I accidentally typed "2/28/93" at first in the subject bar and realized I'm almost 20 years old. That was a weird slap in the face to start an email with.
Anyway, hello, all! But mostly Mom! I feel like I write these things to my mom, even when I know there are probably dozens of others who like to read them. Even so, I like to make my mom laugh, so attribute any humor in my emails through the next two years to my desire to hear my mother's giggle in my head.
I wrote down a nice little list of things to talk about, but I can't find it. So I'm going to wing this, and hopefully be led by the Spirit, which, by the way, is AMAZINGLY strong here. Earlier this week I was getting upset that I tear up/bawl when I feel the Spirit strongly. I thought, "I wish I didn't cry so much so I could know if I'm really feeling the Spirit or not." And then I was reminded, not long after, of a quote from Elder Bednar who said that weeping is a gift of the Spirit. So I feel pretty good now, all things considered. Moral of the story: the Spirit in the MTC is practically palpable, and while that does NOT mean I'm on the brink of tears all the time, it DOES mean that when I'm living righteously I can feel its presence. I remember the warmth and power I felt when I was in the BYU Men's Chorus and came to sing at an MTC devotional. Seeing all those missionaries, feeling of their power... their real, true POWER given to them from God... it was an amazing experience. And I forget sometimes that I'm part of that now. I am in a place where the Lord pours his Spirit over all who are worthy from some great celestial pitcher. I catch myself saying "As you wish" a lot to the Lord and His inspired missionary rules, and we all know what that means.
And on that note, this is NOT a kissing book. And what I mean by that is, now that the age difference in Elders and Sisters has been significantly squashed, it's about all us Elders can do to keep from looking at/complimenting the beautiful daughters of God who roam these hallowed halls. Seriously, there are beautiful girls here, but I need to remember that's all they are: beautiful daughters of God, who I can love with the pure love of Christ which never faileth. Other than that, we were counseled this week to "LOCK OUR HEARTS" and dedicate every thought and action to the Lord. I'm pretty blessed that I do have a firm conviction of this work, and I haven't struggled as much as some other Elders in my immediate vicinity with the separation from teenage romance. I consider myself superblessed to not have that struggle, but it definitely exists in many unlocked hearts around here. Pray for the missionaries to stay focused, both in and out of the MTC.
Speaking of which, thank you all so much for your prayers. I can feel them. Missionaries are prayed for more than any other group of God's children, I would imagine, in every temple and thousands of homes all around the world on a daily basis. Prayer is real, and it helps us--it helps ME--more than you can imagine. Thank you!
Sorry that I'm not quick to respond to mail. I'm doing my best to give responses to all the wonderful letters I get, but please don't be sad or offended if I don't reply to every one! Also, Mom, thank you for sending me Elder Holle's email, but in the future will you send those types of things in a Dear Elder so I have more time to read them? Sister Stock sent me a NOVEL of Tate's emails, for which I am SO grateful, and since they're through Dear Elder I can read them again and again. Dear Elder and/or handwritten letters (*winkgentrywink*) are so exciting to receive. Again, many thanks to all of you.
Hey, Mom, is my blog public? I'd really like it to be public. I feel like the things I say here might bless someone's life. Not that I am particularly prophetic or anything, but for any good thing to be sprinkled among the general sludge of the internet is, I think, beneficial. It's totally up to you, but let me know what the status is there. I'd like for many of my friends to see how wonderful the mission is and what great things the Lord does for those who love Him.
Elder Ballard spoke at this week's Tuesday devotional. It was spectacular. He walked in with his wife and every 2000+ missionaries (who can fit in the devotional hall) stood up, right in the middle of CALLED TO SERVE. Oh, it was amazing. He spoke of many wonderful things directed at us who have chosen to serve the Lord, highlighting that we have been nurtured in the gospel enough to know those things we should teach. "You already know the doctrine!" And it's so true! Many, many missionaries struggle with "Do I know enough? How will I ever learn enough about this Church to teach it?" Again, thanks to my dear mother, that thought has never even kind of popped into my head. The home was my spiritual K-12 and the temple my University. I "know" everything I NEED to know about Jesus Christ and his beautiful, simple doctrine. Come unto Him, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. The Plan of Salvation, the Restoration, Jesus' Ministry, the Commandments, I know it all! Not as any boastful thing, but as a shout of joy! I KNOW THE TRUTH! And I can share it... in English! My challenge now is learning Italian, ma io so che posso imparare questa lingua bella se provo con tutto del mio cuore, e con il auito dello Sprito Santo. (Have fun with Google Translate.)
I've memorized the First Vision in Italian. It's so much fun to say. I wish I could send you a recording. As for pictures, I'll probably just send you the card in my camera right before I leave the MTC. Or something like that. Sorry, I know you are all (aka my mom) dying for pictures, but I really don't have the time or means to upload/send them. Soon! Be patient with me!
Elder Ballard also took the time to read extensively from 3 Nephi, when Jesus Christ descended out of Heaven and ministered to the more righteous of the Nephites. Let me tell you: there is little more overwhelmingly powerful, spiritual, and beautiful than a living Apostle standing at the pulpit, slowly and meaningfully reading another testament of Jesus Christ our Lord. My faith in Christ is growing exponentially, and I can barely imagine where I will be in two years' time. I'm HALFWAY DONE with the MTC, which is SOOOO exciting, because I can't WAIT to go to Italy and experience when all my leaders here promise I will experience. I will see miracles--"New Testament experiences" will happen to me. These have been PROMISES made by those in authority over me and my district, and I could not be more excited and faithful. I'm understanding faith and its "mechanics", if that's an appropriate word, more than I ever have. I encourage you to study Faith and how it influences Knowledge. I'm finally glimpsing what my mom means when she tells me she "knows" that the Church is true. If I first exercise my Faith--true, burning Faith--then I, too, can come to a knowledge. I believe that, I hope for it, and I look forward to it with electric (but patient) anticipation.
Okay, 5 more minutes! The last thing I really need to say is that I was assigned as the new District Leader. Anziano Taylor did a fantastic job and I have some big shoes to fill, but I have been pleading with my Father in Heaven for an opportunity to increase my Patience, Diligence, and Charity. This is the perfect opportunity, and I will fulfill this assignment to the very best of my ability. If you have any scriptures on Leadership that come to mind, please send them my way, especially from the Book of Mormon! I adore that true record and consider it the keystone to my Faith as well as my religion.
I changed my contacts today. That means that next time I switch out my contacts, I'll be in Italy. WOW. I am so blessed. So, so, so blessed.
Vi volgio bene! (I love you all!) I'm keeping detailed, small-plate-esque accounts in my journal every night, and I encourage you all to do the same! You are blessed so much more when you record the blessings you observe from Him.