Thursday, August 27, 2015

Week 6

The MTC is going by so fast! We're already the oldest Korean group here. My companion, Elder Cable, got called as zone leader this week, so he's pretty busy with learning the language, teaching lessons, and doing these new responsibilities. Elder Anderson and I also received the opportunity to experience Viral Bronchitis this week, but that isn't as exciting as some of the other things that happened. 

We had an incredible lesson with 이제성 (Lee Jaesung) on Monday (the investigator that Brother Chandler role-plays). We only had fifteen minutes, so we couldn't teach a full lesson (especially not in Korean), so we just went over our challenge from last time, which was to read the first vision. He asked us if we believed what it said. Elder Cable and I bore our testimonies of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and told Lee Jaesung that he could find the truth as well, through reading and sincerely praying about it. The Spirit was incredibly powerful in that room and it was a very humbling experience. We taught in unity and backed each other up with our testimonies, and the Spirit made manifest the truth of what we were saying. I learned from this that the Spirit is the most important part of our missionary work, before the lessons or our own teaching skills. With our limited Korean, we could never teach an inspiring or convincing lesson on our own, no matter how well we knew Preach My Gospel or the scriptures. These things are all important, but the thing that will pierce an investigator's heart is feeling the Spirit. They will remember that feeling, and even if nothing else makes sense or if they have questions or concerns we fail to answer, they will want to learn more about it. That is why it is so important to be obedient, dedicated missionaries - we will achieve success when the Lord is working through us, not when we try to work with our own wisdom or abilities. 

Our lessons with Jang Jeeyung, our other investigator role-played by Sister Washburn, are more difficult, partially because I can't understand any of her Korean. I'm going to try hard to focus mainly on bringing the Spirit into the lessons. The speaker in the devotional last Tuesday talked about our model of teaching. We first talk about the "why" of the gospel: why it is important, what is at stake, how it personally, significantly, and eternally effects us. Second, we talk about "how:" accepting the gospel, faith in Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Third, we leave them with a witness, commitment, and/or promise of the truth and blessings of these things. I'm working to improve on these things and becoming a better teacher. My favorite part of this model is how simple it is. Effective teaching comes when we speak simply for our investigators to understand, especially if they are unfamiliar with God or Christ. 

Thanks for your messages and updates! Also thank you for your prayers for the missionaries. I appreciate everything you do for us!
Our district and the older departing district visiting our residence - Elder Cable, Elder Anderson, Elder Jones, Elder Bowers, me, Elder bacon, Elder Sam-yiou, Elder Biesinger

The classroom where we spend all our time - Elder Cable, Elder Anderson, Elder Biesinger, Elder Sanders, Elder Gottfredson

Selfie with Elder Biesinger trying to look stoic, Elder Cable, Me, Elder Anderson

​Me and Elder Cable from the Sunday Walk

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Week 5

Wow, my time in the MTC is already more than halfway over. It's going by so fast. I'm excited to go to Korea, but also pretty anxious because I still can't understand anything the native Koreans say. 
I've learned lots this last week. The language is coming and I am improving in my teaching and understanding of Preach My Gospel. One big change I've noticed in myself is how much I love personal study time. I never could have thought before coming on my mission that I would want more time to study, but I am absolutely loving the time I spend studying the Book of Mormon. I learn so many things every time I read it, and I always feel the Spirit as I do so. I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon before my mission, but it has grown exponentially stronger over the past few weeks. It really does contain answers to any and all questions and concerns we have, especially when we read it with the Spirit. It is one of our greatest gifts from God, written specifically for all the problems we would face in our day. 
A slightly less exciting thing I've noticed is that it isn't easy to always be on a spiritual high. There are days and times when I feel tired or exhausted, and another three hours of language study seem daunting. It's hard to feel the Spirit during these times. I've been reading a lot about the sons of Mosiah, though. I was reading in Alma (chapter 24ish?) where Ammon is praising God for all the mercy and blessing He poured out upon them and the Lamanites. There is a verse where he says that when their hearts were depressed and they wanted to turn back, the Lord comforted them and told them if they were patient and persistent, He would give them success. This meant a lot to me because the sons of Mosiah are the examples of the kind of missionary I want to be, and most of the times in the Book of Mormon we only get the highlights - the times they were at their very best. Converting thousands of Lamanites and receiving a spiritual outpouring seem to be the only thing they did. Even the sons of Mosiah, possibly the greatest missionaries ever, however, had hard times, even to the point of thinking about turning back. So, certainly, we will all have hard times, and as long as we push through them patiently and humbly, we will be blessed even more so than we were before.

