Hello Mom and Dad!
I didn’t quite have enough time to finish my email on Tuesday, so I’m writing you this. It’s hard to believe that I’m already 1/3 of the way through my MTC time. They told me that things really speed up after Sunday, and it’s true; the week has just flown by.
Well, as I currently have some time, I’m going to tell you all the things I didn’t have time for in my email. A lot of what we’ve been doing in the MTC has been role playing; pretending to be an investigator or teaching someone pretending to be an investigator. It helps us get a feel for what brings in the Spirit and what does not. Here’s all the people we’ve taught and how it went.
Friday night – last Friday – we taught Debbie (aka our teacher Sister Smith), an older lady whose mother-in-law was a temple worker, and thus invited the elders over to learn about the Church. Elder Letalu and I went and taught her. It . . . didn’t go well. Elder Letalu was nervous, so he kind of bounced all over the place, and Debbie lost interest.
So, to prepare for our next lesson, I resolved to make a great lesson plan so that I’d know exactly what to say . . . and I’d do most of the talking. Our investigator this time was Chantha, a 21-year-old Colombian working for UPS in Anchorage, with his two sons (3 and 1). We went to teach him, and it went horrible. I learned a few very important things, though. First, I needed to trust Elder Letalu and work with him – I’ve learned since that, while I might be better at raw doctrine, he’s just as good as me in speaking, feeling the Spirit, and teaching. We complement each other very well, actually.
The second thing is that we have to show that we care for the investigators, and not just jump into the lessons. I finally realized, in fact, why Dad home teaches the way he does, and that he was actually brilliant all along. Here I was thinking that Dad needed to focus more when home teaching – to get in, give the lesson, and get out, and not spend half an hour just talking. But it turns out that that half hour helps them know that they are loved and tells us what they need help with. In other words, Dad, I was reminded, yet again, how cool you are.
The final lesson I learned was that you need the Spirit to teach. Here I was, the debator, the actor, the writer, thinking that I could simply bear my testimony with a few explanations and all would be good. Nope. If you don’t have the Spirit – and listen to what it tells you to say – you can’t do anything.
So Elder Letalu and I tried a different strategy. We’d get to know the gospel, the BofM, and PMG extremely well, and study any specific questions the investigator had, but we wouldn’t write any solid lesson plan. Our idea is, if the knowledge is in the reservoir, the Spirit will tell us what we should bring out.
On Monday we started TRC teaching: actors, who may or may not be members, being investigators. We taught Jose, a man from the mountains of Guatemala, using our new approach. Dad’s mission made a good ice breaker, though I regretfully don’t remember much about the actual living conditions other than the geckos and the bad water, so I couldn’t relate too much to his upbringing. Thankfully, Elder Letalu’s dad grew up on a plantation in Samoa, so we were covered there. Jose asked us two main questions: Why does God allow bad things to happen? And Why is there inequality in the world?
We didn’t get a chance to answer his questions that lesson, but we had done well at getting him to know we cared for him. When we came back on Wednesday, we answered his questions. We explained that God has given all of us free will, and automatically rewarding righteousness or punishing wickedness would take away free will. We are given the ability to do what we wish with the options that present themselves to us: to fight and live, or to give up and die; to do good, or to choose the easy path and do bad. Jose told us that we was a fighter, and broke the cycle in his family by coming to America. But then he said, “I don’t want to right anymore. I want peace.”
Elder Letalu and I then shared our personal conversion stories (I’ll mention Elder Letalu’s soon) to Jose, about how we know the gospel brings peace. The Spirit was very strong in the room. I wish we’d had ten more minutes and a Book of Mormon . . .
We then taught Debbie again, trying our new strategy. We got the Spirit into the room, and got her to commit to reading the BoM. Our second lesson with Chantha went much better, too; we taught him the Plan of Salvation. We also taught a TRC less-active person: a 70-something lady who left the church fifty years ago who we’re trying to get to come back. Her name is Wilda.
