Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Family,
     Wow!  That you are able to fit the car in the garage is about the most exciting thing I've heard this week!  This week hasn't been boring or long or even stressful, but I'm just excited to hear about the garage and the grapes and the obnoxious apartment tenants.  I am really happy here, and I love learning and doing this work.  However, I'm still excited to hear everything you send me about the family and the Cache Valley happenings, even if I don't have time to write back about all the little things you send.  I still treasure them, so THANK YOU!
This is 5 minutes after Joseph arrived.  I was really happy!
     Oh, hey!  This week I met Joseph Stock, the other trumpet section leader and my awesome friend, duringhis approximately 10 minutes at the Main Campus.  I caught him just before he was bused over to the West Campus.  Wow, I think I can say that was a blessing for both of us.  Because of how short his window of time here was, and because of how much I'd been hoping to see him, I think the Lord was watching out for me.
Here's me....apparently eating my travel plans.  I was sooo excited!

     Holy cow!  I totally forgot (I don't know how!): I got travel plans this week! !  I also got my new name tags which are super cool and way exciting.  I feel just a little more official now.   Wah! (wow! in Chinese) I only have a week left in the MTC!!  Well, I will definitely enjoy it as much or more than I already have, before I go the way of Elder Fronk (who left this morning at 3:30 and is probably flying over the north pole right now.)
Elder Fronk and I on his last night, with hymn books
     Something I've learned this week that I think is great: have daily personal "devotional" with the Lord.  This is something that I have not thought about specifically, although I have been doing well in personal study, prayer and journal time.  In our fast Sunday Mission Conference, it was suggested that each of us needs a little time to really ponder - not reading, not writing, just thinking and inviting personal revelation.  I think it sounds like a great idea, and I want to try it out.  I'm getting better at managing my time, but there is still hardly time enough to fit in all the good things we're told to do each day.  I know it will be better out in the field, but I realize I still need to focus only on what is most basically important, narrowing down all the "good" things I want to do, until I am doing only the "best" things.
     I also loved Elder Bednar's address to the missionaries entitled "Doctrines, Principles, and Applications," given at the MTC in some previous year.  He asked the question, "In your life in the Church, which have you focused on more, Doctrines and Principles, or Applications?"  He spoke of the importance of "True doctrine, understood, chang[ing] behavior and attitudes."  He emphasized that the doctrine answers the "Why?"  the principle answers the "What?" and the application answers the "How?" questions.  He emphasized that no matter how much we focus on the applications, we will be doing no real, lasting good if we don't understand ("which is more than just mental comprehension") and love the doctrine.  Gimmicky applications, like baking a cake on the first day of the month for the home teachers to eat whenever they choose to show up, will not cause change or express love -- "Doctrine is always the answer."  We go home-teaching, not to report to the clerk, not because we've been told to and we're being obedient without understanding, but because we want to "be with, love, and strengthen the members." That is the doctrine; That is always the answer.  I thought about it for a while last night after I watched the address, and I believe that is something our family has done very well.  I am so grateful for parents who have taught me the doctrine behind so many aspects of living the gospel.  Thank you so much for your understanding of it, and your willingness to share it with your children because you love them!  I feel that what you have shared with me, at family scripture study, at family home evening, when I ask you questions, and by bearing your testimony through what you say every day, has blessed me more than I ever realized before.  I love you so much for it, and hope you will continue to strengthen the family by always living your testimonies, sharing them with each other, and focusing on the doctrine of Christ's gospel.
     Wow, I simply cannot express how much this has meant to me for 18 years, and how much I love each one of you in my family, but I hope a small part of it comes through!
     Thank you all for writing me, especially those to whom I don't have time to reply, like the Burton family, and Grandmas and Grandpas Baer and Jones. (It was wonderful to get your letters and package this week!)  I love all of you, I pray for you, and I thank you for your prayers and support!
Love,
Brennan

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 8?!