My favorite part of the past week was watching a previous MTC Christmas devotional with Elder Bednar. It was easily the most inspirational and uplifting talk I've ever heard. He talked about the Character of Christ, and how it is essentially the opposite of the natural man. When trials and hard times come, the natural man will turn inward and think about themself and their own trials. One who has the character of Christ, however, will turn outward in their trials, seeking only to help and comfort others. True conversion is to cast aside the natural man and develop the character of Christ. He shared a story about this that I want also to share with you. 

When Elder Bednar was a stake president, he received a call from a relief society president about a group of three girls in the ward who had been involved in a terrible accident, as a result of which one had been killed. When Elder Bednar asked how he could help, the president told him he could go to the hospital where they were being transferred and help identify them. As Elder Bednar spoke to the relief society president, he realized she was talking to another person on another phone at the same time. From what he heard going on, he realized it was a nurse or doctor that was taking care of the girls. At some point, news came in about the identity of the girl who had been killed. As the nurse talked to the relief society president, and Elder Bednar heard what was going on, he realized that the nurse was telling the relief society president that it was her daughter who had been killed in the accident. Elder Bednar was stunned when the president responded to him, the very first the she did after learning her only child had just died, was to tell him that they needed to communicate with the other two mothers of the girls involved and let them know what was going on and comfort them. 

This is the character of Christ. In the midst of terrible pain and suffering, Christ thought only of others. This, Elder Bednar said, is true conversion. Once we have been converted, therefore, we can not possibly fall away. 

I've thought about this talk and applying the character of Christ to my own life every day since that devotional. It isn't easy and it won't come right away, but if we remember Christ and His love for us, and seek, through the power of His Atonement and our testimony, to be more like Him every day, we will find peace and solace in our trials. We will gain love and charity for those around us, to the point where we cannot even dwell on our own relatively small pains and troubles. This will bring us happiness and peace that we have never before known.

Thank you for all your letters and emails! I love hearing about what is going on back home. I hope Montana doesn't burn down while I'm gone.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

MTC Week 4

It's been a great week at the MTC! I'm learning so much about following the Spirit during discussions or lessons. This is the most profound thing I've seen on my mission so far. I used to have to write everything out I was going to say. Now, I don't take anything but scriptures and maybe a pamphlet to our "discussions." Before lessons, we always pray as a companionship to have the guidance of the Spirit with us as we teach, and this has made all the difference. The language comes easier when we are teaching than any other time (we are teaching "investigator" role plays with our teachers that are like teaching lessons to a real investigator). I don't think I ever really knew how to recognize the Spirit before I came out here, and this is something that always concerned me because I didn't always know if it came from my mind or from the Holy Ghost. We watched a video of a talk by Elder Bednar is class this week that was exactly about that feeling. In response to the concern about now knowing whether or not it was the Spirit speaking to us, he said, "Quit worrying about it." He then shared a story of when he was on his mission. He was picking up an apostle (Elder Packer) in Germany because their flight was canceled, and he dropped the apostle and his wife off at a train station. In the moment, Elder Bednar decided to give Elder Packer twenty marks for food or anything else he might. Then, Elder Packer went on his way. It wasn't until about forty years later that Elder Bednar spoke with him again and learned what that twenty marks had done for Elder Packer. When the train crossed into East Germany, a guard began giving trouble to Elder Packer's wife for having a three-year passport that had been extended to five years. The guard probably would have taken her off the train, and it would have been a serious situation. But, almost without thinking, Elder Packer reached into his pocket and put the twenty marks into the passport and handed it to the guard. A few minutes later, the guard returned the passport (with the marks not in it) and sent them on their way. (Elder Bednar called this a "righteous exchange," not a bribe.) Elder Bednar had no idea until forty years later that handing the marks to Elder Packer had been a prompting from the Spirit and that it had saved the Lord's Apostle from a lot of grief and trouble. Likewise, in our own lives, we may not know exactly how, when, or why we received a prompting. But if we do what we feel is right, stay obedient, and do as we feel we must and are directed, we will begin to see times that the Spirit has guided and helped us. 

