After I sent you my last email and went to the temple, we all came back to our classroom as instructed by a man in authority earlier that week. He had dropped by our room to tell us that President Nally, the MTC President, was coming to speak with our District, and that our room had to be spotless. So we cleaned it 'til Cinderella's mice would have been proud, and then we got there at about 3:45pm. Since it was still our P-Day, that was a very unusual time to be in the classroom, and our building was essentially empty other than us.
A little before 4:00, President Nally walks in by himself. We all stand and greet him, eager to know exactly what's going on. Elder McKinnon and I had some theories, but those were soon dashed to pieces when President Nally explained that this was something he and Sister Nally did every few weeks: choose a random district and chat with them about how the MTC experience is going. It was wonderful to talk with him, and we even got to help him with a talk he's giving in a few weeks (that you'll hear more about when I'm in Italy).
While we were all giving our opinions and thoughts on this topic, the door to our classroom opened. A familiar woman walked in. Sister McCann gasped and leapt up, running across the room and throwing her arms around this woman: her grandmother. Hearts began to hammer as from behind Sister Holland, in strode everyone's favorite fiery apostle of the latter days. The Elders in the room leapt to their feet--and some were tempted to salute--as we nine were warmly greeted by Elder Holland. He walked around the room and vigorously shook each of our hands. I was quite as a loss for words, and even now my hands shake as I recall my emotions.
Mom, it's amazing to me that you included a large chunk of Elder Holland's talk on the Book of Mormon from a few years ago. I've often said that that talk "sealed my testimony of the Book of Mormon," and every other element of Faith I possess has been built upon that foundation, that perfect witness of Christ. And there I was, sitting before a living witness of Jesus Christ as he spoke to us face to face, smile to smile, icy-blue eyes shining and laughter bubbling often. He spoke to us of our good fortune in being called to one of the most beautiful and rewarding missions. He opened the scriptures with us, counseled with us, and taught us from D&C 31. He then took time to solemnly bless us "as if my hands were upon your heads" - and here are some of the things he said:
You will never be the same.
The Lord has innumerable, unimaginable blessings in store: some in adveristy, distress, or joy!
EVERY MINUTE will be for your good.
God LOVES you and is grateful for your service.
You have no hope without the Spirit.
We will have peace and answers to our prayers.
Direct quote: "It'll all be okay."
This is the most righteous decision we've ever made, he said. "Keep your head up, chin up, and look up." Speaking of the brethren and himself, he said, "We're not stupid. We wouldn't give our lives to something that wasn't true. I know it--" He looked right at me. "--and the people in Pasco know it!" I had mentioned, briefly, that I was sitting in the front rows when he came to Pasco a few years ago. And it is true! My testimony has been fortified by the examples of great men and women who KNOW it is true, in PASCO WASHINGTON! And now it is sealed without doubt that God is aware of me, proud of me, and that I am doing His work as called--and blessed--by an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Do you realize how incredible this is? This NEVER happens. This is not a normal thing. At first I said, "We are so lucky to have Sister McCann in our district so that we could have this experience. What incredible luck!" Now I realize, "These districts are inspired. We were assigned to be in the same district as dear Sister McCann for a reason. Her grandfather ministered to us not by accident, but by the grace of God." In our later discussions, the nine members of our district all realized that Elder Holland had said something that was an answer to a specific prayer of theirs. What a blessing -- what a miracle! I will never forget how happy I was during those 45 minutes at the feet of an apostle.
TRC is just a program in which we speak with Italian speaking members for 20-40 minutes every Monday. The first woman I met was named "Rita" and she lives in Milan. She spoke incredibly fast, and it was great to (try to) communicate with her. I hope to see her again. Gentry knows the rest of the story (or will, when she gets her letter).
As for the questions on the DearElder you sent: I'll answer as many as I can in 9 minutes. Sorry that I didn't sent it with the rest, it's hard to keep track of everything.
I sent must-know itinerary info in a letter, Mom.
I have no idea what will happen when I get to Italy.
I'll miss everything about the MTC. If I were given the choice to stay another week, I'd take it. I love it here, especially my teachers, Fratello Garvin and Sorella Turley.
Sundays are just like every other day except there's: no class; sacrament meeting; priesthood meeting; an evening devotional from an MTC authority. Sacrament goes on all day in pretty much every room big enough to do it. I don't know what the Sisters do, but there must be some kind of Relief Society. I don't think it's built for this many Sisters, though. Haha! Talks in sacrament are by topic--every day has one topic from our purpose--and EVERYONE writes a talk, and then they announce who's speaking that morning after the sacrament. It's funny to hear the sighs of relief.
I played the piano for a friend of mine last Sunday as he sang "If You Could Hie to Kolob". I just made up the piano part. It was modest and pretty.
I sing a lot. I'm trying to memorize Italian hymns.
I still dream in English. I don't imagine Italian will slip into my sleep for a few months.
I went to the temple every P-Day. 3 endowment sessions (1 more later today) and 1 initiatory. OTTIMO! I'm going to miss the temple, I love it. And yes, Mom, I did my last blue card on the first P-Day.
3 minutes left. I keep a detailed journal, so I'll be able to share plenty of experiences with you when I get home. For now, think of my letters as small plates or Mormon's abridgement: I write things of the Spirit, but not even a hundredth part can be recorded! I love you all-- strive to have your own spiritual experiences. Read the scriptures and listen to what He says, because He is EAGER to speak with you! Remember that not every spiritual thought needs to be shared. Some of them are just for you. The Spirit's such a good friend that He'll tell you which thoughts are meant to be shared and which are yours alone. Listen to Him, get to know Him! He loves you as much as God the Father or Jesus Christ, and he witnesses of their reality! As do I. CHRIST LIVES, he is the Messiah, and we can be saved through Him!
I love you all. Ci vediamo!