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.