Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 6 in the MTC

Champions trample lettuce-eating people?  What is this about?  What are they teaching him in the MTC anyway?  Something about T-Rex hands as punishment.

Last week’s post arrived while we were on the Church History Tour, so it didn’t get posted until today.  This one came after we were back, but trying to catch up on stuff.  So it’s just getting posted as well.  Still, great stuff!!

Once again, I feel I was just sitting writing an email home. The weeks are cruising by, but strangely enough the days are crazy long. Even though I'm getting eight hours of sleep every night, which is like twice as much as before my mission, I feel tired all the time. It's kind of nice, though, because every time I don't feel tired I know it's because I'm feeling the spirit. It's a good gauge there. Plus it helps me strive to have the spirit with me more.

Alright, let's start with the personalized stuff. Mom, Dad, and Michael, I understand you've been on the church history tour. I'm really glad to hear that everyone is doing well and had a good experience. That really is an awesome opportunity. And it's that much better because you were all able to meet up with Julie and Dave. How fun! Emily and Dave, I appreciate your letters and the work you're doing on that Spanish stuff for me. I'm genuinely excited for it, because I feel like there's some things I don't know how to fix in my Spanish. Lindsay, your life is boring. Just kidding! I'm glad Mike got a new job, and I hope school is going well for him. From what I remember you telling me, you've been really lazy lately, though (or as you've been calling it, "pregnant"). Just know that Mike needs his sandwiches, and there's no one else to make them for him! That goes for all you sisters of mine :). Stacey, I'm getting lazy but also really close, so here we go. Champions trample lettuce-eating people. I know, not quite as nice as normal, but still. Also I'm jealous that you're taking Steven to all these crazy places (so where is this really cool place?), and I expect the same treatment when I get home. Julie, I'm also sad to hear you're lazy, but just keep... living? I guess there's not really much to do about it for the next few months. Except name him after me. (Not your husband, of course. There's a difference)

Hopefully that'll satisfy you for now. I'm doing well, and have a couple quick things to share. First, Elder Dewey is now in the field. You may have known that, but still, it's all fun. I was able to teach him and be taught by him many times while he was here, so it's awesome. I don't see Elder Rasmussen nearly as much, but I believe he's well. Elder Duzzett comes in tomorrow, which I'm way excited for. I think I've only met one other missionary going to my mission in the whole time I've been here. Also, I talked to the travel office and they said I should have no problems getting my visa because El Salvador is really good like that, which I'm excited about, because basically all missionaries going to Mexico have been super delayed. We have one in our zone (who's finally leaving tomorrow) who has been here for over 16 weeks! That's a sixth of his mission!

Now a couple quick stories. I have been feeling kind of sick the last few days, so last night I asked for a blessing from Elder Millett and Elder Millard. In the blessing, Elder Millett blessed me to get better, but used very strange words for it. After, he said that it was really weird and that he felt kind of stupid for saying what he did, but the words he said were exactly perfect for me. It ended up being exactly what I needed. I am still kind of sick, but my attitude is a little better and my mind is much clearer. I know now that the reason I felt I should get a blessing had nothing to do with my body. Just a great testimony to me of the priesthood and how much the Lord knows what I need.

The temple was open today, finally, so I got to go through a session. So great! It was awesome to be in that kind of situation with the other Elders in my district and zone. There was such a great spirit, and I learned a ton of things I didn't know before. I can't wait to go in El Salvador and do a Spanish endowment.

The church is awesome. I'm sure I've said that many times, but it is. Also just as important, it's true.

My old roommate, Grant, wrote me a letter and mentioned something I'd never thought about. We all know that the Savior died for us, and took upon Himself our sins, sicknesses, weaknesses, etc. What many of us forget, though, is that He lived for us as well. He lived a perfect life so that He could perform a perfect atonement. He gave up, for His entire life, every little tiny sin that we sometimes take comfort in. He gave those up for us. Along those same kind of lines, Brother Gubler, one of the Branch councilors, told me that the Savior, in the Garden of Gatsemani (sorry, I can't spell that in English any more), basically went through and lived every one of our lives with us. He had to do this, or He would not be able to understand the little details of our sins and afflictions and weaknesses and therefore would not have been able to comfort us nor take upon Himself the results of those things. He literally undid the fall, and He did it for each and every one of us, one at a time. That's so incredible.

Again, I'm down to a few last minutes, so let's see what I can come up with. We're teaching a few progressive investigators here, which is an awesome experience. Basically a teacher will act like an investigator (very convincingly) every time you see them, and we just walk them through the lessons as if they were an actual investigator. It's rough, but really cool. Also, we've gotten to the point where we can only speak Spanish. If we exceed 30 words in English throughout the day, we have to walk around for four hours like a T-Rex, with our hands up by our chest. And I'm pretty sure we're doing that until we leave. Crazy.