I'm also learning to be more diligent and focused in studying. It's a lot of work to study for so long every day on the language and on the gospel, and I find that I too often will lose focus for a time. C. Scott Grow from the Seventy came this Tuesday and talked to us about consecrating out heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord. To consecrate is to give all, nothing withheld. This is something I've committed to do. As a district, we talked about how important it is to be 100% focused on the work, not just 98%. When we are totally focused, we give ourselves to be instruments of the Lord. The sons of Mosiah are possibly the best examples of missionaries we have. They were diligent every day in preaching and serving the people. They bore all their afflictions patiently. They were entirely selfless and focused on the Lord and those they served. Had they not been, and had Ammon not done exactly as the Spirit directed him, he could never have converted King Lamoni or the other Lamanites. We don't know who is looking for the truth or how to find them, or even what their needs are. But the Lord does. We need Him to guide us and help us. A true representative of Christ is one in whom who others can see the love, humility, and power of Christ manifest in. Christ loved all and dedicated his life to serving them, and we feel his love each and every day through His Atonement. Our job as missionaries is to share a piece of that love with others so that they will feel prompted and inspired to get to know Christ themselves and partake in the same love and joy that we have. I have so far to go, but my goal is to be like the sons of Mosiah - loving and feasting upon the words of Christ and consecrating all my time and thoughts toward Him. 

Elder Crisp

Here are some pictures from the temple on Sunday.

Left to Right: Elder Anderson, Elder Biesinger, Elder Gottfredson, Elder Sander, Elder Crisp, Elder Cable, Elder Peterson, Elder Lujan​

Left to Right: Elder Anderson, Elder Biesinger, Elder Gottfredson, Elder Sander, Elder Crisp, Elder Cable, Elder Peterson, Elder Lujan​

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I'm getting pretty settled in at the MTC now. In just three weeks, I already feel totally different. The Spirit here is awesome. I would never have thought I would be able to speak as much Korean as I can (though the real trouble is understanding anything they say back). 

President Nelson (president of the Twelve as of half a month ago) spoke in the devotional on Tuesday. Watching him come in was an awesome moment. He talked about having the word of God written in our hearts so that we could be epistles of the Lord. That really struck me, because it seems that the difference between just being a member and being truly converted is having the gospel in our heart, not just our mind. When it is in our heart, turning from it or sinning appear abhorrent to us (as Alma says somewhere in chapters 10-15). We serve Him and are completely obedient not out of need or because we are compelled, but because we love Him so much that we want Him to be able to work through us. That is why the sons of Mosiah were such great missionaries. They studied, prayed, and sought the Spirit with all their hearts. Thus, they had the word of God written in their hearts. Then, they were completely obedient to the Lord. They had to go through some hard things, like imprisonment, but they were totally faithful. This allowed the Lord to work through them and bring so many Lamanites to the truth. Alone, they would have surely failed. But they had the gospel in their hearts and were able to manifest Christ's love through their own actions. They were totally obedient, allowing the Lord to do what needed to be done to bring the Lamanites to the truth. My goal is to be a missionary like they were. 

Sister Nelson talked about how this church is not a Utah-based church. It is, in fact, a heaven-based church, the same one that Christ established two thousand years ago. We, as missionaries, are how the Lord expands this great gospel to those across the world. Sister Nelson talked about how we sometimes overlook how significant it really is to "know" something. We know many amazing things that have never before been known, because it is the fullness of times. The impact of this expands well beyond this church being a "Utah-based" church. The Lord is spreading His gospel because He want all of His children to return to Him and to be happy. No matter where or who you are, this gospel has a message of immense meaning. This church is a "heaven-based church.

These messages really inspired me to do better with my own work and goals. I hope everyone is doing well. I love getting your messages and emails and hearing about what's going on back home. Thanks to everyone who was a great example to me while preparing to serve a mission!