First of all, I have to say that I am extremely excited about [my brother] Truman's mission call [which arrived yesterday]. When I recieved his email, I called all the office elders to read it with me. I am sure that the Chile Viña del Mar mission will be blessed by Truman, just as he will be blessed greatly by his service there. And I am so excited that he is going to speak Spanish!
Tuesday was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. My time is short, and words can only say so much, but I'll tell you as much about it as I can.
Monday was a somewhat stressful day. President Mendoza was in Mexico City in a meeting with Elder Bednar and all the mission presidents from Mexico, which meant that his cell phone was turned off. So we were here alone getting everything ready for Tuesday.
For the most part everything went well. There was a moment when they threatened to deport one of our American missionaries who was traveling without his visa, but the Lord softened their hearts and let him go.
But much greater than the stress was the great excitement that could be felt throughout the mission. Everyone was eager to see and be taught live by an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday morning was a rainy day. So President Mendoza asked my companion and I to stand in front of the chapel with umbrellas to recieve Elder Bednar. The meeting was to begin at 9:00 AM, but he arrived at 8:35. It was no longer raining, but President told us to stay there anyway.
When Elder Bednar got out of the car, he looked at us and smiled. Then he and those who were with him greeted us with a hand shake. (He was accompanied by his wife, Elder Daniel Johnson of the Seventy and Area Presidency, his wife, and Alan Walker, who translated. Alan Walker, although nobody introduced him as such, will be the new mission president here when President Mendoza leaves.)
When Sister Bednar greated me, she aske me where I was from. "California," I answered.
"Redlands! I was there not too long ago."
"I know, my Mom told me."
"Well, tell your Mom 'hi,' for me."
So Mom, Sister Bednar sends her greetings.
It was an incredible experience. I learned so much and felt the Spirit so strongly. I didn't take very many notes, for two reasons. First, he asked us not to, and second, I was moving the microphone to all the missionaries who asked or answered questions. Nevertheless, I remember perfectly the many lessons I learned.
Here are some of the things I learned that I think will best be of use to you.
Elder Bednar mentioned a few "silly, foolish" traditions of the church that he said we should get rid of.
One of the first he mentioned was that we always talk and joke about how we are going to meetings, in meetings, or coming from meetings. He said that many church leaders make themselves feel busy and important by having many meetings, but don't get anything done. He said that instead of having so many meetings, we should do things. Instead of talking about those who aren't coming to church, we should go get them. He said that he never wanted any of us to ever think of a church gathering as a meeting or a conference again. Rather, he said, we should think of it as a "revelatory experience."
And what we had the day before yesterday was truely a revelatory experience. The first two hours he asked what we had learned from his two talks that he had asked us to study ("Ask in Faith," from general conference, and "Seek Knowledge by Faith," which he gave to CES educators.) He put a lot of emphasis on the importance of us as learners to exercise our agency and learn for ourselves, and it was incredible how he created an enviornement of learning and revelation. The next two hours he answered questions from the missionaires.
I love that idea. If we stop thinking about meetings and start thinking about revelatory experiences, our manner of preparing for and participating in church gatherings will change.
Another silly, foolish tradition he mentioned was that of taking copious, detailed notes only to forget about what was said and lose the notes later. He said that often we are so busy writing what the speaker said that we miss what the Spirit is telling us. He told us not to write down anything that he said, only what the Spirit told us. He promised us that we would never forget those things, nor lose those notes.
He also said that too often in Church meetings and classes the teacher wants to play the "guess-what's-in-my-head-game," where he choses a student (with out their volunteering) and asks them a specific question such as, "What are the three elements of the baptismal covenant." Rather, he said, we should treat students as agents, and not objects to be acted upon, not forcing them to answer, and asking questions that don't make them guess what we are thinking, but rather think and act for themselves. A good question, he said, is "What did you learn from that?"
When he opened up for questions, the first one to raise his hand was Elder Dudley. And he asked the question that I had been planning to ask, a question I got from Dad: "What do you know now as an Apostle, that you didn't know before, about revelation?" His answer was incredible, and about 30 minutes long. The most important part of what he said was about preisthood keys. There are 15 men on the earth who hold all the keys. (That is why we sustain the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators, because they have all the keys.) Even though there is only one who is authorized to use them all.
He talked a lot about revelation. He read with us D&C 8:1-4. It is a scripture that I thought I knew well, as it is a scripture mastery, but he explained it like I had never understood before, showing us how the Spirit of Revelation includes asking with faith and an honest heart beforehand, and working for it afterwards. He put a lot of emphasis on verse 3, that revelation comes as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart. He said that we shouldn't worry about trying to differentiate between our own thoughts and feelings and those that are inspired. He said that he has oftened recieved revelation without realizing it.
At the end of the revelatory experience, he asked us to write down questions: "Based on what I have observed and learned today, what will I do?" and "Based on what we have observed and learned today, what will we do?" Yesterday in my personal study, I answered the first question. And in our companionship study, we answered the second question. I think that those are questions that should be asked after any revelatory experience.
I learned and felt so many things, and wish that I could tell you more about it, but my time is running short.