his so they literally swapped places. We call them our Roman soldiers for Christ. In his free time, Christian loves basketball, tennis, american history and politics, and music.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trasloco (Move)


First things first, as expected, I wasn't transferred! I get the opportunity to stay in Catania for at least another transfer, which I couldn't be more pumped about! Anziano Rodriguez and I will work together for these next 5 weeks, and then likely one of us will split, but until then, Catania, watch out! The dream team is about to hit the streets harder than ever!

A few highlights from the week:

1. Anziano Albright, a new missionary just 1 transfer ahead of me, joined Anziano Rodriguez and I this week in a tri-companionship! His trainer, Anziano Cox, is headed home Monday morning, having completed his two years, so Anziano Albright was without a companion until transfers on Friday. Anziano Albright brought a powerful spirit, testimony, and blessedly, a car! We were able to do so much thanks to this last point in just a few days, which really came in handy as Friday and Saturday were dedicated entirely to "The Move"...

2. Thursday night we received a call from Anziano Simoncini, (missionary housing supervisor), letting us know the church was no longer paying for the house we were living in, and that we had less than a week to get out. He then proceeded to ask that we drop everything, pack up, clean up, and be moved into our new apartment before Sunday. This request was magnified in difficulty because Friday was transfers! We were basically chauffeurs for all missionaries coming through Catania on their way to other destinations, and this left us with less than a day and a half to do it all. Trusting in Nephi's promise, that "The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, (through Anziano Simoncini), save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them," the Catania trio, (without Anziano Chilvers, who was sent to train in Cagliari), spent Friday making preparations, and then on Saturday, the Catania Quartet, (completed by Anziano Bertoldo late Friday night), moved an apartment. Crucial to the process was Fratello Roy Di Mauro's van, and the supervision of our Ward Mission Leader, Angelo Longo... By Saturday night, everyone was exhausted, but no rest was given to the weary, as alarms blared, not at 6:30, but 5:30 Sunday Morning, thanks to the blessing that is daylight savings time. 

3. One investigator named Angelo, we had wanted to visit, but couldn't, because he lives just about a lifetime away, in Bronte, on the other side of Etna. Because of Anziano Albright we had a car, and the opportunity to voyage out to Bronte. We met him, discussed the restoration, and talked about how far he is in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 15!) He is a rockstar, and as we left he said, "aspetta un attimo". He comes back with 3 little backs filled with pistachios. Apparently he is a pistachio farmer, and boy let me tell you, those pistachios were the best I ever had! Etnas soil gives them incredible flavor, to the point where a kilo of Bronte pistachios can go for 40-50 Euro! He gave us each almost half a kilo for free! He is he coolest ever...

Impressed upon my mind this week were the words of the song, I'll go where you want me to go. I believe this has as much to do with following the spirit as anything. Will we go, where he wants us to go, and say what he wants us to say, do what he wants us to do, and be what he wants us to be? I pray the answer to that question is a resounding YES! 

Con un abbraccio e un bacio!

Anziano Toronto

Monday, March 20, 2017

Citazioni (Quotes)

As I ponder the most significant lessons I learned this week, most of them can be summed up by quotation, with a little explanation and context on the side...

1) "Every time we close our eyes we are in his presence, remember that..."
—Anziano Rodriguez

As we knelt in prayer following companionship study on Friday night, Anziano Rodriguez looked over at me and uttered this incredibly insightful statement. On the surface, it seems no more than a declaration of our Father's attentive nature when we pray, but as I continued to ponder the statement, the veracity therein was too powerful to ignore. When we pray to the Father, in the name of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, we invoke his very presence. If we truly believe he listens when we pray, does that not mean he is right there hearing the words as they leave our mouths? Let us not take this precious truth for granted. It is far too easy to give prayer a spot on our morning and evening to-do list, and treat it as little more than that, but I encourage each within the sound of my voice, (or weekly letter in this case), to offer a prayer this week. Not just any prayer, but a prayer like that of Enos, (if you don't know who Enos is, ask any one of your Mormon friends for a copy of the Book of Mormon, and find out for yourself... It will change your life, that I promise you!). Pour out the desires and gratitude of your hearts, and he will be there listening. He eagerly awaits the opportunity to bless us, but will do so, only if we ask!