Just a quick thought: The church is true. There. That was it. That's the only thing important here.

I love you all! Keep in touch, of course. I love getting your letters!

Elder E. David Arrington

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week 5 in the MTC

Something about Aardvarks.  I still don’t know what that means….

This message came while we were on the Church History Tour, so I didn’t get it posted until today.  Along with a couple more.

Hey everyone! This last week flew by, let me tell you. I don't remember hardly any of it since the last time I wrote. But it was good, as always. I loved hearing about all the stuff going on at home. Michael, I'm rather jealous that you know how to fix a car. That's something I've always wanted to learn, but it just never happened. Steven, I know you're now with the Leybas clan, so that's a blast. Julie, it's nice, as always, to hear about your simple life as a famous TV star's wife. Emily, I'm glad everything went well in Oregon, and I hope the packing is going well. Stacey, an awful aardvark ate ants. I don't think it can be any more clear than that. I have my reasons for it, so just take it like it is. But as always, I enjoy hearing about the parasite and Kyle's Xbox Xploits (oh yeah, I thought of that on my own). Lindsay, I have no idea what you're doing, but you're equally as interesting as the rest of the family. I'm assuming. Mom and Dad, I'm so excited to hear about the CHT! Seriously I'm way jealous. However, I feel like I can effectively live vicariously through you, so that coupled with the fact that I am on a campus filled with thousands of worthy priesthood holders all trying to feel the spirit and better their lives as much as possible, I think I'll survive :)

So that's what I think of you all. Fun, huh? I appreciate all of the updates on various people's mission calls, such as Erin and Alisa's. From what Adam told me in a recent letter, he and Kent both have their papers in now. It's an exciting time, for sure! (By the way, make sure you pass on my continual congratulations to those getting married, such as Alli and Erin Maurer). Also, it's nice to hear about things like movies from time to time, such as Inception, for two reasons. One, I get to feel at home a bit again, but two, I go back to work here and realize that I definitely got the better deal. The work here is far too fantastic to be compared to a good movie. Still, it's fun to know. Be sure to keep me up to date on all the goings-on of your missionary efforts, as well. I know a little of what those Elders go through, and they deserve all the referrals they can get.

Now, I've been asked a bit to share my experiences as a Zone Leader. First let me tell you all that I don't do too much. If an Elder or companionship has an issue, they go to the District Leader. If the District Leader has an issue, they come to me. If I have an issue, I first go to my District Leader, then to myself, then to the Branch Council. Crazy. I get to attend a bunch of leadership training and such, but mostly my job is just to make sure everyone knows what the rules and expectations are. Also, as new districts come in every week, it is my job to orient them, which we do on Wednesday (their first day), Thursday (for the general stuff), Saturday (for Sunday meetings), and Monday (for P-Day). And, of course, if ever they have questions, I answer them. Also, every time I've said "I" here, replace it with me and my companion, because we are both ZLs. Also, I'm in charge of ten districts right now, I think, which would be something like seventy or eighty Elders. I'm not really sure, because it changes every week. And to answer your last question (I think), I am the only Elder in my district going to El Salvador. Maybe in the whole zone, I don't know. My comp is going to Nicaragua, and the rest of the Elders in my district are going to Chile. Most of the other districts are going all over the world, as well, many of them state-side. There's really not that much of a pattern to it. I think it's because, since about half the Elders at the MTC are learning Spanish, they're more worried about putting you with people at your same level language-wise. Speaking of which, our zone is one of two zones only in the entire MTC that has an advanced Spanish district (basically natives). It's fun because we get to learn Spanish faster, I think, but at the same time frustrating, because they're only here for 3 weeks at a time. I'm jealous. But my Spanish is always improving. We just started learning about subjunctive, which basically means that I found out that half the things I've been saying are wrong in Spanish. My teacher said that most people who don't use subjunctive or don't know it yet just sound like little children when they speak. THAT's a confidence boost. And then twenty minutes after he told us all this, we went to go teach some of the advanced students lesson 2. Fantastic. But they're always really encouraging, always insisting that we speak much better than we think. Which isn't hard to do, since I don't think I'm that great.

I only have a few minutes left, but hopefully that'll give you all a little bit of an idea of what all that's about. By the way, Elder Rasmussen just walked in, too, so I'm trying to talk to him at the same time as I type. Anyway, all of you: keep writing me! I love getting letters from home more than anything, and that package that you sent (Mommy, I love you) was awesome. Thanks for all of the love and support!

