Konnichiwa! How is it going with everybody? It is going quite well here in Provo, UT. It is snowing today. It has been great here at the MTC! I have been learning many things, one of which is that Nihongo (Japanese) is somewhat difficult. 🙂 However, with effort I do not think it will be too difficult. I have memorized all the hiragana (the basic "alphabet"), and have been learning various phrases and words from our senseitachi (teachers). Their names are Schade sensei and Wiley sensei (the Japanese place a person’s title after their name). There are five companionships in our district: six chorotachi (elders) and two shimaitachi. They are Elder Wilcox, Powell, Bowler, Moreno, Chung, and myself. Elder Chung is my companion. He is Australian (from Melbourne), but was born in Hong Kong. He is awesome. He has never seen snow before (he is really, really, really excited). Then the sisters are Sister Lambert, Andersen, Roth, and Gapmeyer. They are all very unique in their own ways, but we all get along very well. You can definitely see that the Lord inspires missionary companions, because I doubt that any mortal man could pick two people that they have never met before and place them together in such perfect companionships. Of course we all have our differences and may at times be annoyed with each other (like any companionship, although I haven’t had anything to be annoyed about with Elder Chung yet; he is just awesome), but we get along very well despite all our differences.
As I mentioned earlier, this week has been amazing! It has been eight days since I entered the MTC, but as Kyle mentioned in one of his previous letters I already feel quite separated from my "previous life" at home. I am reminded of Jacob’s statement at the end of his writings in the Book of Mormon: "Our lives passed by as it were a dream" (or something like that).
All the missionaries gather together twice a week (Sundays and Tuesdays) for a fireside/devotional, where one of the leaders in the church addresses us. On Sunday Stephen B. Allen, the Missionary Department Director, spoke. It was amazing. He had prepared a talk but decided to set it aside and simply follow the Spirit in what he should teach, and his message was very powerful. I discovered that night that Sister Nally, who is the wife of the MTC President (President Nally), is an amazing pianist/musician. A few times in his message the Missionary Department President had us sing some hymns as he taught from their messages, and Sister Nally accompanied us. He would give her a hymn to play and she would start into it on the spot, without any music, and was even able to instantly transpose into other keys. It was beautiful, and the entire fireside was a wonderful, spiritual experience. I learned a bit more about Sister Nally’s musical talents in the devotional on Tuesday, but I will write more about that in a moment.
After the devotional I watched a video of one of Elder Bednar’s talks entitled "The Character of Christ" that he had previously given at the MTC. It was amazing. I learned so much from it, one of the most important of which is that I have a lot to work on. Elder Bednar told a story about something that happened to him personally. When he was a Stake President, Elder Bednar received a call one night from a Relief Society President in one of his wards. She told him that there had been a terrible accident with three teenage girls in her ward, and that one of them was dead (although they had not yet confirmed the girl’s identity). The Relief Society President asked Elder Bednar if he could go to the hospital and identify the three girls. One of the girls was this Relief Society President’s only daughter (and she was a single mother). While he was on the phone with her, Elder Bednar heard another voice in the background and realized that the R.S. President was also on another phone with one of the nurses at the hospital. Elder Bednar heard the nurse say, "We have confirmed the identity of the girl who passed away. It is your daughter." Without taking a beat the R.S. President told Elder Bednar, "We need to call the other mothers and tell them that their girls are alive." That is the power of a person who is truly converted to the Lord. Throughout his talk Elder Bednar spoke about the character of Christ, which is that when one of us (the natural man) would turn inward and think about ourselves, Christ would instead turn outward and think about and serve others. That is what this single – now childless – mother did. She thought about others even in her most dire crisis. Elder Bednar continued the story that on the way to her daughter’s funeral, this R.S. President brought a meal to one of the women in her ward who had been ill. When she spoke with Elder Bednar prior to the funeral – which was going to be a closed-casket funeral – she also asked him if he would like to arrive a little early before they closed the casket so that his last memory would not be of what he had seen in the hospital (when he identified the girls). That is what it means to be Christ-like. That is the power of true conversion.
On Tuesday Elder Martino (of the Seventy) spoke about Members and Missionaries working together. He spent much of the time teaching about Alma and Amulek’s example (Alma chapters 8-14). It was really good, but unfortunately I do not have enough time to write about it. I attended MTC Choir that night (and we sang that night), and learned a bit more about Sister Nally (which I referred to earlier). We sang a beautiful version of Called to Serve that Sister Nally had arranged. It was very powerful. Sister Nally is amazing.
Anyway, that’s about all I have time for this week. I love you all, and hope that you have a wonderful week. I am sorry to hear that White Panther is unhappy. 😦 Hopefully she will get over it. Thank you everybody for your comments; sorry that I did not have enough time to respond (there is so much to say!).