Hola familia, amigos, etc…
It’s quite good to be writing to you all again. Once again, this email comes from the exotic locale of Provo, Utah. 🙂 I’ll start with Visa Watch (I haven’t been using that name very consistently, have I?) again…so, every time we go to the Travel Office, I always feel like we get lots of new info, but then afterwards I go, “Wait…this is what we knew already.” So…it’s kind of that situation now, but I do have a few little updates for you all. First off, I may be leaving next week…yesterday was our 8-week mark in the MTC, which means we’ll be at 9 weeks (our full time) next Tuesday/Wednesday. Neither us nor the Travel Office are sure when our visas will come in, as has been the case our whole time here, so thus our situation (as always :)) still is uncertain, but they did tell us last week, when we went in and checked after we went to the temple last P-day, that they would be putting our names in for temporary reassignment. This means that next week, I may be leaving, but to another mission until my visa comes in. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to call you (meaning family) again, much like a few weeks ago, so it’s not like you’ll be getting the next email and going, “He’s in Boise, Idaho?!?!?!?” or something. 🙂 But yeah…as always, I’ll keep you all posted. To sum it all up, we’re either leaving next week to Peru should our visas come in, leaving next week to a temporary reassignment, or staying here for longer until our visas come in. I was telling my companion this morning that we have kind of an interesting situation. If we stay here longer, we’ll be happy, because we get to learn more, and our zone is absolutely terrific…full of great elders (sadly, no sisters since last week) that we’ve really come to love and be close to. If we get reassigned, that will be a really cool experience…I mean, you get 2 missions for the price of one, basically. And then if we go to Peru…well, that’s kind of what we’ve been looking forward to for about 5 weeks or so now, so that would quite obviously be wonderful. 🙂 Any way you slice it, we’re going to have a lot of hard goodbyes and big changes…that’s for sure, but I’m very grateful that the Lord has made each potential next stage of my mission just as inviting as the other ones. It makes things that much more exciting.
So…I actually don’t have my tweets with me right now (they’re back in my room), so I may just put those in my next email (I kind of fell off doing them the past few days, anyhow, so there’s not too much from the latter half of the week), but I’ll put a few bits, pieces, stories, etc. here in bullet form. Let’s hope I don’t get too wordy. 🙂
- Reason #576 for why our branch presidency is awesome: During our Sunday morning meeting with them as zone leaders, President Cameron’s phone rang (he forgot to put it on vibrate/silent), and he rushed out of the room really quick to take the call. He apologized as he came back in, sat down, and then about 15 seconds after he did, his phone rang again. He started to rush out of the room again, but then Brother Priest (our 1st counselor) held up his phone, grinning…he was the one who had called President Cameron the second time. 🙂
- Our Sunday fireside was by President and Sister Brady of one of the MTC district presidencies…it was a bit of an interesting situation, as we’d heard President Brady speak earlier in the day. (Because of the New Mission Presidents’ Seminar, which started on Saturday and ended yesterday, we had a combined MTC Priesthood meeting that morning, and 4 combined sacrament meetings, each with about 15 branches, both in the gym. Pres. Brady spoke at our sacrament meeting.) Even more interesting was the fact that President and Sister Brady had made the decision to speak jointly…they were both at the podium (each with mics) for the entire fireside. It was a nice change of pace from the usual speaker, and they gave a nice message about learning how to recognize the Spirit.