2) "Just, please Anziani, don't disappear..."

—Franco Resina

Franco is just about the most awesome Italian ever. Having studied at a University in Australia for a few years, he is fluent in English, but has this Australian/Italian hybrid accent! We teach him at his coffee shop every Wednesday, and absolutely love doing so. He is extremely spiritual, having been a preacher for a number of years in Australia, but because of his work schedule, can't find time to come to church on Sunday. Things are moving in the right direction in that regard, and we know the second he manages to free us just an hour or so for sacrament meeting Sunday morning, his life will never be the same... This week we taught him about Christ's true church, and about his plan for us, known as the Plan of Salvation, or Plan of Happiness. He listened to every word, and declared it the truth. As we walked out of his shop, smiles on our faces, we turned around and saw his countenance had somewhat dimmed.  Looking up, he spoke the words above, pleading that we won't leave him. Truly he recognizes the need for the Spirit in his life. When he chooses to make time for church, the Lord will make him a powerful weapon in the fight against the Adversary, but until then, we will continue to help him recognize the truth of the restored gospel, and feel the difference it brings!

3) "@#%€, non prestavo attenzione, stavo usando il telefono!"

—Alfio Visalli

Scacchi is the Italian word for Chess, and this week I played the beautiful game for the first time in many months. Alfio, our closest investigator to conversion, challenged me as we discussed the gospel in Piazza Abramo Lincoln, (my favorite). It took a little while to shake off the rust, but it wasn't too long before I was back in Grandmaster form. The game took a rough turn for Alfio when he picked up a phone call from a recent convert named Giovanni. I asked if he would prefer that I wait till he was done, but he shook me off and made his move. I shrugged and proceeded to make the move I had been setting up in the 3 or 4 previous moves, the capture of his queen with one of my rooks, who had just been biding his time, waiting for the chance to turn the tide in my favor. When he realized the mistake, he used the only Italian swear word I know, as depicted above. We laughed, and I proceeded to finish him off. There is much to learn from the game of chess, and there are many gospel applications to make, but I'll let you go play a game and figure them out for yourself. After all, you can beat your siblings in chess once, and be satisfied with that, or you can teach them to play chess, and beat them over and over.

4) "There is no hopefully about it, you brought us the truth!"


With transfer calls looming, we delivered our, "If this is our last time together, what is our King Benjamin sermon for you?" to Sri, Linga, and Rajish. As we taught, Anziano Rodriguez bore testimony of that which he knows to be true. I seconded that testimony, and offered my own, bearing witness of the divinity and power of the Book of Mormon. I told them that I hoped that we had left them with something that would change them, and Sri interrupted me, uttering the quotation above. I was truly moved by his faith in what we had taught him. He knows the truth, and I believe they will be baptized, and become foundational rocks for the church in India. I trust in the Lord's timing, and hope they will too!

5) "Eduardo/Fabio, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen."

—Anziani Chilvers and Berger

Two more souls joined the Catania Centocinquanta on Friday, as Eduardo and Fabio were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Anziani Chilvers and Berger worked with these two for quite some time before they became ready, but truly they were worth the wait! The words above were pronounced just before they were immersed, just as our Savior was. Just a few short days later, the Gift of the Holy Ghost was given to them, and they were confirmed members of the Church! A beautiful ceremony, and even more beautiful was the powerful spirit that accompanied it.

6) "When opportunity knocks you don't send anyone to get it, YOU open the door, YOU let it in, welcome it, or regret it..."

—Anziano Toronto feat Hamilton Mixtape feat. BUSTA RHYMES

During an individual lesson Saturday night with Linga, I dropped some lyrical fire, hotter than the lava that was spitting out of Etna this morning at 4:30 when we dropped Anziano Cox off at the Airport, having faithfully served for 2 years. The sage wisdom of Busta Rhymes never fails to disapoint, and this only seemed appropriate as we discussed Linga's progression towards baptism. I can't say enough about this disciple of Jesus Christ. Despite his doubts or concerns, or even arranged marriage, he has declared he will be baptized the second he receives an answer to his prayers! What faith!