Hi Family, and other readers, if there are any,

Durtschi,

Dorothy,

All those friends,

Sun Bears, Mouse Deer, Malaysian bugs,


Wow, last week I said I couldn't picture anything but my family sitting around the house while Mom went crazy.  I hope that's not actually what's happening.  However, every time I hear from the family, it sounds like every day is just packed with good things.  I really do remember it being like that sometimes, or all the time, but that life seems so far away right now.  It hit me this morning that I'll begin my eighth week on Wednesday.  That is so strange!  I remember the family dropping me off, about a million years ago, and I remember what my life was like in high school about 2 weeks ago, and I can't even conjure up an image of Icon, and I swear the little date-indicator on my watch jumped straight from Aug 7 to Sept 23.  Time is weird.

Mom, I remember you asking me to write honestly about my experience, including the disappointments and hard times, because a mission isn't just rosy and happy and fun all the time.  Well, maybe that doesn't apply to the MTC, or something, because I am honestly super-fantastic, every day!  Actually, there was a 2 hour period right after a lesson with Winnie, one of our "investigators," sometime last week, where I was bummed.  Our message hadn't been received (actually hadn't been given) very well.  I felt like I wasn't focused enough on helping her, or that maybe I hadn't listened hard enough to the Spirit in our meeting, and Elder Fletcher and I weren't sure what to do next.  Our teacher evaluated with us a little later, I prayed with my companion, and we listened to a great lesson, and before it was lunchtime, I was looking forward anxiously to our next appointment, and was my normal, happy self again. Sometimes I surprise myself with how well things are going.  I talked with Steve Durtschi  last night, who asked me: "How have you been, all this time at the MTC?" I said "I love it!  Every day is better than the last!"  He said, "Well, I'm glad.  Not everyone has that experience."  I told him, "I'm making it my experience."

I really think that things are going well.  Now that I think about it, I recognize some things that, if I had blown them out of proportion in my mind, as did a couple of missionaries in my district, could have been grounds for discouragement or disappointment.  As I review my day, before I go to bed each night, I don't even think of events like that.  This doesn't sound very humble of me, but I really know I have a good attitude.  I look forward to challenges, because I want to learn and prepare for "real life" out in the mission.  When I have this attitude, and the Lord's help, I step over the challenge with more ease than I had imagined, and I'm almost above it before I realize it could have been hard.

Speaking of hard . . . right now, it's hard to know how to prepare for entering the field.  I (obviously) still don't know what to expect when I get to Singapore and Malaysia, but I talked to Mu Laoshi, who served in my mission.  He said that when he served, one year ago, most of the Mandarin missionaries were in Singapore or East, not West.  He told me about some very
 . . . interesting . . . things.  Two quotes: "I wanted to call Science and tell them, 'Have you seen this place? The mammals are all way too small and the bugs are way too big!'" And, when asked about his most strange, bizarre, embarrassing, or defining moment, "It's definitely the best mission in the world.  And if it's not, it's certainly, without any doubt, the most interesting.  My whole time in Malaysia was just one big, continuing  crazy experience.  Every day, I would say to myself, about something or other, 'what? . . . that is just not supposed to happen to a person.'"  
Can you find a picture of sun bears, mouse deer, and Malaysian grasshoppers for me?  I don't know if it will comfort me or make me want to come home, based on his description.

Mom's note: Here are some pictures.

Sun Bear
Mouse Deer - Singapore Zoo
Sun Bear's - long tongue!

Malaysian King Grashopper






 









 
My jewel of truth from the scriptures this week:  In my own strength, I realize I can do nothing, because, left to myself, I'm the natural man, who is an enemy to God.  However, when I live in such a way that I "turn outward in love, service, and compassion, rather than selfishly inward," I put off the natural man, which leaves room inside me for the Holy Ghost to take over and guide my thoughts and actions.  I realize, from Nephi, the Brother of Jared, and other examples, that it's really not me doing the hard work, but it's the Lord's power, through me, because I've let him in.  I've learned this lesson all week but especially from 2 Nephi 1:25-27; 1 Nephi 17.  I think I've previously mentioned Elder Bednar's address to missionaries a few Christmases ago, "The Character of Christ."  I would advise the family to find it and watch it together, if you can.  It's one of the most direct, powerful, and meaningful messages I've ever heard the prophets give.  I watched it again last night, instead of watching a new film, because I love it so much.  I picture that Mom would really love it a lot, too.  I hope you find it!