- So…since the past few days, the MTC played host to 110 new mission presidents and their wives, at a few points there were quite a few Apostles (and even the First Presidency in at least one instance) all here. We didn’t get to see them very much. An elder in our zone, Elder Kjar, was in the special choir that sang for all the big events for the seminar, so on Sunday he got to sing for the First Presidency & 10 of the Twelve for their sacrament meeting with the mission presidents and their wives, and got to shake Elder Holland’s hand, as well as be about 5 or 6 feet from President Monson. None of us cared very much about this…and by “none of us cared very much about this” I mean we all thought he was incredibly lucky. (I would say we got jealous, but really, we were mostly just happy he got that experience. OK, and a bit jealous. Especially:))
- On Tuesday, we got our own little Apostle-viewing experience. Our Tuesday devotional was a special one, and all the Twelve were present except for Elder Hales and Elder Packer, along with the Presidency of the Seventy seated on the first row of the audience, and quite a few Seventies and other General Authorities spread out behind them. (Quite a surreal, incredible experience, seeing all those wonderful Apostles on the stand.) Elder Perry spoke (we’d actually heard him speak in our second devotional here, a month or two ago), and it was a very unique talk, quite different from the usual. A majority of it consisted of a multimedia presentation put together by the Church Public Affairs Department, called “The Mormons Next Door.” Elder Perry went through it and it contained many very interesting statistics about how the Church has been found to prolong one’s life, be more healthy, how we have more emphasis on education, social interaction, volunteering, charity work, etc. In our discussion with the branch president and his wife about the devotional later that night, a lot of us were saying that we were expecting a very different devotional…something to pump us all up, quite a few elders said. But everyone said afterwards that even though it wasn’t that kind of talk…it still really brought the Spirit, and it was still a very enriching hour. Looking at all those different statistics, it was amazing to see how well our Church functions, how many lives it touches, how great this work actually is. We’re growing, we’re thriving, and we’re spreading across the world. Seeing tangible evidence (in numbers and studies and statistics) of that growth was a very cool experience, and in a way, it did “pump me up” about that work that I’m doing. I’m incredibly grateful to be a missionary at this time, in this place, and in this Church. There’s no place I’d rather be. 🙂 (And in case any of you have been missing my movie quotes: “Pump, pump, pump it up! Pump it, pump it, pump it…” :D)
- I just remembered a story. So on Friday, we were early for our morning class right after breakfast, and we usually get there a few minutes late because, well, it’s right after breakfast, so we were excited. When we got to class, the light was off and no one was there…we had gotten there before our teacher, Hermano Williams (he was the one who was gone most of last week…that was supposed to be his first day back from his trip), and we decided to hide and surprise him when he came. So we hid in the dark for about 20 minutes (I was crouched under a desk, and Elder Armijo was standing next to the door at the other end of the classroom)…and he hadn’t arrived yet. Elder Armijo needed to go to the bathroom, so we rushed down the hall so he could go, making sure Hermano Williams didn’t come down the hall and see us. We came back from the bathroom and hid for another 10 or 15 minutes, then decided to go and study in the hall…then we realized we should probably go find out where the heck our teacher was. We ended up going to the front desk, then to the training reception desk (they take care of all the teachers/instructors), and they couldn’t get a hold of Hermano Williams, so we just went back to our classroom, and had a random teacher from another zone be our substitute for the last hour or so of class. Hermano Williams was there later that day to teach for the district next door (one of their teachers, Hermano Davis, was off for a few days on a trip…he also got engaged to his girlfriend, which all of us were very excited about…we had to wait a few days to find out if she said yes, as he wasn’t back at work until yesterday), and he explained why he wasn’t there that morning. His father-in-law needed him to help with something that morning, so he called another teacher to come and cover his shift…that teacher got sick or something, so that teacher called someone else to cover for him…and that person forgot. Hermano Williams sheepishly apologized for us not having a teacher that morning, and we laughed at the fact that we were hiding in our classroom, in the dark, for about half an hour, for nothing. 🙂 (By the way, just to reiterate, we have two of the best teachers in the MTC, period. That is all.)
