Just returning from holidays, I'm running a little behind on posting. So here is last week's letter!
Dear family and friends,
Things are going great here at the MTC! Every day is full and exhausting, but somehow, at the end of each day I am just so happy to be here. I´m going to try to not do the ´typical´ missionary email but include more anecdotes and fun things I´ve learned, so it might be a bit choppy, but here is some of what has been going on.
I have two companions, Hermana Nesbit and Hermana Hernandez. Hermana Nesbit is from New Jersey and just graduated with a degree in geology from Princeton. Whenever a missionary tells us that he or she is from or going to anywhere on the East Coast, Hermana Nesbit gets way excited. Hermana Hernandez is from Ohio but has lived for a couple of years in Idaho. She graduated from cosmetology school and hopes to go to school to do stage makeup when she gets back from her mission. She does a really nice ´ghetto´ voice that always has us cracking up.
We live in a room with Hermana Martinez, who is a solo sister and thus has to always tag along with another companionship or solo sister, because both of her companions moved to a different class. She is super sweet, and she has gotten about three boxes full of sugary goodies for Christmas.
In my district we have four elders. Elder Dore is an eighteen-year-old from England, and has some very funny opinions. He likes to pretend to dislike everything. Last week for some reason we got to talking about the Revolutionary War, and I wrote down what he said: "The French got involved in the war, and so we decided to fight them instead, because the French are so much more fun to fight."
Elder Dore: "Because of the accents, of course!"
Elder Bardalez is of Peruvian descent, born in Florida, and has grown up in Utah. He's a 'smart' kid, and I think that he and Luke would get along very well. Elder Johnson is our district leader. He's from Georgia, and is very focused and on track with learning. He's also a thoughtful leader and gets along really well with everyone, even though he's pretty quiet. Elder Hart is a recent convert (13 months), and 21. He's always talking about how he's strange because he's a black Mormon in Utah. During that same conversation I quoted earlier we touched on slavery, and Elder Hart surprised everyone by bursting out that "Slavery is a good thing!" He explained, of course, that this was because of how it helped in economics and travel, but he got some pretty funny looks from the rest of us for saying that!
The longer I'm at the MTC the more I'm seeing how much help I'm getting in learning and staying focused. I think a large part of it is because of the setting apart, but I think it also has to do with the subjects that we're learning and the amount of prayer I put into learning. It's really amazing. I'm remembering and seeing things that I wouldn't have been able to before.
So now, some of the things I've been learning. Greg Olson (the painter) came on Christmas afternoon to talk to all of us, and it was fantastic. He talked about how pictures of Christ are really only symbols, and we can't let them or our own imaginations create unnecessary distance between ourselves and the Savior. He talked about how Christ knows what it's like to live an ordinary life - after all, wasn't he chased out of Nazareth because he declared himself the son of God, and nobody believed him, having known him all his life? Brother Olson told about some advice that Boyd K. Packer gave him about painting Christ - that he saw him as a 'man of men' or a manly man, and that he looked normal. Remember how Judas had to identify Jesus with a kiss? There wasn't any extraordinary physical feature that really made him stand out. And finally, he talked about how Christ loved us enough to suffer and understand our sorrows and our pain. He could have had the Holy Ghost reveal how it felt to be in those situations, but he chose to suffer it himself. Wow. That was an amazing talk for me, and I think for everyone there.
During our Christmas Day Festivities we also got to hear from Elder and Sister Nelson. Sister Nelson talked about spiritual gifts, which was amazing but I'd have to include everything to explain more than that. Elder Nelson talked about things we need to do and not do as missionaries, like spread and listen to rumors and work, work, work. One thing that I really liked was that he said that we go into countries through the front doors. This also applied to a lesson I learned later in the week when we talked about how we invite people to be baptized during the first lesson, asking them to be baptized if they receive confirmation that they should. We aren't hiding our purpose. We are going out to bring people unto Christ.
The Christmas Devotional also featured an awesome talent show that was great fun.
On Sunday, we had Stephen Allen, managing director of the missionary department, come and talk to us. He talked about how repentance isn't just change. Repentance involves the Atonement of Christ, and has specific steps that we need to use to apply the Atonement to our change.
I also learned this week that in 1 Nephi 1:12 there is a promise we can make to anybody. The Book of Mormon has the power to change not just minds, but hearts.
I've been learning and memorizing so much. I will hopefully be moving to Advanced today, and I'll let you know asap.
I love you all!