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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Never Shift Your Eyes from the Peak

Anziano Toronto wrote this impromptu poem for this week's letter after hearing his family hiked 2 "14ers" this week (Colorado mountains that are more than 14,000 feet high).  

I used up all of my creativity and writing prowess last week, so this is just gonna have to do!

Outta precious 0-2
My face starts turnin blue,
Legs are cryin out,
Gotta pebble in my shoe...

Fino alla fine,
Can I really make it THAT far?
Summit seems so outta reach
What if I just lower the bar!

Wait, nah
I know i can't slow down,
My fam, my friends, my squad,
Counting on me to take my struggle without a sound...

Your mountain,
Call it Torrey, Democrat or Grey,
Pales in comparison to His,
And yet He seems to say,

Let me take your pack, your cares,
All your trouble too,
I'll lift your burdens up,
and do all you'll let me do...

When climbing to that mountain top,
Don't carry unnecessary weight,
Leave that pack behind, with Him,
Step up. Take your place!

So what your serve can't find the box (@Zito)!
So what you made mistakes!
There's only one Roger Federer in this world,
And none can take His place.

Trust in his redeeming grace,
And lift another soul,
I've learned that only in service can we,
Truly be fulfilled.

Sometimes you'll need to take a breath,
And even sometimes two,
But never shift your eyes from the peak,
He wouldn't want you to.

We are doing a great work,
We surely can't come down.
I'm sorry, I've run out of time,
I'll end this, proselyting bound!

Vi Voglio Bene
In fatti un Mondo di ciò,
E vi lascio con queste parole,
Vive il Redentore, Io So!

Alla prossima!

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dear Elder Toronto...

Colosseum squad feat. Anziani Ridd, Waddell, and McConkie

We've done it again! We've reached the weekly email that discusses Zone Conference, and this time around was full of takeaways. So buckle up, enjoy the pictures, and the stories that go along with them!  (I figure months of photographic neglect can be solved by one email full of photos... that's how it works right?)

Well we'll begin with the theme for this conference, which was a focus on finding, and the power and authority contained in our missionary calls.

Finding has been one of my own personal journeys here in Italy, as I have chosen to optimistically view the hours of finding we do on a daily basis. By teaching as we find, Anziano Waddell and I enjoy ourselves when we are asked by the Lord to search for his prepared sons and daughters. Anziano Waddell is an incredible example for me in terms of desire, and willingness to do all things required of him! I simply love this stud of a missionary!

As we were invited to reflect on our missionary calls, I thought back to the weekend where mine sat on my desk in Heritage Halls 3202, unopened. That weekend possibly required the most patience I have ever had to have. The wait, however, was well worth it, as I read the words contained in the subject line, followed by, "You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Italy Rome Mission." I remembered and felt again many of those same feelings I experienced as I read those words for the first time. I can't put into words the joy and excitement that coursed through me as I ate Graham Canyon ice cream from the BYU Creamery, and pondered the two exciting years that laid before me, while Nana and Anne Katherine peppered me with a million questions. That call came with a purpose, "Invitare le persone a venire a Cristo aiutandole ad accettare il vangelo restaurato mediante la fede in Gesù Cristo e la Sua espiazione, il pentimento, il battesimo, il conferimento del dono dello Spirito Santo e perseverando sino alla fine." Every day of these two years has been dedicated to this pursuit, and every day until I take the tag off will be the same.

Besides this, Zone Conference was fantastic!
Rome East Zone Pics

Other highlights include...

▪Sunday night, the Pescara sQUADron got to do some finding in Rome centro, and where more awesome to go than the Colosseum?!

▪Anziano McConkie and I got to sing "Homeward Bound," as a duet, while Anziano Silver accompanied us on the piano.

Anziano McConkie and I during our musical number

▪I met up again with Anziani Osmond, Dickey, and Maytham, all core members of the original MTC Squad, which was a dream come true!

MTC Squad feat. Anziano Osmond, Maytham, and Dickey

▪Post ZC fashion photo shoot also produced some absolute gems, to be saved, and shared with posterity!

"Trying to get 19 and 20 year old boys to take serious pictures..."

▪4 Man Sacrament Meeting Sunday night, after missing it that morning due to bus scheduling.

▪A fun bus ride home, in which cinnamon sugar pecans were shared, along with pre-mission stories, and a whole lot of laughs!

Knowing that you'll hear from me shortly, I'll leave off there, just know that I'm grateful for your support and love from a distance!

We pray for you every night!

Vi Voglio un Mondo di Bene,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Cinnamon roll progression and chaos…

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fun of a Different Sort


When I read this week of each of your adventures in the Great Maine Walker Family Reunion, I almost felt a tinge of jealousy, but then I remembered I'm in Italy, and that the fun we're having out here is just one of a different, but nonetheless real, sort! Our joy comes from seeing others accept the message of the restored gospel and make commitments that will set their eternal course in the right direction. 

