Things are going well for me. I’ve been getting a lot of prayers answered lately, and Spanish is coming much quicker. Learning how to pray in Spanish has probably been the reason. Also, the whole Spirit helping out the Lord’s servants + diligence + lots of study time + teachers. That might have had something to do with it, but I still have 6 weeks to go, so I should be learning even more soon.
And, it seems like this place is becoming less and less oppressive as the time goes on. Don’t get me wrong, when I arrived, I was psyched to be on a mission, but I at least felt a little confined. Now that I’m getting used to it, it’s much better.
Hmm. . . I seem to be running out of writing material. . .
This last night I was able to go to a devotional with Per G. Malm, of the 20. He’s from Sweden, and had a super thick accent. I would go into detail about what he said, but I’m running out of time of what to say tonight. . .
Happy late Thanksgiving, seeing as how you all will be getting this letter in a few days, instead of the day of.
Elder Dilello and Stanfill (my workout and running buddies) left for the Peru MTC a couple days ago. It was kind of sad, since district “comrades” get close to one another pretty quickly here, abut I don’t feel incredibly bad. You don’t really think about saying goodbye forever when you’re learning and teaching about how no one has to say farewell permanently when parting ways, whether in this life or the next. But they’ll still be missed. They’ll do great in Peru.
Oh, and for Per G. Malm’s devotional, it was great. His accent was funky, especially when he talked about Swedish food in the beginning. (Ve love ze raw herring.), but he had a few great stories. The best part was when he invited the missionary that converted his father up to the stand to tell the story of their family’s conversion. The former missionary is an old man now, and talked about how he started his mission immediately after serving 4 years in the Second World War. He also mentioned how his wife was unhappy about waiting 6 ½ years to marry him. But he went on, and told of how in his day, missionaries were essentially given a plan ticket and told where to go, or at least, the general area they were supposed to be. This man had 4 days of training, and none in Swedish. He got dropped off and knew nothing besides his companion’s name and the mission’s home address. And yet, 10 days after his arrival, Per G. Malm’s father walked up to them and told them about his search for truth. 60 days later, he was baptized. He was an exception to the norm of teaching after looking for people, as opposed to having them come to you, but it’s still great to think about how there are people out there who earnestly and honestly want to believe. Of course, there are still hard areas to find people to teach, and no missionary should expect people to flock to them, like ducks at a park, but it’s still cool to think about.
And, currently, I’m standing in line for another devotional, the morning one for Thanksgiving. I have no idea who is speaking and everyone is crammed into the main building to wait in line, since it’s around 10 degrees outside, but it should be worth it. Every week we have a chance to hear an Apostle, like a couple weeks ago, so standing around with hundreds of other Elders in suits should be worth it. In fact, before Elder Bednar came, Elders Robert D. Hales, Russel M. Nelson, and M. Russel Ballard came for Tuesday devotionals, one after another. Unfortunately, I only got to see Elder Bedarn, but you know, I don’t mind. I’ll be here for another 6 weeks – and guess what? I just found out that we’re about to hear from Jeffrey R. Holland! HAAAAAAA YEESSSSS
He just walked in. We all stood up, and the spirit in the room is incredible. This is the man whose words are some of the most powerful ever given in General Conference! YES
I’m pretty sure I just experienced one of the best talks/devotional I ever have and ever will be able to be a part of. At fist, the procedure was a little unorthodox, but it was amazing. I’ll honestly say I had tears come to my eyes multiple times.
He began by talking about how this was all about families on Thanksgiving Day. His entire family was there, with his sons, daughters, and grandchildren. He thanked the Lord for them, and thanked God for his wife, and I’m pretty sure Dad would gladly say the same things about Mom. He then had all of his grandchildren come up to the stand, and while his oldest granddaughter played the piano, the rest sang “I Know My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” They didn’t do it very loudly, but the little kids in front definitely tried. The youngest girl reminded me of Zoe. She was quiet, so she didn’t remind of Taylor also. When they were done, Elder Holland’s wife, Patricia, got up and bore her testimony and thankfulness for her family and husband. I’m pretty sure Mom could have said the same.
Elder Holland got back up and began to speak. He talked about his grandchildren, and how they, and children like them, are watching us. He went on to say how in the Church, we don’t have many symbols, statues, or icons, and besides the Christus statue (like the one in the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center), there aren’t many Church commissioned sculptures or projects. But, if we had one symbol that would set up apart from any other, it would be the sight of two missionaries, walking down a road or an abandoned path or street, knocking on doors and adjusting their name tags.
He then looked at all of us and said, “Any time you are tempted to be less than you are and can be, remember me. And my grandchildren. You are a symbol of them. You have no right to lessen that symbol in their eyes.”
After that, he gave thanks for three things: the first being our individual relationship with God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost. They know each of us by name. First name. “. . . Mine eyes are upon you, I am in your midst . . . “ (D&C 38:7)
The second was how we should give thanks for being able to feast on this day, and to care for the needy when we can, for by it we are able to retain the remission of our sins (Mosiah 4:26). He admonished us to, when we are in the areas of our mission, to be as the people whom we serve. Sleep where they sleep. Eat what they eat, do what they do, and to be what they are. Experience what the people you serve experience, and begin to love them. We have a lot to be thankful for here in America, since we have more now than anyone else in the world has ever had in the entire history of the world.
The third and final thing he expressed thanks for was the incredible love and strength exhibited by the Savior. In effect, he recounted his Conference talk of “None Were With Him,” and talked of how we have no right to feel homesick or neglected, if we do, we always have Christ there to help us, because of his completely solitary and infinitely painful Atonement. He did what He had to do completely alone, even after His Father withdrew His Spirit from Him. (Mark 15:34) And when we knowingly sin, “we crucify him afresh.” None were with Him, yet He carried us all. And when we serve Him humbly and obediently, we help His burden become lighter, albeit by an infinitesimal amount. We help shoulder the burden, and in so doing, lighten his load and allow us to grow stronger because of it.
At this point, Elder Holland was in tears, and so was I, along with most of the congregation and especially the 4 sister missionaries behind me who were bawling their eyes out. Elder Holland then proceeded to say, “This is a scripture none of you will remember, but I will read.” He read out D&C 133:44-50 and put more power into it than I have ever heard.
He turned to all of us after reading and said, “You had better not wish you were anywhere else,” (meaning the MTC). I completely agreed. After he bore his testimony, which was more spiritually powerful than any other testimony I have heard, he said, “We serve so that Christ may not keep going on alone.” He sat down, and Elder said a prayer, and he left the room with every single other person on their feet. After the door closed, we continued to stand for another 30-45 seconds or so. Elder Roberts and I then left the auditorium, and then, waiting on the curb outside of the building, waved goodbye to Elder Holland as he drove by.
By the way, I sat about 15 yards from him. Awesome. . . .
Well, I was going to write about the additional devotionals, but yup, they were kind of standard, until the end, that is. At the close of the devotional, Pres. Smith (of the MTC) invited some elders to tell about what they’re thankful for. And that made me think again about what I’m thankful for, after the first devotional when I was already in the spirit of gratitude. Wow, that last line sounded corny.
I’m thankful for role models, whether they’re people from the scriptures, friends, or family. I’m glad that I have a working body. I’m glad I have a good family. I’m happy I live in America. I’m thankful for my membership in the Church, for the fact that I have answers to questions that people have wondered about for centuries, like “where am I from, why am I here, where am I going.” I’m thankful for this chance to serve. I’m glad because of many things. Gracias.