iHola mi Familia!
How is everybody?! Ahh. I love you all so much. I was SO happy to hear about all the things my wonderful siblings did this week! Thank you for your wonderful email and advice Dad (you're the best), and also for the DearElder from Mom. DearElders make life so much easier! Thanks :) Felicitaciones to Katie for scoring the big 80 on the Math test!! Way to go. :) And also Scotty for doing so well in school as always, and serving in the deacon's quorom! I learned some of the most important leadership skills as the teacher's quorom pres. when I was 15. What a wonderful experience that is. Learn to love people, brother! ALL people, no matter what. I am so touched and impressed with Adam, and how he has offered such kindness to his classmates and getting a special award from the school. Keep it up, soon you'll be an amazing missionary! All of you will. And if not, you can still represent Christ in your daily life to all those who will look.
I am also grateful to receive a kind letter from Aunt Ida May in the mail! Give her my thank you's for me, it was a wonderful surprise. Also tell her how grateful I am that she took the time to go through the Spanish Hymnbook she gave me and wrote all the english titles next to them - it's very helpful! Singing in espanol is awesome. Also, I received some candy and nice cards from the Stewart family, tell them thank you!
I am sorry for cutting my email short last week. I was typing ferociously and looked up to see how much time I had...and it said -5 min.! So I quickly ended it mid-paragraph. Haha. I am a little better prepared for email time today. I am again sorry for not taking pictures yet. But to be honest...if I was running out of my apartment as it was burning to the ground, I would rather grab my little mini-composition of thoughts notebook rather than my camera. I am SO grateful for all the things I am learning!! I write them all down in there - it's like my small plates (like the plates of Nephi). I have realized how important it is to write down spiritual impressions. That little Composition of Thoughts contains the deepest things of my soul in it! But about the pictures, I have seen Tanner (Elder Stucki) a few times now, and we took a picture together on the temple walk. I also took one with my good friend named Jakob Garlick. So ask their mothers for pictures! :)
To answer your question about playing the piano...I have not had much time at all to play. Haha, funny story. The first week I discovered a piano in the building where we have gym, and I decided to play all my favorite songs instead of playing volleyball! Well..that lasted about 10 minutes, and I was told not to anymore, so I obeyed. Though I was able to play for the sacrament meeting service this past Sunday, that was great!! I have come to recognize how tender of a blessing it is to be given opportunities to service with the spiritual gifts we have been given - it makes me SO happy. Actually, another story. Yesterday during class I was pulled out to talk to a Sister who I had never met before about a special musical number for an MTC event. She told me she had been looking for a pianist to accompany in vain, and apparently (nobody knows how) Sister Nally (MTC Pres.' wife!) referred her to me. So...today at 2pm I will go practice a song with her..we will see how that turns out. It is a great opportunity for me to test my humility, and only do what the Lord would have me do! I am very, very grateful for the opportunity. I also will try to get more time during P-Day to play piano for enjoyment.
Sadly, I have not been able to be a part of the MTC choir yet! But this past Sunday for Devotional, instead of a speaker the BYU Men's choir came and performed many songs for us during that hour, with a few members sharing thoughts and testimonies in between every few songs. It was the most special and tender devotional I have ever been to. That night, during the Devo. and the movie afterwards (we watched the Testaments video), I have never cried so hard all of my life. I couldn't even control it. I realized how deeply music means to me during the devotional, and how tender the testimonies born through their faces when they sing. It touched me so deeply because I have been there - bearing my firm testimony through beautiful words of hymns while singing - you can see this in a person's face. I have never been so touched all of my life, and I long for an opportunity someday to be a part of another amazing choir like that. Also, I saw a friend of mine from BYU countless times in the choir, named Hyrum Arnesen! What a good guy. :) Also, the when I watched the 'Testaments' video later that night, I couldn't hold back tears not because of the video itself, but just because I KNOW that really happened. I know it was real, and...that's all it was. It was an incredible feeling that overwhelmed me. To explain, the video was about the Lamanite people in the America's and their dealings before the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior and His appearance in the America's (such as, the Gadianton Robbers, people who believed in the signs of His coming, and it showed many clips of the Savior's ministry on the earth, etc.). It was absolutely amazing. I have such a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the divine mission of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives! and directs this Church today. This is His gospel. It is the greatest blessing I have ever received.