Mom's note:  Here's a link to Elder Bednar's talk,  "The Character of Christ."  It isn't available to the public in video or audio format. 


I'm really doing great, every day I learn so much, and I feel the Spirit all the time, because I listen.  It truly is good, and I pray that life at home is good, too.  But let me know either way!

Love,

Brennan


P.S.  Look up "Preparation with a Purpose: Life in a Mormon Missionary Training Center" on mormonnewsroom.org for a couple of familiar faces from Mountain Crest.  (Mom's note: watch the episode dated September 17, 2013)


I met Sisters Petersen, Bagley, and Fronk, all at the same time.
Elder Fletcher and I smell the Cream Soda Tree.

Elder Delicana poses with Elder Simmons and Elder Fletcher on his last day at the temple before he goes to his reassigned area in California.  (His district left for Taiwan about 2 weeks ago, so he's living with us now.  He's a hoot, and we all love him!)
Some poor pictures of a violent flash (2-3 minutes long) rain-hail-rain-wind-rain storm that tore through the MTC a few days ago.



 It was still sunny the whole time.  :{

Monday, September 16, 2013

Letter - September 16, 2013

Hi Family! 

Thanks for telling me about DearElder.  Even though I receive them, (which I love, by the way) I don't really know how it works.  That's kind of how I feel about most things here at the MTC.  I know what the rules say, but I don't really know why or how things run.  I just try something, and if it doesn't fail, I do it again.  I've just kind of gotten used to this sense of not quite meeting lots of important, but vague, expectations, placed upon me by no one in particular, just the campus/"them."

Oh hey, last night, I conducted "A Child's Prayer" with Sister Dunn, in front of all the missionaries in Provo.  Yikes.  My district says I'm famous now, because I was on all the giant TV screens.  I met lots of people who said lots of nice things, like "That was really great conducting," or "You conduct feichang hao," or "Do you ever smile when you conduct?"  There's something to work on.

Wow, it sounds like the USU game was a ton of fun to watch.  Did it ever get boring, at upwards of 50 points, or was it just great the whole time?  Please keep me posted on the football scene.  I will be in Provo for the BYU-Utah game this week, but unable to watch it.  I can hear the fans, and the murmur of the announcements, but can't hear the score.  I think this is probably going to kill Qiu Zhanglao (Elder Fletcher, if I hadn't already said that) because he can count on one hand the number of BYU home games he's missed since he was 10.  He has always had season tickets, so this is hard.  He's a trooper, though.

I hope bottling is going well - I hope you have enough food, too.  I'm sure you do, but not being at home, I have no feel for how things are actually going, or for what you're excited for or concerned about.  I don't even know why the peach tree had problems, but it sounds like you still bottled a lot of miracle peaches.
I hope the Kitchens and Sister Bodrero are okay.  I was really sad to hear about them this week.  I will pray for them.  I will also keep Grandmas and Grandpas in my prayers.  I thank them for their letters and wish them the best health and recovery.

Good luck to everybody: to Lauren with death by marching band week, to Noelle with death by school -- all the time, to Erin with still-new middle school, and to Evan with...whatever his death is by lately.  I feel a little like I don't really know how everyone's life is going right now.  I can only picture the family sitting around the house (except for Mom, with a thousand errands/PTA meetings) wondering why nothing is happening. (Okay, that sounds silly, but that's my imagination, because I'm not there witnessing what's happening, so I just assume nothing is happening.)  If Noelle or Lauren or Erin or Evan have any time, it would be lots of fun to get a DearElder from them, telling me what they see happening.

Thanks to everyone for your love and your letters.  I love all of you so much!
Love,
Brennan
Provo Temple

Met Elder Michael Rush

I met Sister Petersen and Elder Fronk at the same time.  When we take pictures here, we can only stand next to each other, and we look kind of stiff.  Oh well.  It's better in real life, when we're not being photographed.

Elders (including elder Michael Ensign) from one now-departed district.  I love these guys.

Also today's morning sky.  You probably can't grasp just how beautiful it was, from this picture.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Letter - September 9, 2013



Hi all,

It was nice to hear about Bear Lake and the poisonberry pie, and the Parade of Homes.  As much as I liked the Parade of Homes, I always thought that my home had something better than any of those.  I think it was the love that was always felt there.  I realize just how much strength I have gained from the testimony that was constantly shared in our home - thank you, Mom and Dad, and keep sharing love and testimony with Noelle and Lauren and Erin and Evan, because they will benefit from it so much more than I think you may realize.  I know I have, and I can't thank you enough.

