(from Sep 29)
It's been another great week at the MTC. Tomorrow I'll have been here for 6 full weeks. My tentative departure date is three weeks from yesterday. I'm starting to get pretty excited. Something surprising happened on Sunday... my companion and I were called as Zone Leaders. Seriously! How crazy is that? No more than two minutes before sacrament meeting, Brother Sanchez (2nd counselor in the branch presidency)tapped us on the shoulder and had us come outside. He said, "We want you two to be new zone leaders. Okay?" We stammered out an okay, and he whisked us back inside, and it was as simple as that. So now I have some new responsibilities -- greeting new missionaries, doing their orientation, setting up sacrament meeting, stuff like that. It's some work, but I think it'll be a really good experience, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm a zone leader; it's no big deal... haha. It really isn't; it's just a good opportunity for me to learn and grow, and I'm going to make the most of it.
Sunday was also Fast Sunday/Mission Conference, which is always pretty awesome. I was fasting with a specific purpose in mind and questions I wanted answered (just like both of you suggested, Mom and Dad), and lo!, I received the answers I was looking for in Mission Conference. Some great advice, some things I'm
excited about doing, and a general uplift to my already-happy spirits. The gospel is pretty incredible. So is personal revelation; very powerful stuff. And with General Conference this weekend -- hearing prophets and apostles speak is a wonderful opportunity. It's a time to strengthen testimonies, bolster faith, and rejuvenate spirits to be prepared to face the world with fresh courage and cheerfulness. All those qualities are pretty important to have, but they take practice, and we need to continually work on them. I remember my Book of Mormon teacher once said, "I can say, 'I was born (again).' That's not the point. The real question is, Have I grown up?" Life is a growing up process -- not just physically, but spiritually. We're always progressing and changing. We should always be striving to follow Christ better each new day. I recently heard (in a devotional, perhaps) that we aren't given credit tomorrow for what we do today. Not that what we do today is unimportant; rather, just because we do something good once doesn't mean we're set. We must continually improve ourselves and work on those Christlike qualities. It does take work, but it's worth it.
At the devotional last week, Elder L. Whitney Clayton spoke (a member of the Presidency of the Seventy), and he talked about his own decision to serve a mission. He also wanted to become a doctor, spend some time in the military, and do a few other things, and he was worried that a mission would take too much time. He received this counsel: "In 13 years, how old will you be? (32.) How old will you be in 13 years if you serve a mission, spend time in the military, attend university, and become a doctor? (32.) How old will you be in 13 years if you don't do any of those things? (Still 32.) The question is then: When you're 32, do you want to look back on your life and have done all these things or just some of them?"
I'm sure he told the story a lot better than I just did, but I really like the point. Time passes no matter what we're doing -- at the end of it, what do we want to look back on, a lot of meaningful accomplishments or some wasted time? It goes along with finding out what really matters in life and doing just that. The most recent "Mormon Message" is by President Monson (you can find it at the lds.org homepage), and it talks about figuring out the difference between what is important and what isn't. I really like that as well.
One more insight I learned this week: at the fireside on Sunday, Brother Swenson spoke (he's spoken here before; he's involved in directing the MTC and some other things). He talked about flying a kite, and how the wind propels it upward but the strings hold it down. He then talked about some strings that hold us down as missionaries. He mentioned things like companions, rules, language difficulties, testimonies, and others, and then carefully explained why each and every one of them isn't a string we want to cut, because it makes us better. At the very end he said, "Earlier we talked about the importance of the wind. But what keeps the kite up? If you cut the strings, it falls." The commandments and challenges we have in our lives are those strings. Sometimes we think they hold us down -- but actually, they are what keeps us flying. It was a very interesting metaphor and applicable in a lot of ways.
Those are pretty much the essentials of my week. I've been studying hard and definitely learning a lot every day. I've been happy and excited pretty much all the time. My Spanish is continually improving, as is my testimony and my knowledge of the scriptures. All in all, life is amazing and so is the opportunity to serve a mission. Easily the best thing I've ever done. I have a lot more to say but only five or six more minutes, so I'll mention a few things and save the rest for the other letter.
Dad - What the! Haha. I love the thought Reagan and the other autistic kids in his class saying that a hundred times a day. How awesome. (What an act! What a riot! Pure Dupree! Who do you say that to without me around?) Love you, Dad.
Mom - thanks for the stamps and addresses. I'm going to try and write some other family today. Nothing too long, but I'd like to write them personally. The cornbread in the cafeteria isn't nearly as good as yours, but it'll have to do for conference Saturday and Sunday. :) Love you.
Miranda and Gabs - Oh shooo.... I want you both to do me a favor. Go outside into the front yard and just stand there and look around for a couple minutes. Smell the air and look and the mountains and the changing of colors and feel the wind and the sun. Life is really a blessing. That sounds a little preachy for my sisters, so I'll add this application: Go have fun!! Have as much fun as you can in life. That doesn't mean doing dumb things or not taking school and church seriously. That just means you have to enjoy life! Enjoy everything about it.
I'll write you all another letter. Until then ---
email FROM SEP 22
I hope everything is going well and that you're loving this change from summer to fall just as much as I am. The brisk air, the changing of the leaves... it's pretty exciting. Life here is great, as always. I'm still having so much fun and learning a lot.