Again, I'll leave you all with my testimony. This week I had the opportunity to read through my patriarchal blessing many times and learned a bunch of stuff that I didn't even know was in there, so that's awesome, but the most important thing that I learned or relearned is who I am. I am a son of God, and one of the choice spirits in the pre-mortal life. I was foreordained to be a missionary at this exact time to the people of El Salvador, and I hope that I can live up to that calling. I know that as I strive to learn here and teach in the field, the Lord will strengthen me and help me understand what it is I need to do. I can't do this work on my own. No man can. That's why the Lord has promised that if we just do our best to follow his council and work hard, He will instruct us and build us up. As I get off my butt and work, He will guide my thoughts and actions to build up His kingdom. I only hope that I can live worthily enough and work hard enough to call upon those blessings. I love you all! And of course, this work is true. I know it.

Elder E. David Arrington

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Speaking Spanish All Day Long….

David’s latest letter from July 13….

So here we are again at the close of the week. How fun. This week passed more quickly than I thought it would, and suddenly I've been here a month. Almost. Crazy. It's still hard to know that I've got 100 left, but it'll be good. I'm missing some big stuff at home, though. I'm plagued with questions about what's going on. For example, will I see the spawn of Emily, Lindsay, Julie and Stacey? Sometime after my mission, yes. But I'm still kind of sad I'll miss the first bit. There, I got it out right at the beginning. Now the rest of my letter can relate directly to my mission.

Yes, I'll miss all of that, but I'm missing it for a dang good reason. I'm running out of things to tell you all about the MTC and my companions, so I don't know what this will really be about. Although I do have to say that Elder Roach got a DearElder from his girlfriend last week that apologized for breaking up with him so brutally in a letter which he hadn't gotten yet, so we were all waiting for that. It finally came yesterday, and it was pretty good. We all had a good laugh, and he was a really good sport. Then he sat down today and wrote the best guilt-tripping response I've ever heard of in my life.

Our district is supposed to be speaking only Spanish at this point, but it's really hard. During meals and such I just want to say something, and I don't know how to say it in Spanish. But I'm getting there. In a couple days we're going to try to teach lesson 2 in Spanish, and I think we'll do just fine. We know all the vocab and grammar for it, it's just a matter of practice.

A few days ago we went into the Referral Center to call some people, but for some reason they were out of English contacts. I've never even heard of that happening, but it did. So of course our teacher throws us head-first into doing Spanish ones. I don't think you could understand how scared I was. Seriously. I suddenly had to speak Spanish to non-member natives. Somehow, though, the Lord helped us all through it. We ended up being very successful that day. I myself sent two sets of missionaries and bore my testimony a few times. It was a testimony to me that the Lord can help us through those times if we're prepared and have faith. Plus, Hispanic people make time to talk to you. They're so much nicer than Americans. I already love them, and I haven't even served them yet.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you that my mission scripture I had picked was Isaiah 49:5-6. It still is, unless you think I should change it. I just haven't come across any others that I like as much. But, of course, I'm open to suggestions.

Fun story. On Sunday we get to watch movies from 8-9, and there's usually four playing in different rooms. They rotate through a bunch of them, but the gym, being the largest room, gets the bigger movies. Usually they rotate through The Testaments, Joseph Smith (the really good new one), and Legacy. Just after we got here, we were all really excited to see the Joseph Smith movie because it's amazing, but it ended up getting cancelled because of the premiere showing of The District 2. It was way better than the first District, but still not quite as good as the Joseph Smith movie. But we figured, hey, no big deal. They'll rotate back to it in three weeks. Which was supposed to be this last Sunday. They passed around the schedule the night before, and it said that it was the Joseph Smith movie in the gym. Perfect. Literally minutes before it was supposed to start, though, they announced they were going to play the final episode of the District 2 instead. Ah! I think somebody in the mission presidency was just like, "Hey, don't you think the missionaries would love it if we surprised them with the District? They just love it when we do that." As if we'd just smile to ourselves and think, "Oh! They got us..."

The fireside that we had before, though, was really really good. Elder Oaks was there because his daughter, Jenny Oaks Baker, was giving the fireside. Evidently she's a world-renowned violinist and has played for countless orchestras, graduated from Julliard, and has several albums out. She even played for the Stadium of Fire a few years back, although that may not be as big of a thing as the rest of her resume. But what she would do is give a short little three minute story-ish talk, which was always cute and funny, but also really good, and then she'd play a song. Also, her nephew was playing accompaniment on the piano. But they were all so good! And she made it look so dang easy!

I got to help out at the TRC after my time on Friday afternoon, which was really exciting. We were investigators for the beginning Spanish kids, which really made me feel good about my Spanish. Oh, and I've seen Elder Rasmussen around a few times, now. I think he's gotten over the whole chapusero (noob) feel.