Also, we had a wonderful Devotional on Tuesday evening, Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy, and he talked in depth about Repentance. I thought it was interesting how he emphasized so heavily the need for us missionaries (and all people, in general) to truly experience this great joy and change of heart spoken of concerning Repentance. He devoured Mosiah 2-5 in his talk, and many other places concerning repentance - it was amazing! It was so meaningful to me, because he went 20 min. over, but there was obviously a need for it. The Lord wants us to experience Repentance in great depth to strengthen our testimony, whether we need it or not! Whether we have grown up in the Church our whole life and haven't done anything grievously wrong, He still wants us to experience His atonement. It is so important for our testimonies - Experience it!! Prayer has become my VERY favorite thing to do in the MTC, on the mission. It is an amazing blessing for me to have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Another thing I have learned is the importance of yielding up our WHOLE selves to the Lord. This is what it requires for a mission, and what it requires to TRULY represent Him in any stage of our lives. I learn this through Spanish; learning a language is difficult because you have to learn how to say things in Spanish in such a way that is not spoken in English, if that makes sense. Direct translation doesn't always work, because in the different languages, things are spoken differently. This helps me realize it is the same with the language of the Spirit, and the ways of the Lord Almighty. We need to understand that the Lord's ways are not our ways, and we need not try to directly translate our behavior into His gospel. We need to completely change the way we do things, and do what the Lord would have us do.
Something that strengthens my faith in this respect is the idea of Faith: faith is things that ARE NOT seen, but which are hoped for. Sometimes in the MTC, and almost all the time in the world, there are not always good examples of people who represent the Lord. This is where faith to be a better person comes in: faith is not seen. We are a peculiar people, and are different from the world - perfect examples are not seen. We must have hope for a better world (Ether 12:4), and rely on the Lord to become His servant. I am so grateful for all of the things the Lord blesses me with to be a better servant to Him!!!! It brings me down into the depths of humility, less than the dust of the earth (King Benjamin's sermon in Mosiah). That's what I've been focusing on lately, being humble. I am not in the MTC for my own personal benefit or comfort, I am here for HIM. To do whatever He would have me do. And I am SO grateful for all the opportunities and blessings He gives me.
Anyways, I have written a lot today. I learn so many good things each day!! All the answers are found in Preach My Gospel!! It is really an amazing source of study. PMG breaks down the doctrines so simply, and it is powerful. It would mean a lot to me while I'm out on the mission if my family would study PMG somehow; it would unite us in purpose. We can all be representatives of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is such a happy work. I am so grateful! I have been pondering lots about the significance of the gospel and what it means, and what can be felt (most importantly). It truly changes lives - I have seen that here in the MTC. Saturday night, I sat writing in my journal, and just studied the faces of each special member of my family in the family pictures on my desk, and pondered how significant the gospel is in each person's life. It is incredible, and I am SO grateful. I love my family.
We have been growing ever stronger in unity in our district and zone - it is really a fun time! And special relationships are built in this great missionarywork. I love everybody in our district and zone. A district of elders left to Des Moines, Iowa yesterday in the early hours of the morning, 4 close friends (Elder Derek Steele of the 3rd ward being one of them!). One of those elders who specifically was close to me, named Elder Garrett Richens. I love him because he reminds me so much of my cousin Jason Bell. He is 6'5" (not the relation between him and Jason, haha), but he is just sooo hilarious. He has that funny personality Jase has, and jokes around a lot, and has a really deep voice. Anyway, I loved him, and he gave me one of his ties as a gift, and signed one of the stripes on the back! It was a tender moment.
Also, we have two more investigators for this week, Rogelio and Antonio. Teaching them are really special experiences! Good opportunities to grow closer as companionships, and learn how to teach better lessons with the help of the Spirit. Our last investigator, Josu'e, became our teacher Monday morning! Haha, it was a great surprise. He and the other teachers we have, are AMAZING, and I am so so grateful for them. They are all leaving us next week though, and we will get different ones. It will be great! :) Also..I have been pretty sore this week because we have been using our gym-time effectively by doing some pretty good workouts/weight-lifting. Elder Bromley is a beast, and is my personal trainer on new workouts! It is good!
We did Initiatories in the temple this morning, and it was amazing! I love those. Also while waiting, and during personal study time this morning, I read the Book of Abraham. It was SO interesting, and pondering it much I learned so many cool things. Personal study time is my favorite time in the MTC, by far!
Well I better be going. Thank you for being the best family ever!! I love you all so much, and look forward to hearing more from you next week. I am doing so great, and don't really need anything at the time. PS, it is very likely that I will not get my visa for awhile, seeing how slowly that takes with other missionaries, and I may be reassigned to the states for a while before my visa comes. Who knows, but I will be doing what the Lord wants, and that's all that matters.
I love you!!! :)
Elder David Kenneth Clarke
Scripture of the Week!: Mosiah 7:18.