Another crazy week has gone by. Wouldn't be a week at the MTC without a bunch of unexpected events right? So last time I went chronological, which didn't end up working out because I didn't get to cover the most important things as thoroughly as I wanted. So sorry, but this is going to be completely out of order this time.
Last week, beginning the 23rd or 24th was the Mission President Seminar. So for every mission in the world there is a couple called and asked to serve as the Mission President of that area. They leave everything behind for 3 years, (jobs, extended family, friends, everything) and move to an area they have never been before and often learn a new language. If it is a younger family, the children come along as well. It is a great sacrifice, but a tremendous opportunity to serve as well. Mission presidents and their families are always top notch. So the seminar that was taking place was a little less than a week. During that time, any Mission Presidents that have been called and are beginning the 1st of July (so approximately 1/3rd of all missions have new mission Presidents) come to the MTC to receive training. Everything is a little different around the MTC during this time as there are many more people on campus and more rooms are occupied by them.
Anyway, on the final day of their training they had a general meeting in the evening to send them on their way. The missionaries were also invited to attend. At that meeting, 10 of the 12 Apostles were present, and one of them, Elder L. Tom Perry gave the talk. It was a powerful meeting. Just being in the room with men who have dedicated their lives completely to the work of God and who live so fully the teachings of Christ was incredible. In addition, one of my heroes, Elaine S. Dalton, a woman who has served in a couple callings as a general Young Women's leader for the church was there. I noticed her in the audience as the meeting ended and people were leaving. What an incredible opportunity to see so many powerful witnesses of Christ. In the interest of time, I'll ask Alex, my younger brother, to write a short blog post about Prophets and Apostles and the role they play, anciently and present day. Just a quick little note with some more information.
Along with that experience, something else happened the next day that was incredibly powerful for me. As we were coming back from gym time, many cars were leaving the MTC because the seminar had just officially ended. As we were standing at the light waiting to cross to come back in, we looked over and saw Elder Dallin H. Oaks leaving the MTC. In my journal I wrote the following:
"On the way back from the fields today we saw Elder Oaks leaving in his car. I was impressed by the fact that:
1. He was driving his own car with his wife next to him.
2. His car was a Toyota.
3. He stopped and rolled down his window and waved.
I don't think any of those things should be taken for granted!"
It was powerful to see this man, a leader of almost 15 million church members worldwide, and serving in the position as an Apostle, drove himself around, had a very moderate car, and took the time to say hello to a bunch of young and wiry missionaries. No limos, no escorts, nothing fancy for a man with the power to truly change the world. It strengthened my understanding of what it means to be in a leadership position and how that is a responsibility and not a position of power. I will not forget that experience.
Okay, so my temporary assignment. Somehow there was a miscommunication and my name was not submitted for a reassignment. The other members of my district all received theirs, they are going to Las Vegas, but I will be here for an extra week. Must mean I have more to learn. So I will be staying behind for one more week. My companion will be Elder Ward, a recent convert from North Carolina. We get along great and I am looking forward to working hard this last week. With him I know we can crack down and really work hard. I won't have to worry about if my companion is happy because I know he is here for the same reason I am, to work and improve and grow. So sorry, one more week before I can relay any big news.
There have been huge fires up in the canyons and I guess all across the state. One day it was so bad the sky was dark and it rained ash most of the day. The water smelled like fire the next day showering and so the whole campus smelled like a campout. Someone commented that it felt like Scout Camp all over again with so many young men around. The difference was the white shirt and ties.
While the mission presidents were here I got to sit down and meet with mine. He and his wife were just called, so they will be starting about the same time as me. It will be nice to have the same President for the whole time I am there. His name is President Wagner. He and his wife are plenty nice and really committed to this work. He seems to be someone who really believes in obedience and hard work, which is great for me. It will be easy to please him and hold myself and others to high standards when that is what is expected of us. I look forward to getting down there and getting to work. It is going to be great.
My Spanish is coming along. Next week I hope to use it almost all the time when it is just Elder Ward and me left. I have so much to learn, but I am almost always able to find a way to communicate my thoughts and feelings now. I know it will be completely different once I get to Mexico with more native speakers, but since I am in the advanced district, many of our district members are native speakers. It has been great to already begin to hear how the language will actually sound.
I just wanted to write this quick line and ask Alicia or my mom if they can figure out how to link this to my mormon.org profile. Mormon.org is a really cool website that has a lot of information about what it is I'm doing out here and what it is we believe. I made a little profile before I left and there are some really cool stories on there. So if you guys could figure out how to link this to my PROFILE that would be awesome. And everyone, write me your questions. That's what I'm out here to do, answer them. Thanks.
Just looking through my journal for the week I came across a note I had written to myself during one meeting or another. I wrote "Anyone can goof off, I'm going to be a real missionary." It has been a very interesting transition as I try to leave behind my concerns of myself and my home and devote myself first to learning, and soon to loving, sharing, and teaching. My biggest challenge right now is finding out how to work with companions effectively and getting us all on the same page so that we feel comfortable asking each other to do hard things. To study a little harder, to concentrate a little more, to work more efficiently. It is a tremendous lesson that I know will serve me well if I can ever figure it out. If any of you have experience working with your friends or co-workers and think you could offer some advice on how to encourage others without alienating yourself from them, I would love to hear your advice.
I really appreciate all of your support. I'll just re-emphasize that the best thing that you can give me now is your letters and your words of support. I really am doing quite well and have felt the support of you and of my Father in Heaven. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve and refuse to have any regrets at the end of it all.
If you write me a letter, I'll promise you a letter in return as soon as I can. The way it works as a missionary is that I get about 2/3rds of a day each week for personal time. Laundry and writing and eventually grocery shopping dominate most of the time. Here, Elders often sleep, but since time is the most precious of all the resources I have right now, I find other ways to spend it. So if you shoot me a letter (DearElder is great, and free!) be looking for a response a few days after my P-day (which is usually on Fridays here and will probably be Monday in the mission field). If I am not able to write that week, give me one more week.
You all are the best. Thanks for the support you are lending me and especially the help you are giving my family. I have heard already of things many of you have been able to do for my family while I am away and for that I am forever grateful. It is so comforting to know that the Lord is blessing my family through your service as I strive to fulfill my calling far away from them.
Thank you for your love and support.
Elder Eric Brighton