I have to say that it really didn’t feel like Thanksgiving yesterday…getting up at 6am, eating 3 regular-sized meals rather than one big one, not feeling so full I want to be sick, no football, no family, no brown (for some reason I associate Thanksgiving with wearing brown and I neglected to bring anything brown with me)…not the typical Thanksgiving at all. I’m glad being at the MTC for the holiday is only a one-time deal, but it’s been unique in a positive way.
Yesterday we had three devotionals (meetings where everyone is together – all 1,500 of us, with a guest speaker or program of some kind) – one with Elder Oaks, one with LDS Humanitarian Services, and one with various missionaries performing. They have us arrive early for these and we sing prelude hymns for 15 minutes before the meeting starts which I really, really love. For the first devotional in the morning the last prelude hymn was ‘Families Can Be Together Forever’ – now we are all sleep-deprived, not at home with our families on Thanksgiving, so it maybe wasn’t the ideal choice on the part of the conductor. It got lots of people crying, including me – a rare and unexpected thing. Sister Talbot turned to me and said, "You’re not a robot!" which was helpful as we both laughed and were able to sing at least the end of second verse. It was actually a sweet moment – not in a ‘sweeeet’ surfer-dude kind of way, or in a sweet, saccharine kind of way – it was a moment of feeling really, really grateful for the people in my life, in a meaningful and touching kind of way. That was a theme of Thanksgiving, for me and for everyone here I think, being grateful for the great people in our lives, both in the real world and here. I miss seeing and communicating regularly with so many of you for sure, but I’m also really grateful that I enjoy the people here as much as I do.
Anyway, in addition to the devotionals we did a big service project – we made about 360,000 meals with the organization Feeding Children Everywhere. It was a nice experience, I think there is going to be some news coverage of it in the Church News, on KSL, Deseret News, etc. I was one of the table captains (blue hairnets if you see photos). Organizing people without being bossy and being enthusiastic and getting people excited is so not my thing, especially with 18 year-old boys, but we were efficient and no one seemed miserable, so I consider that a success.
On normal days we basically spend a lot of time in class, and some time teaching real, fake investigators. They’re non-members or converts who are playing themselves as investigators before they joined the church. Ours is very nice, and teaching isn’t bad, but I’m not vrey good at it. When we first met ours we were getting to know her and we ended up talking mostly about therapy and Philosophy. She’s from a different country and wasn’t sure what the difference between Philosohpy and Psychology was, and she even asked me about a philosopher I liked. By the time we had to leave we had talked about God for all of about one minute, and the ONE thing she wrote down during our 30 minute visit was the name of the philosopher I mentioned. When we were walking back to our class I realized that philosopher is an atheist, and wrote about the non-existence of miracles. Oops. Our next lesson was much better though – Sister Talbot took the lead and the conversation was about God’s love for us and the guidance he can provide. It wasn’t preachy, it was a very natural conversation based on questions our investigator had and on sharing our own experiences. It was a much better missionary moment, but it also made me realize something….Sister Talbot told our investigator that we loved her. Now I knew loving people was a part of this whole mission thing, but some how I failed to realize that that means TELLING people I love them, with words. I think I thought I could communicate love some other way – by the fact that I’m talking to them, and maybe exude love through my eyes or something. Going to have to work on this one.
Actually there is so much I have to work on and learn. I’ve definitely had several Abraham and Isaac moments here, thinking, ‘Ok, I provide I was willing to sacrifice a lot and I proved how much the gospel means to me – I came here, but can I be done now? can the knife-weilding arm be held back before I lose the next 18 months?’ Luckily those moments are more the exception than the rule, and we all think being out in Ohio will make those moments even more rare. Being able to have more control over our own schedules (the when at least, if not the what) and being able to work with real people will be really nice.
Speaking of Ohio – we got our travel plans and we are on a flight at 5:30am on December 8th with a two hour layover in Denver, then on to Cleveland. That means we have to leave the MTC at 2:30am – brutal! But luckily we’ll get to go to bed in Cleveland at what feels like 8:30pm becuase of the time change. It will be a long day but we’re excited! And it’s warmer in Cleveland, at least this week 🙂
Last week I mentioned the eagerness and earnestness of the kids here – this week I am mostly just impressed with them. Yes there is a lot of what feels like missing experience, knowledge, awareness, etc. but I have seen, over and over again, how humble and committed they are to doing what is required. There is somethign striking abou tturning a corner to see 2 18 year-old boys standing and praying together before they walk into a room to teach someone, even though they know that person isn’t really an investigator. And then to see how excited and touched they are when a lesson goes well or when they feel the spirit also leaves an impression. They knowledge and experience stuff will get better, and I’ve already seen whta feels like significant change in some of the elders I have gotten to know. One elder who has a slight speech impediment and is really shy, seemed really, really nervous the first time he was asked to bear his testimony. Sister Talbot and I were both worried about whether he would make it. But he has since become more confident and clearly has a strong testimony driving what he is doing. In that first testimony he said something about not knowing everything or understanding everything but that ‘it’s easy – you just have faith.’ That maybe seems a little naive or ignorant but it seems to work pretty well fo rhim. I’m not sure how much growth I’ve experienced here, I think I feel less confident in myself and my abilities then when I came here, despite the fact that I’ve learned a lot, but I’m going to try to keep Elder Mafi’s philosophy in mind – it’s easy, just have faith.
Now for some lighter stuff. Some people have asked about the food here – it’s been good. Lots of variety and it tastes fine. But there are a LOT more carbs than I am used to, and a lack of cheese. Both of these things represent a dramatic departure from my normal diet and have definitely impacted my digestive system, as has being in a new place and sharing a bathroom with 50 other people. Bananas and grapes have been my friends, but I definitely miss having a piece of cheese before bed.
Since I can’ tgoogle all the things I wish I could google or would like to know – I am going to use this blog to ‘google’ (make requests) and hope whoever reads this might be able to email or mail (preferred) the answers. Here is this week’s list:
- Washington’s Thanksgiving address (Elder Oaks mentioned it – I thought of you Emmy!)
- Lincoln’s Thanksgiving declaration
- Letter from WW Phelps to Joseph Smith, and Joseph Smith’s response
- Food items that have fiber, other than bananas and grapes (and spinach – no thanks)
- Any helpful analogies to illustrate the importance of opposition in all things – I have a hard time explaining that well when talking about the Fall
- How old is Elder Oaks? And how old are his kids? He sang with his family and some of them looked way too old to be his kids
I’m out of time to write anything spiritual – to sum up, Mosiah 4 – specifically vs. 17-19. I read that chapter today and it’s got a lot of good stuff in it which I just don’t have time to write about here.
I will leave you with some things I’ve overheard here at the MTC this week. They give a good sense of this whole environment I think:
- "I didn’t even cry and we got him to commit to baptism!" – Excited Elder
- "I made a huge mistake and kissed a girl the Sunday before I left." – Elder who doesn’t realized he could have (and should have!) kissed that girl the Monday and Tuesday before he left too!
- "My brother went gay." No comment.
- "It’s physically hurting me to have charity right now." -Sister trying really hard.
Thanks for the letters sent this week – I really, really, really appreciate them and will try to respond.
Pictures may be coming in a separate post if I can get this computer to work in time.