Saturday, June 14, 2008

June 10, 2008 -- First Week

I love it here at the MTC! It is challenging, but it is wonderful. I have never been better in my life, not only spiritually but also physically. I get 8 hours of sleep every night, no matter what. I get to go to the gym 4 times a week, and I am being fed well. Some of the missionaries disagree with me, but I think the food here is great. Some also say that it causes digestion problems, but I have been fine. (Probably because I have been sticking to my diet of no desserts or red meat and drinking only water.) The only problem I ever have with the food is when I eat too much.

Like I said, I love it here. I saw Elder [Isaac] Arnott the other day and he said it was like “EFY[*] on steroids.” I guess that is kind of true. The MTC is similar to EFY, but it is also different. Here we are constantly busy, 16 hours a day, and I love every minute of it. I am learning and growing constantly. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of obedience. It is heavily stressed here, and I see why. As Elder [Jeffrey R.] Holland [of the Quorum of the Twelve] said, the rules are not the result of “a bunch of old men on pickle juice,” but “170 years of missionary work.” Having the constant companionship of the Spirit is extremely important to what I do, and obedience is necessary for having the Spirit.

Because of all the advice I’ve been given and my own experience this far, I have developed a motto for my mission—“100%—Every day.” 100% obedience and 100% effort means 100% of the promised blessings.

The hardest thing for me, by far, is the language. I’m glad I’m in the advanced class—the challenge of it is helping me learn more than I would otherwise, but it is still hard. I am talking in Spanish as much as I can, and I am already much better. I can understand almost perfectly, but I have trouble talking. That’s why I’m studying both the language and the gospel as much as possible—because I have a tied tongue that I need to be loosed (D&C 11:21).

I am part of what is probably the most unique companionship in the MTC. At night there are 3 of us, and during the day there are 4. The fourth is a “solo sister,” something unique to the MTC. Her name is Hermana Burr, and she is the only sister in Advanced Spanish who came in the same day as us, so she is a solo sister, and has 3 elders for companions. She is a great missionary and adds a lot to my district.

One of my companions is Elder Puente. He is from LA and joined the church a few years ago. He has a great attitude and a strong testimony. I love him. I also love my other companion, Elder Strobel. He is from Connecticut, and his grandfather is a famous biologist, Gary Strobel. Elder Strobel and I have different perspectives on some things, but we get along great and he is a great missionary and district leader.

My teachers here are incredible. In fact, at the fireside last Sunday I realized that I have one of the best teachers in history, in fact He has taught all the great men and women in history, including the prophets, and He works closely with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I am being taught by the Holy Ghost! The teachers whom the Spirit works through are also wonderful. Their names are Brother Johnston and Brother Espinoza.

I’ve heard that because of visa problems, I’ll probably be here 5 weeks or more. But I look at that as more of a blessing than anything else. The MTC really is a great opportunity.

The last week of June is when they train mission presidents, and they have 4 or 5 Apostles come every day. I heard that they often eat in the cafeteria with the missionaries, which would be incredible. President Boone, the MTC president, told us that this would be a great season for speakers, so I am excited. We have a devotional tonight and there has been some speculation that it will be an Apostle. My companions and I are in the choir, so I might be singing for an Apostle tonight!

Yesterday I had my first experience with real missionary work as a full time missionary. My district went to the R.C. (referral center) where we take calls from pass along cards and church commercials, as well as make follow up calls. I decided to do I in English my first time, but I was still very nervous. After my first call, I lost all nervousness. It was amazing, calling people to offer them a Book of Mormon or a Lamb of God video or something like that, and sharing my testimony with them. Two of the people I called said they wanted to talk to the missionaries! It was wonderful.

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