It's great to hear from you all again. I'm glad Emily and Dave could visit the family in Oregon, and you'll have to let me know how the move goes. Lindsay and Mike, I have no idea what you're doing besides helping old folks play croquet and boche. Stacey, just don't get distracted by what I'm saying here. It's elsewhere. But I love hearing about the orange and how Kyle is doing. Julie and Dave, I'm also less than informed as to your activities, but I'm sure they're jubilant. And I don't say jubilant.

Boys, I'm so glad you're keeping Mom and Dad busy. Really, they'd be bored to tears otherwise. Maybe tears of joy, but who knows.

Mom and Dad, I love you both. Probably more than any of the siblings, because it's your fault I'm here. Thanks for everything, and I miss my mommy every day.

In closing, really fast, I want you all to again know that I know the church is true. There isn't a doubt in my mind, and I'm ready to tell the world.

I love you all,

Elder Arrington

Friday, July 9, 2010

David’s letter from July 6

David’s emails come on Tuesday’s which is his preparation day.  This letter is one of our favorites so far—ok, they’re all our favorites.  This is slightly edited to remove personal messages, but we especially appreciate his testimony:

I think this computer completely works. Awesome.

As most of you should know, I was called as the District Leader. This was supposed to last for four and a half weeks, but they released me on Sunday due to extenuating circumstances. Those circumstances being that they've asked my companion and I to serve as Zone Leaders. Basically that makes us the District Leaders of District Leaders. It'll be a lot of work, but I know that the Lord will give us the strength and wisdom to fulfill that calling.

The days here are starting to blur together. I've been writing a page in my journal every night, but lately it's been really hard to remember what happened earlier in the day. It doesn't feel like three weeks have passed, but it definitely is still daunting that I've got 101 left. No matter how you look at it, two years is a long time.

Although I say things like that from time to time, do not misunderstand me and think I do this work grudgingly. On the contrary, I have grown to love missionary work more than I ever thought possible. I mean, just think about it. We have the key to salvation. We have the authority of the priesthood, which was lost after Christ and His apostles died. We have the Book of Mormon, which is far more than powerful, irresputable evidence that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that Christ visited the American continent. It contains the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have a modern prophet who can receive revelation for the church directly from God. We know why we are here, where we came from, and where we're going. We know why families are important, and that they can be together forever. And most important of all, we know exactly how to receive personal guidance directly from our Father in Heaven. This is something that we don't think about often. We don't really know what we have. These are things that everyone is looking for, and we have them. I want you all to know that I, at least, somewhat recognize the glorious things we have. I have receive personal confirmation from God that this church, the Book of Mormon, and everything contained therein are true. I could never deny that, nor would I. The guidance and strength that I receive from the Lord are far too important in my everyday life. I couldn't make it without them.

As for the classes here, they've been great. Remind the boys again that it is literally work from the beginning of the day to the end. We don't generally receive homework, though, simply because there's no outside-of-class time to do it. But I'm learning a ton. Not much new as far as the gospel is concerned, which I suppose I can blame on being born in the church, but my testimony of this great work has grown even firmer. My Spanish is growing more than just about anything else. Tomorrow is our first of many days to come in which we are not allowed to speak English. We'll just have to see how that goes. I've already taught the first lesson a few times in Spanish, and it went pretty well.

Fun story really fast. Me and Elder Millett were contacting around the MTC and found some native Spanish speakers, which is crazy nerve-wracking. Anyway, it went okay, but then Elder Millett mixed up the words "casa" and "cama" toward the end, asking them if we could come by their beds later to teach them more. Way funny.

Let's see. I hope you got my pictures and such that I sent. And sorry I missed Stacey and Steven's birthdays! Happy Birthday! At least I remember that Julie's is coming up. I don't really have much I can send as a present, though. The MTC is pretty barren besides the candy bars and such you can get at the bookstore.

The people here are great. Everyone, with very very few exceptions, knows why they are here, and are willing to work. The spirit we feel here all the time is incredible. You all have to keep me up to date on what's happening at home, though. I'm glad to hear Michael's Eagle Project is finished. It'll be nice to be able to relax for a bit. A little advice for you boys, though: Things only get harder as you get older, so just get it done. It's not worth complaining about. Just enjoy how little work you have now. And if you think you've got a ton of work, just trust me. You have no idea what a ton of work is. If you really want proof, try doing your eagle project in Spanish.

I've only got a minute or so left, so I'll just finish by saying I love you all. Sorry I can't get individual emails out. I've heard that we have a lot more email time in the field, so I'll try to then. Thanks again for the love and support!

Elder Arrington

PS: You can ignore in my last email when I said we had too much candy. Thanks for the package!