Candy stash
The wealth/burden of candy in my room increases with every departing district.  We can barely hold all of it in our shelves/closets/drawers/pockets.  I still love getting packages on "free Fridays," though, so don't stop! 

Learning to fly indoors






This week has been great, but unpredictable.  The weather has been awesome - rain every day, and thunder most days.  The downside is that I haven't been allowed to play Paiqiu (volleyball) for days - I can see the effects of this deprivation taking toll on everyone in my residence.  We had to resort to learning how to fly indoors (see pictures) and two-on-two basketball in the room, using Elder Simmons' new Nerf basketball hoop.  It is just like Evan's, and it has provided us with a lot of fun and several bruises.
Two-on-two Nerf basketball










This Saturday, for district FHE, we watched "Johnny Lingo" and "The Phone Call."  Wow.  Mostly we just laughed the whole time.  I would recommend watching those to the kids, and then Noelle and Lauren can send me their reviews via dear elder.  Watching these movies brought back fond memories of watching old films with Mom, like "Cypher in the Snow" and "The Mailbox."  Those really left a strong impression on me when I was young, about paying attention and being kind to everyone.

Oh, earlier that day, BYU played Texas, and I could hear the roar of the stadium, and the trumpets and snares from my residence.  I've never really had a desire to go to games other than my own school's, but at that time, I felt a real sense of longing for the life I left behind.  Until that day, I had never considered what kinds of things I was actually giving up to serve a mission, and I had actually never considered it a sacrifice, but now I realize it is a bigger sacrifice than anything else I've ever done.  I guess I knew that, but I never really felt it until two days ago.
 with Elder Sessions

with Elder Wagner
Hey, this week I met Elder Neil Sessions and Sister Dorothy Petersen (although I didn't get a picture with her, darn!)  I also said a final farewell to Elder Caleb Wagner, who has just left the MTC for Daejon Korea.  Also, I ran into a Megan Wengreen, who I sadly cannot remember, but who graduated a year before me, and sends her regards to Dad.

We've gone through three teachers so far.  First, Bi Laoshi left us (I think I wrote about him last week).  This week, Shi Laoshi, our "yoked" (he is a personal trainer) half-Taiwanese teacher left, and we've already driven away his replacement, Bai Laoshi.  Bai Laoshi played a very difficult investigator - it took him 6 months in the field to help him be baptized - but was a great Zhongwen grammar scholar, and taught us powerfully how to focus on the needs of people, not just teaching lessons.  But, he's gone, too.  Now we have Jiang Laoshi, who I really like because she helps us plan effectively, and she helps us feel love for our investigators.  We now have Jin Laoshi.  He and I demonstrated teaching in a role-play, in which I was the investigator.  He taught with real power, because he related every principle he taught back to my interests, and he based it all on one broken sentence I said at the very beginning!  Wow, I'm learning so many lessons from all my teachers.  Teaching is getting harder, as we go into more detail, and use new Chinese, but I've been getting so much help at the same time.

I've always felt a little lacking in the "character" department, and so I was hoping that a mission, begun with the words of Elder Bednar in mind, could help me gain some much-needed "Character: deeply developed, strikingly displayed, and consistently practiced."  I've been looking for ways to develop, display, and practice Character.  This week, I learned, from "The Life of Thomas S. Monson," that an important step in developing character is acting on a prompting, setting to work immediately.  I'm reminded of President Monson's dedication to never postpone a prompting, and as a result, of how many people were blessed personally and immeasurably by his humility and trust in the Lord.  That's the kind of character I'd like to have, and the kind the world really needs.

Well, I'll keep working on it here, and I hope that similar good things are happening at home.  I'm doing fantastic, as always, and I pray always that the family is well.  (I really love to hear it from you, though, and not just trust. :)
Y Mountain
Love,
Brennan

Oh hey, I can see the "Y" through the window I'm sitting at.










Elder Grievous
Party -- shh! don't tell