- Update from a bit later: I have my tweets now, but I’m just going to kind of put them here, so never mind about sending them next week. On Saturday night, all the missionaries whose mission presidents were here this week got to meet with them…and the rest of us went to the gym to watch “The Other Side of Heaven.” It was a bit of a treat from the MTC presidency, and it was SO different watching it, now that I’m actually a missionary. I’m called to do the same thing Elder Groberg was doing in Tonga. Stuff like that will probably actually happen to me. Very cool. Mom, I thought of you when Elder Groberg’s mom at the beginning said, “Don’t come home, son…don’t come home early.” 😀 Also, two fun things: First, after the very final scene where John & Jean Groberg (well, the actors that play them, but you know) are in Tonga together, this was my comment: “I want to run on the beaches of Tonga with Anne Hathaway…” (Hey, I’m only human. :D) Second (of all? :)), President Brown (our MTC president) explained the different Sunday schedule to us after the movie, and then released us back to our residence halls early: “Now, don’t go tearing the place up. Go enjoy yourselves.” Basically, our MTC presidency is absolutely terrific. 🙂
- You won’t be able to watch it, since it was at an MTC devotional and I’m pretty sure only our teachers can access it on their little media search thing, but Elder Holland’s “The Miracle of a Mission” talk (from about 15 years ago)? Santa vaca. (English translation: Holy cow. :)) Absolutely incredible, inspiring, amazing…it really touched me in a lot of ways. You can really see Elder Holland’s incredible affection for his mission and for what it did for him…and it inspired me to make the most of the time I have in the field. (A powerful quote from the talk (one of many): “Salvation is not a cheap experience.”) I wish you all could see it…everyone should, at least once in their lives.
- To end on a really random note, I went back to the residence hall a few minutes ago with someone in our district to get something he needed in his room, and of all things, one of the toilets was apparently stuck on flush…so we could hear it flushing over and over and over again. (This is a pretty accurate representation of how wonderful our bathrooms are here. :D)
- No, wait, I have a few more things. After the Tuesday devotional, the Apostles all walked out, and you could really feel the Spirit in the room as they did. Elder Scott gave us a cheerful thumbs up, which was fun, and right afterwards, Elder Holland gave what I thought at the time was a fancy hand gesture, but what apparently was blowing us a kiss. 🙂 All the mission presidents also waved to us as they walked out…every time I saw them, in fact, I just felt like smiling. They’re such great people, and they’ll do great in their callings. I’m really excited to meet my mission president when I get to Peru. The fact that they all go off for 3 years, to places they don’t choose, and probably wouldn’t have chosen, and really kind of pause their lives (move their families, get their affairs in order, etc.) to guide the Lord’s work, and help us missionaries…it takes a special kind of couple to be able to do that. I have so much respect and love for anyone who serves, or who has served, as a mission president, and it was great to have them on the MTC campus for a few days.
There’s probably some cool thing about this week that I’m forgetting, but hopefully I got most of it. Ariel, I got your letter, and it made me INCREDIBLY happy. You are awesome, and it’s wonderful to see how much you’re growing. I’ll write back to you soon. Mom, I’ll get a letter off to you pretty soon too. Have you gotten your birthday card yet? If not, the post office is a failure. Not really, but I seriously sent that early last week, so it better be in Mesa by now. 🙂 Granny, I have your letter all written, I’m just waiting on your address. Linton-Milano crew…thanks so much for your awesome card and notes. It really brightened my day. 🙂 Dad and Tania and everyone over on Downing Street (if anyone British was reading this, they’d probably go, “They live next to the Prime Minister?!?!?” :)), I love you all, and gracias, Dad, for passing the address thing on to Granny. Mom and Ariel, you’ll be happy to know I’ve seen Hermana Ellingson (and said hi to her) quite a few more times this week. I’ve also seen a sister from my old BYU ward (besides the one I told you about, Ariel), and then another that works here in the cafeteria, plus another last week that was the roommate (at BYU) of a girl I knew pretty well in high school, plus, funnily enough, a sister last night going to Italy that totally knew Ariel Spencer. (Well, now she’s Ariel…Frederickson, if I remember that last name right. She got married last week…I forgot exactly when her wedding was, but the sister we talked to mentioned it was then. I’m going to be sending a letter off to her family pretty soon, and I’ll have to tell them I saw her. :)) Anyways, it’s been great to see a lot of familiar faces (or people that know familiar faces) around the MTC. (My companion also saw a good friend from his home ward yesterday that just got into the MTC, so I’m not the only one. :))