While many of you were paddleboarding, swimming, kayaking, and participating in other fun water sports, I got to admire the Adriatic from a distance! Che Bellissima! One day I will swim in her waters, just not for the next 16 months!

As Camille met boa constrictors in NYC, Anziano Waddell and I found Biscotto, (as he has now come to be called). Biscotto is my childhood dream of having a dog come true in the form of 30 second, slobbery hellos exchanged as we go to and from our house each day. I recognize the reason why we can't have pets as missionaries, because if he wasn't kept from us by a gate, we'd never get anything done, we'd be playing with him all day!


As you ate ice cream, pizza, lobster, clam, crab, and countless other meals, my culinary abilities were flourishing on the other side of the globe. New, hungry missionaries, heretofore reliant on college meal plans need food to eat, but don't know quite how to prepare it themselves. That's where two "veterans" of the Italy Rome Mission step in. This week was filled with classic Toronto household dishes such as fajitas, German pancakes, and cereal, along with newly acquired plates like gnocchi, chicken fried rice, and 4 cheese pesto. If I have learned anything besides how to effectively preach the gospel in the months I have lived here, it is how to cook, and cook well... a skill no doubt my family and friends will thank me for in the future, not to mention my wife. ;)


As you roamed the streets of "Little Italy," I roamed those of "Slightly Bigger Italy," searching for those with a thirst like that of the woman at the well. The living spring that is Jesus Christ is the quenching draught they seek, and only when his servants walk by, smiling and friendly, do they recognize how tantalizing the water is!

As you discussed Safe Harbors, and rescuing the one, we were trying our best to put the concept into practice. Anziano Waddell and I have dedicated this week to searching out those who need to be brought safely home, and ensuring them passage on the Great Ship Zion. Not all want to come aboard, in fact many prefer to swim around the boat, and hop on that ship "Vice and Temptation," so expertly guided by the Enemy of our Souls. Our work is to provide them a ticket, and allow them to choose whether to come aboard, or seek refuge elsewhere. I testify the only true refuge is found in the safety provided by the commandments.

I echo the invitation from Nana this week, to firmly plant yourself on the Rock of our Redeemer. As you do so, the insignificant shafts in the whirlwind will have no power over you. In reunions to come, we will see others missing, serving the Lord selflessly in other lands and bringing the gospel to those who have need of it! I truly can't wait for that day! 

All of my love, and a warm Italian abbraccio, 

Vi Voglio Bene,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Q and A

Sunday Night Gesso with the Pescara Squad

Q) What is your favorite food in Pescara?

A) Without a doubt, Arrosticini... these succulent lamb skewers can be eaten by the tens, and the Law of Diminishing Returns, or marginal benefit doesn't seem to apply! I haven't had the opportunity yet to eat any fish from Pescara, but everyone I talk with tells me I can't go wrong with Arrosticini!

Q) What is one important thing that you have learned from your current companion, and one thing that you believe you have taught your current companion?

A) I don't quite know how to limit the things I have learned from Anziano Waddell to just one, but perhaps the greatest takeaway of the last two weeks has been the unquenchable thirst for knowledge that he carries with him everywhere he goes. His energy, happiness, and desire are all contagious! I hope I have taught him to some degree the diligence and consecration a mission requires.

Q) How are you doing at modeling the standard of obedience to your district?

A) While it seems to be a point I seem to never be able to perfect, it is always one I'm searching to improve upon. President Nelson, if I remember right, gave a talk entitled, "Perfection Pending," and that's just about exactly how I feel about it! I'll continue to work my tail off to get there!

Q) How are you doing in the absence of the Pickards and how is the mission doing?

A) Absence no more! President Pickard should be returning tomorrow, and Sorella Pickard should be joining us in early September! In their absence, things went smoothly, helped a lot by a pair of veteran missionaries currently serving as APs... They took care of small scale, logistical issues, while decisions were made by President Euvrard. Here is an excerpt from my weekly letter to the mission president, "I'm not quite sure which President I'm reaching with this letter, but given the opportunity, I wanted to thank President Euvrard for his example of selfless service. In the MTC we were taught that we were sent to our specific mission to learn from the mission President we would have there. I have no doubt this included both President Pickard and President Euvrard! I will strive to always keep in mind the concept of finding, focusing on, and saving "the one," and seeing others with the eyes of God. I will also strive to be ready to be called upon when there may be a need!"

Q) How are you feeling about your Italian language skills having now been in the country for about six months?

A) Fortunately, that hasn't been a worry of mine in quite some time. I am more than capable in communicating with just about anyone, a gift I never can thank my Heavenly Father enough for. I have room to improve, as with all other areas of the work, but my language study seems to be improving my ability to comprehend and teach every day!

Q) What have become two or three of your favorite scripture verses? Why? How has your gospel study changed since becoming a full time missionary?

