Monday, May 31, 2010

J.J. on Sunday with his “going away” cake. It read “Wishing You the Best Two Years!”

Last Sunday at home with family and friends.

J.J. was excited to fly from Virginia on Monday.

Tuesday, the night before entering the MTC. J.J. announced after dinner that he was so excited he wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink. We got back to the hotel, he plopped on the bed, and the rest was history.

Saying good bye in front of the Provo Temple before entering the MTC.
Dear Family,

I am having a great time this week as well. Yesterday (Monday) our class started on el Desafío Máximo (the Ultimate Challenge). Our teachers, Brother Ammons and Sister Smith, thought that we were advanced enough to speak only Español, all the time. So, they gave us the Ultimate Challenge, to speak Spanish 100% of the time (including at meals, during gym, on P-days, and in our residence halls), until we leave the MTC. And the Desafío Máximo started yesterday at wake up time. It has been hard, but it is definitely going to be worth it. Sister Smith told us that we are either going to have to go through this (speaking only Spanish all the time) now, or when we get out into the mission field, and it is better to go through it now, definitely. We are only allowed to write letters and read scriptures/Preach my Gospel and church stuff in English. Of course, we have had some hilarious mistakes. For instance, in class, one of the Elders in my district was talking about the Savior's love, and Elder Grover said that "él tiene armas abiertas" (trying to say, "He has open arms"). Unfortunately, armas in Spanish doesn't mean "arms" (which is brazos), but actually means "weapons." We had quite a good time laughing about that mistake. Also, in Spanish, embarazada doesn't mean "embarassed"; it means "pregnant." I read a story once about a sister missionary accidentally saying that she is embarazada. But it is getting a lot easier. My companion and I have already taught several lessons completely in Spanish, and we are getting really good. The last two were only ten minute lessons, but they were completely improvised--we didn't know what we were going to teach until ten minutes before. I have actually started translating things in English while I'm reading them into Spanish in my head, without thinking about it.
Yesterday it snowed! It wasn't flurries or a little snow, either. It snowed from wake-up time until about lunch time. There was snow actually accumulating on the ground. They had to shovel some of the sidewalks, and a big tree next to another residence hall fell over around 8 or 9 from the weight of all the snow, combined with the wet ground (it had been raining the day before). Today, it is just a normal spring/summer day. Yesterday, the 24th of May, we had a snowstorm. It was really weird.
I was going to send you some attached pictures of me and my companion and my district, but the computer for missionary email won't let me upload them. So I will just have to have them printed and mail them to you. I found out a couple days ago that all the missionaries in my district going to Argentina were required to bring sleeping bags--so I have been feeling grateful that I am going to a stateside mission, and will not be camping out at all during my mission. I did manage to find several elders in the beginning Spanish class who are going to my mission, and I even found a sister in the same class building as me who is going to the Carlsbad California mission.
Last week's General Authority devotional was with Elder Christensen of the Seventy, about the Book of Mormon (it was all about focusing on using el Libro de Mormón when you are teaching investigators). On Sunday night, for our MTC fireside, Brother Allan (the managing director of the Church Missionary Department) came and spoke to us. He was completely hilarious. He told us to be the best missionaries we can, so that when we look back at our two years on the flight home, we can say that "I have no regrets." He said it would go by in the blink of an eye (which seems far away, but these last two weeks have literally flown by). After the fireside, we had our weekly Church Movie Night (it is hilarious how excited the missionaries get for Church Movie Night on Sunday nights after firesides--it's almost like being able to relax). Tonight we have another General Authority devotional. I'm hoping for an Apostle, or President Monson.
I have gotten so used to wearing missionary clothes that wearing jeans and a t-shirt on P-day feels like a special treat. I actually feel normal when I am wearing white shirts (and even though I don't like how short-sleeved white shirts look very much, I have become especially fond of their practicality).
Well, to wrap up, I wanted to share a great quote that my teacher (Brother Ammons) told us during class. He said that right before he entered his mission in Madrid, Spain, Elder Bednar had come to his mission, and one of the things that Elder Bednar said was (talking about priesthood blessings and stuff like that) "Require mucha fe ser senado, pero require más fe no ser senado"--translated, "It takes a lot of faith to be healed, but it takes more faith to not be healed."
Well, I don't have any more time to write, so I will talk to you next week!


Elder Gibbons
Querida familia (Dear family),

I love it here at the MTC! I have already been through one companion (he was getting super homesick, so he left four days after he came in--but he has an invitation to come back when he is ready), but my second companion (Elder Zebley) is very nice, and he is great at Spanish. It has been amazing to me how fast I have been able to remember my Spanish. I was a little worried about how much I would be able to remember,but it has been coming back very fast. Starting yesterday, all of our classes will be completely in Spanish, but that is fine because I am able to understand nearly all of it. I am also able to speak with much more ease than I was ever able to in high school. By Saturday, I had learned how to pray in Spanish and bear my testimony (I went and did share my testimony with other missioneros hispanohablantes--Spanish speaking missionaries--as part of an assignment for my class). I am able to read Preach My Gospel (Predicad Mi Evangelio) and the scriptures in Spanish if I work at it. There have been times when I have been reading something in English and caught myself unconsciously translating it into Spanish in my head.
The MTC Cafeteria is great. It is all-you-can-eat and there is almost always something fried to eat (there are usually four choices). There is little wonder that so many missionaries gain weight at the MTC. Our branch is a lot of fun. Every Sunday, we have a member of the branch presidency speak, but the other two speakers are missionaries. We play "Mormon Rouelette"--every missionary in the branch is supposed to write a talk on the topic for the week, and in sacrament meeting (without advance warning) the branch presidency randomly calls up two elders. They say most missionaries do very well, but they can always tell from the look of terror on their faces, the elders that haven't prepared.
Dad, you will love this. Our MTC President, in the opening orientation, emphasized some rules from the Missionary Handbook. He emphasized that we can't call each other 'man,' 'dude,' or 'guys', because we are "Elders" and that his how we should refer to each other. Another rule that he emphasized was that we should never play pranks on each other. He said (paraphrased) "The only other people in our Church with the title 'Elder' are General Authorities. Can you see the Apostles playing pranks on each other? Live up to your title." I had to try hard not to laugh, because I had a mental image of Elder Holland and Elder Oaks wrapping President Monson's car in saran wrap. Also, our branch president has rules that we aren't allowed to have our jackets unbuttoned when we are standing, and we are never allowed to have our hands in our pockets (just so we look good).
Apparently, the night before I checked in, Elder Holland came to speak at the MTC (every Tuesday, we have a General Authority devotional, and they don't announce the speakers beforehand). I have heard so many people talking about the incredible talk that he gave this week. I wish I had been there the night before. Some of the quotes I have heard from his talk include:

- "You elders have absolutely no right to be anything less than what members expect you to be. They respect you as servants of the Lord, and Christ's representatives. Little children, especially, think you walk on water. And you have no right at all to disappoint them."
- "If you get home from your mission, and grow a beard, and wear lots of rings and necklaces, and be lazy and sloppy, and be an idiot, I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE. I know that's not very apostolic, but I feel very strongly about this."

All in all, I am very disappointed that I missed it.
We get to write emails and letters on preparation day, so send me as many letters and emails as possible and I will try as hard as I can to respond as much as possible. If you go on, you can send me letters that get delivered the same or next day, for free. It is very convenient. (I have become the elder in our district who gets an annoyingly large amount of mail. I got six letters yesterday. It's a nice position to be in.)

Enjoy your week! I am done with week 1 out of 104!

Love, Elder Gibbons