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 dearelder.com, 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