A) Certainly among my favorites, would be the entire Chapter of Alma 26, with its different applications to the praise of God, and the success we receive as missionaries. See verses 10-12, 16, 22, 27 for a few of my personal favorites! I would be remiss to leave unmentioned Alma Ch. 5, with its self-evaluation based on desire, worthiness, and asking myself if I have received the image of God in my countenance, and if I have, can I feel so now? Mosiah 28:1-4 should have a special place in any missionaries' heart, emphasis on verse 3, "Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble." As unreachable as that desire may seem, it's a goal, and seeking to obtain it certainly can't hurt!

Q) What are one or two things that you plan to do differently in your life, than before, based on having served a mission? How do you plan to make sure that those are lasting changes?

A) I would say the two biggest changes will be an increased gospel study, with daily scripture study and prayer, and more effective time usage. When you spend hours and hours every day striving to bring salvation to the people of Italy, all other endeavors can seem insignificant, but with that comes an appreciation of what things are most important! School and personal progression will no longer take a back seat in any sense to social media, entertainment, or similar pursuits!

Q) What are two or three of your favorite things about Italy? When you think about the day down the road when you will have to return to the United States, what will you miss most about the country?

A) I love the food, and fortunately that is something I'm able to bring back with me, in the form of knowledge learned. I feel like my cooking skills have been consecrated out here, and I can't wait to show all of you the product of 2 years of perfecting my ragù! One other favorite has to be the people I've met, and continue to meet every day. Members, investigators, friends, even crazy people, I will miss their Italian pride and crazy side!

Q) What was one of your funniest conversations this week or this month?

A) Explaining to an Italian ragazzo, the cardinal sin he was committing as he wore a LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, with Golden State Warriors shorts and socks... I likened it to wearing a Francesco Totti Roma jersey on top, with a pair of Juventus shorts, or even worse, clashing Real Madrid, and FC Barcelona... He laughed, and told me he would continue to wear the two together regardless... I shrugged my shoulders, continued the conversation, and left him with an English Course bigliettino, laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Q) How do you feel you are doing with getting along with your companion? What are you learning thus far in your mission about this great skill?

A) Can't say enough good about Anziano Waddell! We get along great, largely as a result of his desire to work, and work we do! The amount of sweating we did this week pales in comparison to that which I did a few weeks ago. I just don't think I'll ever adjust, but my body seems to be doing fine nonetheless.  As far as developing this skill for work, with each of my last 3 companions, I have gotten progressively better, and look forward to continuing the pattern.

Q) How are you doing in staying morally clean, placing appropriate barriers between you and the adversary (see Alma 53:3-4)?

A) The church does real well, protecting us there, as we apply with exact obedience the guidelines found in Safeguards for Using Technology, but there's a secondary factor, my mind. Striving to constantly "let virtue garnish [my] thoughts unceasingly," has been a significant blessing in my ability to, as Anziano Callister suggests, serve without a foot in the door.

Q) If I asked two or three missionaries in the Italy Rome mission to tell me about Anziano Christian Toronto, what would they say? What would President Pickard say about you? What would your local bishop say about you?

A) In true reflection, I would hope each would give similar answers, specifically my leaders, but my peers and fellow missionaries the same. I would love that it would be said of me, if the Lord, President Pickerd, my Bishop, my companions, and other mission leaders need an errand run, a service performed, a person taught, or a message shared, Anziano Christian Toronto is the one to do it.

Q) If we had just one hour to talk to each other, what would you talk to me about? What things do you wish we had more time to discuss each week?

A) Honestly, an hour could cover so many different topics, but among the most pressing, or even entertaining, would be first, advice for the future. I came out on the mission, knowing at some point I would need to decide on a major, or career path, before I would return, and in the past 7 months I haven't really had the opportunity to give it any thought. Now, knowing that some fairly critical decisions need to be made in the next year, and even in some cases less than that, I could certainly use the guidance of one far more experienced than I. It in no way has become a distraction, but President Pickard likes to remind us there is life after the mission, and that we are preparing for a lifetime of service after this two years of service here. There is a small corner in my mind reserved for post mission consideration, and in the next six months I will need to begin to address a few of those things contained within. An hour could pass by in a wink talking of that... Also, just a man talk about sports, or politics, or Team of Rivals, or Star Wars, and what will happen in movie 8, or just about anything normal. Sometimes I just need to unwind, and that is one way. Knowing that football is starting up again is hurting me just a little bit, but I think I'll make it through all right... I'm prepared for reports of heart wrenching losses, caused by the only consistent in Cougar sports: inconsistency.😉

Another fantastic week out here in Pescara, with some great progress seen in our investigators' journeys! Can't wait for the success the Lord is waiting to give to us!

Vi Voglio Bene,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Pescara City Streets

Sunset View from Pescara's most famous bridge.

Anziano Waddell on his first day in Pescara,
struggling to keep those eyes open. 😉

Just about all week was this or higher.