Greetings from Utah!
I hope that you all had the chance to read my first update. If ever you have any questions about my mission that aren't answered by these emails, please reply! I'll try to respond to them in a timely manner.
Is it already Saturday? I was told last Sunday by an Elder in my zone (a group of districts, refer to previous email for definition) that it would feel like two days before it was Sunday again. Too true. The week has flown by. In a sense, it reminded me of college. The days felt like weeks and the weeks, days.
Last Sunday consisted of church meetings and devotionals. At home, I'm accustomed to attending three church meetings one right after the other, which typically lasts three hours. Here, the meetings are held throughout the day. Sacrament Meeting is the most important one as it is the meeting where we remember the Savior and His Atonement through partaking of bread and water that has been blessed. Through the Sacrament, I believe I can be cleansed of my sins. As I have tried to make changes in my life that eliminates the bad and increases the good, I have been strengthened further through Christ's Sacrifice.
It was during this meeting that I was able to play piano for a special music piece (Sister in Zion and Army of Helaman medley) and I also played the hymns for the meeting. It was awesome! I love playing and singing hymns!
Other meetings occurred throughout the day. In the afternoon, the Elders in our district took a walk to the Provo Temple and stayed on the grounds for a little while. With a blue sky overhead and majestic mountain peaks surrounding us, it was truly a beautiful sight. America, the Beautiful has ran through my head a few times while I've been here. Sunday evening, all the missionaries attended a devotional where the managing director of the Missionary Department, Stephen B. Allen spoke to us. He talked about being true and faithful and we sang "True to the Faith" which is a hymn that always warrants the organ to be opened up. We sat with a group of Sisters who will be heading to Nampa, ID as well: Sis. Gibbs, Sis. Mackelprang, Sis. Leavitt, and Sis. Hurst. Sis. Hurst actually has a brother in the MTC right now! The Hurst family is making big sacrifices, but then again, all the family and friends of currently serving missionaries are making huge sacrifices.
After the devotional, we stayed and watched a pre-recorded talk given by Elder David A. Bednar, who is one of our church leaders. By the way, whenever I say "Elder" it is just a title given to those who are in full-time service to Jesus Christ. Us young guys are called Elders as well as our church leaders because we are both serving full-time. Anyway, Elder Bednar's talk was about the character of Christ. We learned about how we should always be striving to not turn inward and harbor selfish thoughts and desires, but to turn outward and serve others with no thought for ourselves. That, my friends, is going to take my entire life (and longer) to learn and apply in every situation.
On Tuesday evening, we had another devotional where Elder Stanley G. Ellis gave a message about being obedient to God and striving to do our best as missionaries. He is another of our church leaders. Afterward, we met together as a district and were led in a discussion by our district leader, Brother Ellis, who is actually Elder Ellis's cousin.
Throughout the week, our district woke up early to go and help clean the classroom and dormitory facilities. These are welcome opportunities because we get to dress in regular clothes instead of our suits and ties. Gym time is the only other time we get during the day to wear something other than missionary attire. I've been ballin' things up here for sure, though I've yet to win a game of H-O-R-S-E.
This Friday, we had an in-field orientation, which was a series of lessons and breakout session, which taught us practical things for when we start our mission work. It was an exhausting day, but pretty much every day is here. Increased amounts of stress is normal here, but I've seen that as I've turned things over to God and sought His help, He has blessed me with the Holy Ghost to feel more calm and comforted.
The most poignant question I was asked this week: How do I get into heaven? For the answer, I wish to share a scripture from the Book of Mormon. "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." - 2 Nephi 25:23
I believe that this life isn't it. There is life after life. Jesus Christ made that possible for us.
Remember my challenge to you? Stepping outside your comfort zone and serving someone? I would love to hear about your experiences. I had several opportunities to serve others, in word and deed. My companion and I spoke with a man who has had a rough life growing up and we listened to and encouraged him. After talking with him, we felt better than we would have felt had we not stopped and talked to him.
My challenge for you this week is to compliment someone you don't know every day. I will be trying to do this as well. It may mean you find more friends. If not, you'll at least feel better and be able to see others in a more positive way.
Thank you to those who sent me a couple bags/boxes of goodies! The Elders in my room and floor as well as I enjoyed them very much! It really makes the day even sweeter when I get notice that I have a letter or package waiting for me!
I hope and pray you are all doing well!