Last Tuesday, Elder Jeffrey R Holland spoke at our devotional. What an amazing privilege that was. He's such a powerful speaker. He gave a talk about how important our missions will be for us -- and how important his was for him. He talked about how his mission led to every good thing that has ever happened to his life, and how he doesn't think a day of his life has passed in which he hasn't thought about his mission. He expressed desires for us to have that same experience. To do so, we have to meet out mission head on and put everything we have in it.
Here are some of the other things he said. "I know how we ask a lot of you. I know that. We ask you to grow up almost overnight. But you can do it. Have faith, be happy, be secure. Know that you can do this. If I can do it, you can do it. And I was a lot less prepared, so you can really do it."
Then, about the importance of taking out missions seriously: "This is it; this is real life. This is not a dress rehearsal; this is *it*. It will never come again, either. Do not miss it. Do not miss out on everything that this will be. Do not have a single regret for the rest of your life about your mission. Be able to tell your children about the wonder, excitement, and spiritual power of your mission. Embrace all of it. Let you mission make you what God wants you to be."
He talked about how your mission should remain with you always. Elder Bednar said that when your mission is over, you should come home, but you should never leave the mission field. Elder Holland said, "Don't you dare come home and grow a beard and get a tattoo and put a leather bracelet around your neck and be an idiot." :) Then he added, "Don't tell everybody that I said that anyone who grows a beard is an idiot. But if they're a returned missionary..." He was joking, but it was pretty hilarious.
He then continued. "Don't you dare just do these two years and then say, 'Now I can get back to real life.' This *is* real life. This is as real as you're ever going to get. Let it become you."
Next, he talked about how Preach My Gospel was written to convert missionaries, not investigatores. "For all of our missionary history, our plans have been focused on converting the investigators. But we can't afford not to save you. You are so important. Almost setting the investigator to the side, Preach My Gospel was born to convert you first, and then you would find a way, with the Spirit, to convert the investigators. An old German philosopher once said, 'If you can tell me sufficiently why, I will figure out how.' That is what Preach My Gospel does for you. It can teach you why. You will figure out how."
Next, he talked about how we need to open our mouths. "This is indeed a war. I'm just glad we're the good guys -- those with Red Cross bandages. And we don't give you swords, bows and arrows, not even slings. We give you words. Your spirit and testimony are all you have -- and that's enough. We plead with you to open your mouth. You have to use the only weapon you have. Don't fall pray to memorization. In the old days, it didn't matter what anyone needed. They could be in the middle of a divorce -- 'That doesn't matter! We've got a lesson! Go sit in a corner and be quiet!' In the end, teach! Open your mouth!" Of course he was exaggerating to make a point, but I think what he said is very powerful.
One more thing. He was talking about Helaman 5:17-18 and said: "What did Lehi and Nephi use here? Did they beat those dissenters with a brick? Wrestle them to the floor? Stick a javelin in their toes? No. They used their words. Powerful, spiritual words, but words nonetheless."
He said so many more things -- I'm only about halfway through my notes -- but in the interest of time I'll move on.
I had an amazing Referral Center experience on Saturday. I had an online chat with a girl named Alexzandrea who is planning on getting baptized in December, when her parents let her. She had great questions, like "How do I tell my friends what the Book of Mormon is?" and other questions about different doctrines and beliefs. She had an amazing testimony -- you could tell she really loves the Book of Mormon. I talked with her for almost an hour, and at the end, she said, "If you are ever in Little Rock, Arkansas, look for me at church! Until then, I'll just be praying that someday you'll be sent here so that I can meet the man who answered all my questions and helped me feel the Spirit so strongly." I couldn't have asked for a better experience. That made me feel so great. That is truly the power of missionary work -- developing a love for our brothers and sisters. It makes me so excited to get out into the field and start preaching the restored gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ.
That pretty much sums up the highlights of my week. I'm still learning so much here and loving every day. Sometimes the MTC is monotonous; I'll admit that. But there is a spirit here that is at times palpable, and it continually motivates me to be better and work harder. My prayers have become more meaningful. When I read the Book of Mormon, I learn something to apply to my life every single time. I'm so excited for General Conference in a couple weeks -- never before have I been so excited to hear the words of living prophets, because I now understand how powerful they are.
In short, life here is incredible. This is, without a doubt, the best decision of my life to this point. I feel incredibly lucky -- for so many things. First off, for my family. Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reagan (and Nikka): you mean so much to me. Without the influence of every one of you, my life wouldn't be nearly so blessed. I love you all very much. My extended family has been a great example to me too. I love my friends as well. Every single one has touched my life in a special way and taught me something new. I'm so grateful for your support. My ward, Bishop Bell, the teachers I've had and the people I've come in contact -- they have all been blessings in my life. I'm just so grateful for the opportunity to be here on Earth -- to have such beauty and opportunity around me at all times, to be able to partake of this wonderful life. And I'm even more grateful to be on a mission and to be serving my Savior Jesus Christ. There could be no better calling.
My time's about up. Gabbie and Miranda - I love you guys, I love all of you very much.
Con amor, Elder Greer