Whew! What a week! I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have every single day to serve my Savior, and to labor with him in his vineyard. Jacob 5:62, declares, "Pertanto andiamo, e lavoriamo con forza per quest’ultima volta, poiché, ecco, la fine si avvicina, e questa è l’ultima volta ch’io poterò la mia vigna." Notice the use of andiamo, (Let US go), and lavoriamo, (Let US labor)... We are called to the work, every one of us, but we have his promise that we do not do so alone. Of this I testify, in his sacred name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Vi voglio benissimo, con tutto il mio cuore!

Anziano Toronto

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Zone Conference, Calcio, and Cannoli

Anziano Toronto in front of the Old Vatican


This week was a week of learning, as is every week in the mission. We continue to teach lessons and meet people at a feverish rate, but with this comes a recognition of the Lord's hand in all things. My favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon right now is without a doubt Alma 26. I know I am nothing. My strength, as one called by the Lord to serve the Italian people, is not my own, and neither do I boast in my strength, but rather I boast in the Lord. For who can glory too much in the Lord, asks Ammon, and I echo the same question!

You are probably all cursing my name, since no one received mail yesterday, but that isn't because I don't love you.  Rather, it is because we had Zone Conference! Missionaries from all across the eastern half of Sicily gathered here in Catania yesterday to learn from President and Sorella Pickerd.

Sicily Zone Conference

Throughout the day, we watched trainings, learned doctrine, and ate lots of panini and cannoli! My favorite analogy, by far, was related by Anziano Chilvers and Anziano Berger, our two Zone Leaders. During a training discussing the importance of teaching to the invite, or in other words centering our lessons on the actions that would bring our investigators closer to Christ, Anziano Berger began to relate this kind of lesson to EDM music. This type of music, for those as unfamiliar as I was, begins subtly. The music grows, swells, and eventually reaches a high, undulating peak.  Then comes "the Drop"... this drop is what the song builds up to, and without it, the song leaves the listener feeling unsatisfied! This drop is crucial, but is also rendered meaningless without the build. If there is no build, and the song remains constant for a minute and a half, then out of nowhere drops, the listener again, is confused! We must find that middle zone, that song that blows you away, and leaves you wanting more! These songs that we teach every day don't have common EDM titles, but I'm sure "the Restoration," or "the Gospel of Jesus Christ," could catch on real quick if the people of Italy got a hold of it. We teach them the doctrine, bearing testimony as we go, and promising blessings on condition of obedience, but these things are rendered meaningless without inviting our investigators to act, and thereby gaining their own testimony. The drop, or the invite, is absolutely critical.

Sicily Zone Conference

Anziano Toronto and his companion Anziano Rodriguez

While many BYU fans this week enjoyed watching the cougars topple #1 Gonzaga in basketball, the only slightly less significant Catania Zone Calcio February 2017 Championship was underway. Pitted against each other were the districts of Catania and Messina/Reggio Calabria, while Siracusa was split in half to maintain even teams. Despite falling behind 1-5, much like our Cougars, the Catania district marched back into contention, tying the game at 6-6. Again, their defense faltered, and they fell back in a deep hole, down 6-9. With the game on the line, the defense held fast, and the offense began to click. 9-9, and the classic and fateful words, "next goal wins" were uttered. Like a lightning strike in a Summer storm, as Elder Holland would say, Catania snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Yours truly did much more damage on the defensive end, but he finished the day with a hat trick, thanks in a large part to unselfish play by his teammates. If only ESPN had been there to televise this historical comeback...

Tune in next week to follow up on our friends Alfio, Sri, Linga, and Rajish, and many More!

Love all of you,

Anziano Toronto II

Pictures from last week:

Anziano Christensen, Osmond, and I at the Colosseum