Wilda said that she didn’t want to come to church because A) the time commitment and B) she thought people would judge her. I related to her how Mom felt moving into our new ward, with all its members who’d lived there forever. That seemed to go down well. We challenged her to go to church; she said “I’ll try.” Elder Letalu gave her a Look and said with a smile, “Now, Wilda, I’m not going to take that for an answer. That’s not good enough for me.” So, she committed. Man, I wish I had the Poly license to say stuff like that to people.
I’ve had my own chance to be an investigator. My first is Gabe Miller – my high school friend – and the elders committed me to read the BoM as of my second lesson. The other persona is Joseph, an old black guy taking care of his grandkids.
As for other cool experiences . . . my district did a session at the temple on Tuesday, which was great, and we went to a devotional by Rex D. Pinegar afterwards. After that, Elder Letalu and I were led on a wild goose chase to find Elder Poulson, who was needed at the front office and, as his ZL’s, we were supposed to find him.
Wednesday I gave my first Priesthood blessings, as poor Elder Gray started throwing up and eventually had to stop by the BYU medical center with his comp, Elder Roe. So that was a first for me.
Other fun stuff: we welcomed the newbies Wednesday. One of the companionships consists of an Elder Short and an Elder Lower. Elder Letalu and I thought that was really ironic, and we guessed correctly that they’d both be at least 6’5”, before we’d even seen them. (Elder Lower is higher)
My knee is completely healed now. The elders in my district have been entertaining themselves by playing a game where, if you see someone make a certain hand sign, you have to do 5 push-ups. A lot of them are extremely sore by now.
I am the tallest and probably overall strongest in my district. Elder Letalu died after doing the bench press with me, and I’m way stronger in the arms.
Also, I found out that I will get to give you a phone call when I’m at the airport in a few weeks! So exciting! So I’ll either need some quarters or a card of some kind, for a pay phone.
I’ve gotten some great letters lately from Laura, Sam, April, and some sweet sister in our ward whose name escapes me. I love letters so much. The Twix made my day, Mom, and there was much celebration upon the arrival of my socks.
Some final cool thoughts. Elder Letalu, as I’ve said, is 23. It turns out he had a young lady; he left the church and ran off to Hawaii. He got an inspired mommy phone call at the critical moment, which got him to return home. He’s a great guy. I love all his insights. When we read through Lesson 2 of the PMG, (the Plan of Salvation) and reached the Spirit World, we discussed how people from Paradise can teach people in Prison. He said, if the number of promptings, visitations, and visions to members and nonmembers to do temple work is any indicator, the missionary work is going extremely well on their side. It’d be fun to see Paul and Alma as mission companions.
And one final thought. Eh, maybe tow. Sam wrote to me not too long ago. Inside, he mentioned an exchange we had while he was on his mission, where I said my favorite Book of Mormon prophet was Mormon, and he said his was Moroni. He told me (and I paraphrase): “Some days, Danny, you will be the conquering general, full of power, and some days you will be the lonely wanderer, with nothing but the message you carry to comfort you..”
And that message is this: when Elder Letalu and I met with Brother Meyers to discuss Zone Leader duties, Brother Meyers wanted to give us hugs once we finished. I really appreciated this, and told him about hot it took me ten minutes to get Dad to give me a good-bye hug. Brother Meyers said he didn’t mind, and then he said, “After all, if you were walking down this hallway, and the Savior came around the corner and saw you, what would He do? Would He give you a handshake, or would we run into His arms and embrace in tears?”
That’s our message. God loved us, so He sent His Son to do what we could not. Jesus Christ atoned for us, and He felt our pains, so that when we do meet Him at the last day, we can embrace in tears. Because of Him, we will all live again. Forever.
I sure love you. I miss you when I think of you. I pray for you each night. I look up to you and admire you. Be happy. Have fun with the Olympics. Good Luck! Love you!