I’ve had lots of wonderful experiences (both big and small) this week, as with any week, really. During one of our lessons with our practice investigators (Hermano Williams, whose investigator name is Luis), he asked us about a friend whose father had just died…and was wondering why exactly there was suffering and pain in the world, and why bad things happen to good people. This was actually a topic I was studying the day before in class (I have a feeling Hermano Williams might have brought it up for that very reason, but who knows…), so I flipped frantically to find the story in Alma about Alma and Amulek and hwo they had to watch all the believers be burned in the fire…but then I thought of another scripture I had studied, in Doctrine & Covenants 122, where Joseph Smith was lingering in Liberty Jail, and the Lord gave him a revelation of comfort. The Lord talks about all the things that could happen to him (and had happened to him), how all the armies could combine against him, all the winds could blow, everything…yet our Lord has risen above it all, and all these things would be for his experience. (Hopefully I’m getting that reference right.) I bore testimony of that in my lesson…and in the process, I realized something…I’m here today because of all the trials I’ve had in my life. I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, I wouldn’t know the things I know…without all the challenges I’ve had to go through. They’ve all led me right to this point, right where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing. The Lord is watching out for me, and every trial that I go through, every low that he brings me up from…it’s for my experience, it’s for my good, it’s for me to be better, to be guided and strengthened. That never, ever ceases to amaze and comfort me. 🙂
During Elder Perry’s devotional on Tuesday, he mentioned the Perpetual Education Fund, which provides funding for returned missionaries & other students, in other countries, so they can go to school, get jobs, etc., as far as I understand. When it was introduced 10 years ago in Conference, I remember thinking, “Hey, that sounds great!” They gave instructions either in our ward meeting or in Conference (I can’t remember which) that if we wanted to donate to it, just write in “Perpetual Education Fund” in the “Other” section of our tithing slips (it now has its own section), so many weeks growing up, I would do just that on my slips. I didn’t make much money (10 years ago, I was in 4th or 5th grade :)), so it was only a few cents most times, but I always made a point to set at least a little aside for it if I could. On Tuesday, Elder Perry told us that more than 50,000 students had benefited from the Fund, and that students who received that benefit made up to 2 or 3 times as much in their subsequent careers than they would have if they hadn’t gotten the opportunity to get a proper education. That really touched me…and during our little discussion with the branch president and his wife, something kind of hit me about it as I was talking…we often don’t know how many lives our actions will touch, or how many people we’ll affect, especially as missionaries. It may be years, or even may be after this life, that I find all that out. But everything we do…in the Church or just as we go about life…makes a difference. That’s a thing they say often when talking about giving service, but it really applies to any good thing you do. Seeing just one aspect of that principle in action, through the information about the Perpetual Education Fund in Elder Perry’s talk, was yet another testament to how wonderful the Gospel is. 🙂
I’m grateful to be here…yes, here in Provo, 8 weeks into my mission. I’m grateful to be a part of this Church. I’m incredibly grateful for my family, for all of you and your love and support, both seen and unseen, and for all you’ve done for me so I can be here, serving the Lord. I know with all my heart that this Church is true, and I still can’t believe I get to spend 2 years sharing it with the people of Peru. The Lord is with me to help me with my faults, my highs, my lows, everything that I do, and I know that if I live and strive to stay worthy of His help, I’ll be on the way to being the best missionary I can be.
This email was kind of all over the place (even more so than most), so I apologize for that, but do know that I love you all so much. Remember that I’d love to hear from you, whether by DearElder or otherwise, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the whole travel situation, along with addresses and other related items. 🙂
Con mucho amor y querido,