Konnichiwa, everybody! Happy Valentine’s Day! How are you doing in your various locations? I am doing quite well here in the Provo MTC.
That is really cool that Lacey, Michael, and Adelaide were able to attend the open-house for the Gilbert, AZ temple. I looked at the (two) pictures they have on LDS.org, and it looks very beautiful. I was able to attend the temple again today, which was wonderful (of course). I am very grateful for temples, and am even more grateful to have a temple in my mission. I know I won’t be able to go every week when I’m in Nihon (Japan), but it will be great to have it available.
This week has been superb. I am learning more Nihongo (Japanese) every day, although I am still far from fluent. It will take some time to get to that point. One of the three districts in our branch left for Nihon this past Monday. Elder Strain (who I mentioned last week) was one of them, and they were all very excited to (finally) be leaving for Nihon. It’s crazy to think that three weeks have already passed by since I first arrived. One of the Nihongo branches acquired new missionaries this week; you can tell who they are by the nervous, often confused looks on their faces. I remember the first day we arrived and our sensei spoke to us only in Nihongo. It was somewhat trepidatious, but after three weeks I have been able to settle in and learn a bit of the language. I probably still look confused most of the time when somebody speaks to me in Nihongo, but I continue to learn and develop each day, so each day becomes progressively easier to understand what is being said. And sometimes I can even respond (and sometimes it’s grammatically correct!). I look forward to learning more over the next six weeks.
Stephen B. Allen and his wife, Nancy, spoke in the fireside this past Sunday. You may recall that they spoke just three weeks ago (he was the one that had us sing hymns while Sister Nally accompanied throughout the fireside). He is a very engaging speaker, so it was a wonderful treat to hear him speak again. Sister Allen spoke about the hymn How Firm a Foundation. She taught that in the hymn where it says, "I’ll never forsake," it is the Savior speaking to us. He will never forsake us, and as long as we remain with him then we will be alright. Brother Allen spoke after his wife, and he taught his message through Mormon Ads. He used to work in the church’s multimedia department, so he knows a lot about the church’s videos. The particular Mormon Ads he showed were from a series of ads entitled "Homefront," (which included the "Family: isn’t it about…time?" tagline that we know so well). So, Brother Allen would show an ad and then apply each video’s tagline to our missionary service (some of the taglines are changed slightly to apply more directly to missionary work). The taglines were:
"It’s not who you aren’t, it’s who you are; and being yourself is great."
"Give them everything; give them your time."
"It’s often life’s small moments that bring the greatest memories. Don’t let their magic pass you by."
"The people in you heart can’t hear what’s in your heart. They need to know what’s in your heart. If you love them, tell them every day."
"How children (companions) think about themselves is often determined by the labels you put on them."
"Sharing: it’s the icing on the cake."
"If you think childish arguments don’t hurt a marriage (companionship), don’t kid yourself."
"Family (companionship): isn’t it about…time?"
Brother Allen also taught us some things to do, and how to do them:
4. Retain (recent converts)
About this list of "do’s" Brother Allen taught: these are not a list of five separate activities. They are meant to go together. In other words: as you find, teach. As you find and teach, baptize. (etc.)
2. Follow the Spirit
3. Use the Book of Mormon with power
4. Be strictly obedient!
5. Work with members
He quoted what is probably an oft-overlooked scripture concerning obedience, found in 2 Nephi 33:15. They are the last words of Nephi in the scriptures: "I must obey, amen." It is vitally important to be strictly obedient, especially as a missionary. Obedience brings blessings; strict obedience brings miracles.
The last video that Brother Allen showed was about a girl named Allie Schneider. The video showed her as a young girl on her swimming team. Allie did not have the use of her legs, so swimming was a struggle for her and she was always last in a every race. However, as the video attests, "Allie Schneider made a real splash just by finishing every race."
"Whatever you do, just do your best."
I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a missionary, even though there are many things that make it quite difficult. However, if in everything I do as a missionary I just do my best, I know that I will have the Lord with me to guide me and work miracles. It is His work, and He is actively involved in it. I see that more each day as a missionary, and I am excited to witness it even more as a missionary in Nihon.
I don’t have much more time, so I will just share a little from this past Tuesday’s devotional. Elder W. Craig Zwick (of the Seventy) and his wife, Jan, spoke. Sister Zwick talked about the the "ebb and flow" of our lives, and that the different seasons of life are required for us to be able to change and grow. She talked about patience, and taught that "it is in the waiting, not the receiving, that we grow the most". In other words, our trials and tribulations are what define our growth, and our overcoming those things is simply evidence of that growth. We develop patience as we:
1. Practice patience in our daily experiences and relationships
2. Learn to be patient with ourselves
3. Be patient in developing our testimonies (you do not know all at once; read about it in Alma 32)
4. Be patient with Heavenly Father (rely on Him, knowing that as long as you are faithful He will answer your prayers and bless your life)
5. Understanding comes "line upon line"
6. Exercise faith and hope in the Savior
7. Never give up!!!
Well, Elder Zwick taught many great things, but I am just about out of time. I love you all. Thank you especially Mom and Dad for your examples and for all which you have taught me, which has prepared me for this stage in (and the rest of) my life. I hope everybody has a wonderful day and a splendid year.
p.s. For the fireside this Sunday the President of UVU, who is Elder Holland’s son, will be speaking about the life of Joseph Smith. Apparently it is also his mother’s birthday on that day, so she may come to hear him speak. Since she might be coming, there has been much speculation that her husband (Elder Holland) may come as well. We will see. It will be a wonderful fireside whether he comes or not, but Chung choro (my companion) is very excited. Anyway, I look forward to your emails and can hardly wait for next Thursday when I get to email again. Ai shite masu (I love you)!