This week's been great, we got three new Danes, a Solo Sister (those tend to be the coolest (;) and two Elders, and said good-bye to three awesome Swedes and two awesome Norwegians. Our zone is still pretty small- we get three Swedes today which will bring our numbers up to 10, but in a month there'll be about 95 in our zone, woah.
Teaching Tom a few days ago, he asked me why we really needed to come down to Earth- he doesn't believe that he would've chosen to leave God's presence.. that's his goal in this life, to be WITH God and make it to Heaven, and argued that we could definitely still have learned and progressed while in His presence.. I told him that the purpose of our existence is to progress and become like our Heavenly Father, who has a body (thus we needed to obtain one), and that this Earth is a test where we can prove ourselves worthy and faithful outside of God's presence. After dissecting 2 Nephi 2, I've concluded that God is Happiness, and there wasn't enough opposition in the pre-existence to really know and experience happiness (and thus become like our Heavenly Father). Verse 7, Law of opposition- we are here to be sufficiently educated between good and evil. Also, I think I understand Adam and Eve's transgression better- Heavenly Father could not command His children to leave His presence, so he set up options where they could choose, and knowing the intents of Satan and what was going to happen, He created a plan around that with Jesus Christ, our Savior. I never realized how awesome 2 Nephi 2 was; I always simply associated it with verse 25 scripture mastery until now. That's one of my favorite things about being here at the MTC- always seeing how things fit into the bigger picture.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke to us last Tuesday, and yesterday Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed us! Wow, that means I've gotten to hear from 25% of the twelve apostles in my stay here, so I've been trying to ponder why I needed to be here to hear from each of them. Elder Oaks, in true Supreme Court Justice fashion, laid his talk out like a resolution: numbering off key main points with supporting reasons and opposing views addressed. His 8 guidelines for missionaries were:
1. Physical health (& safety)- nutrition, phys. exercise and well-being; the Lord helps those who help themselves to do what you can to be safe.
2. Instruments in His Hands- have no desire other than to do His will.
3. Prepare yourselves to act in His service- stay clean and worthy of Spirit.
4. Remember who you are (no silly pranks to interfere with work).
5. Work to establish Church- baptisms are incomplete in depicting success; re-activation is key.
6. Teach and testify: proving doctrine merely convinces, not converts (First carefully prepare by learning principles of restored Gospel, and second listen to Holy Ghost's promptings so you can best fit them to needs of each individual investigator).
7. Get commitments (sometimes have to leave less receptive investigators- this seems hard, especially if you've built a great relationship with them).
8. Nurture- conversion is a process that follows through baptism until end of lives. He also talked about being careful not to arrogantly claim that we have the "only true Church," something I've been giving a lot of thought- I think so many religions and lifestyles are motivated by influence of the light of Christ, and I think it's so important to point out how much the people you're teaching can bring to the table and help you, and then help them add to their truths.
Yesterday, Sister Kathy Christofferson spoke to us first, and shared what her son who served in the Czech Republic calls "the parable of the tram window"- when it's dark and you're looking out the window, it's easy to get caught up in your own reflection (and comforts/ desires/ needs/ worries) and miss the hundreds of people walking around the city behind that window.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson talked about being trustworthy, and being motivated by love of God- something that I've also been thinking about; can you really live in a way that your actions are purely motivated by your love of God- even when being obedient, is it possible to not at least partially obey out of a sense of fear/ duty? He reminded us that we can not reach a point where we become 'exempt from sin,' and brought up the story of David of Israel, which I agree is the saddest story to my heart as well. If a man so worthy of God's trust that God described him as "a man after mine own heart" could fall to the temptation of adultery which he tried to cover up with murder and lose his exaltation, we especially can't let our guards down and think that we deserve some slack (i.e. for serving a mission).
On Wednesday, Sister Johnson and I taught the Hooles, the cutest/ coolest/ funniest older native Dutch couple ever (besides the Van der Puts of course (: ) for TRC (where we teach members of the Church- kind of like visiting teaching). I'm not kidding when I say they have a story for every word we say, and while our teachers talked to us afterwards about keeping the conversation on track centered around our lesson, I personally enjoyed their stories about growing up during the war (enduring to the end)/ hiking with their kids in the Alps (prayer experience)/ etc., especially when they totally tie into the lesson. Tomorrow we get to Skype members who live in
(who I'll hopefully eventually meet!) which I am so excited for.
As I mentioned, we got a new schedule, which includes 6:15 am service - we got to scrub urinals (that's what I get for making that pic of me and Isabella in the JKB Men's restroom my profile pic for a few weeks)- even though technically missionaries get up at 6:30 am, and I'm still trying to figure out why, even after getting at least twice as much sleep as I did during college, I never quite feel fully rested hah.
Yesterday, we had to say good-bye to our teacher Brother Robinson, who we all loved and learned so much from and will definitely miss- wow, I guess this means my time is really ending soon; we get our travel plans in two days! As excited as I am to arrive in the Land of the Tulips and spread a message sweeter and even more satisfying than a Stroopwafel with the people there, I'm grateful to have this next week and half to continue to improve myself as a missionary.
Thanks so much for your letters/ DearElders/ emails! Wow, flooding, eh? It snowed two days ago (all the Tongan/ Samoan missionaries were so bundled up in scarves/ hats/ gloves!) but is super warm today. Atlanta looks like a blast Dad and Rachel- swing by underground shopping for me at around 8pm!; and so does prancing around middle school in a toga, Josh (;
Elder Riley, any advice for the last week (and a bit) in the MTC? I'm always on the lookout for cool companions of mine (and potential future eternal companions for you) to write to you. Madi, omigosh I love how much fun you're having in Russia, ah so cool and you're awesome for making the most of it, ah when is your trip to Scandinavia!? Tell Elin 'hi'!
Love you all~ ik houd van jullie!
Zuster Riley (: