September 24, 2011

A good Jedi always has his lightsaber!

Hey Mom!
A good jedi is never without his lightsaber. Remember that.

Oh yeah, I haven't heard anything about my VISA yet. Don't get your hopes up; the visa is like a two month process and I received word like halfway through the MTC experience that my visa was messed up. Ooops. But I'll be fine wherever I go-I just want to talk to real investigators instead of Enrico, my emotionless robot of an investigator that Hermano Burnham is pretending to be.

Anyway, that's not that much that's new with me. I learned how to sew a button back on a white shirt and let me tell you something: it's TERRIBLE!!!! I now understand why you hate to sew. I think I poked myself like 9000 gagajabllion times and then end product is certainly not rewarding enough to warrant the work. But I am learning to fend for myself here in the wilds of the MTC.

Oh, have I mentioned that we are the oldest distric in our zone now? That means we really, really have to try to be good examples and we want to reach out to other districts more. This is hard for me, mostly because I'm a natural born slacker and I generally wait for people to reach out to me before I become their friend, but I am trying. I say "Buenos Dias" a lot now because I'm buddy the Elf 2.0 and I like to wave. It's just what you do as a missionary. Also, our new zone leaders (which almost always come from the oldest district) are Elder Swenson and Elder Jones. So now the other districts have the privilege of putting up with our married couple for extended periods during the day as well.

Wow, I'm really out of things to say and I have thirteen whole minutes left. I better throw in a story or lesson or something here to take up time and to encourage you to keep writing me (I can't lose my only contact with the outside world!). I'm not sure if I've said this or not, but recently, Elder Wheeler (who is not, in fact, employing this strategy in his emails) and I have really, really started to try to use the Spirit during lessons and it is hard. I am not a good teacher (go figure). I know a lot and therefore I try to help other people understand what I understand. However, oft times they lack the capability, desire, willingness, and/or background to understand what I understand and thus I end up going into too much detail, getting hung up on little things, or not teaching according to need. This is where the Spirit comes in. So, the other day during one of our lessons, Elder Wheeler (who will wait for up to two seconds in order to hold open the door for approaching Hermanas) and I employed the strategy of silence, following both the promptings of the Spirit and the example of a District 1 clip where they employed silence as well. It was like, a minute and a half of silence. It was SUPER awkward. But SUPER effective as well. Seriously, if that lesson was a pokemon battle, I would've been Charizard, Elder Wheeler (who tells me stories of lighting hay bales on fire in rural Kansas) would have been Moltres, and our investigator, Natalia, would have been Venosaur. Ask Colton; he'll get it. After the lesson, we knew exactly what we needed to teach next because she told us after our completely silent interrogation and I think she is really close to baptism. Let's hear it for the Spirit!

Okay, here's something a little more reverent and on a completely different topic: I was reading "Jesus the Christ" (which I love), and I read a quote that I really like. In fact, it's the only quote I've underlined in the whole 650 pages that I've read so far. It reads, "Man, as a peculiar habit, has a tendency to project and augment onto God the very qualities that he himself posesses." That blew my mind with how true it is. This can be both good and bad: For example, to me, it's very important that God's plan connects in every way, sometimes in subtle ways that others cannot easily discern. This is how I think. Also, for me, it's important that God is understanding, almost more important than God being loving. See, I feel as if it's incredibly important to be able to put yourself in another's shoes and not judge. Therefore, the God that I imagine understands exactly my intentions and my attempts. It can also be bad, however, if, per chance, you happen to be an incredibly greedy person and therefore you imagine God to "reap where he has not sown." Be careful how you put yourself into God and understand that God is only the best of us. He is perfect, as is His Son Jesus the Christ. Maybe this isn't as cool to you, but I thought it was great. I'm not sure what the application is specifically yet, but I'm working on that. I just need to get some time to think.

Well, now I'm out of time right as I think of a bunch of other cool things to say. Shoot. Well, love you and don't forget to write me!

September 17, 2011

One More Week Down!

Alright, so my week. I don't even know what to say. I think more than anything, this week has exemplified a week of routine. Nothing huge, amazing, new, or exciting has really happened. There have been no Elder Hollands, no departing missionaries, and no huge revelations, just the smaller, more gradual kind of learning.

I guess the one thing that stands out about this week is that we started playing soccer in the field every day. Seriously, that's the biggest change.
But that doesn't mean this week hasn't been good! In fact, this week has been great. See, what's happened is I've finally started setting goals that I should have been setting the whole time, as far as learning Spanish and being a good companion and studying the Gospel go. These are the kind of goals that I can measure, that I report to myself, that make me reach, but yet are attainable, and that are focused on what I need to improve on. So now, instead of being in a constant state of being rebuked by others, I'm more in a constant state of being rebuked by myself and I won't lie, it's nice to take personal responsibility for your own development. I feel in control. I am my own motivator, desiring the things of Christ and devising plans, based on that hope, in order to achieve my innermost desires. Then, I act on faith, trusting to the Lord that my efforts will be rewarded with increased understanding, patience, and knowledge. I review to myself, studying in my mind whether I have achieved the intended results, whether I am on my intended path, off it, or finished with it, and whether the Lord would approve of my efforts. I then re-evaluate, modifying goals and strategies, constantly desiring to improve myself and my methods. This way, when I kneel down to pray at night, I have no shame in asking the Lord if my offering is enough. I know it has been enough because it is all I can do in this given day. The next day, hopefully, I will be capable of more. I think that's the key to being content in the Lord: Have you done enough in your mind? If you wonder whether your efforts fall short, let me testify this to you-That wonder is your own subconscious telling you that you are capable of more. You will have no shame in your work for the day if you have truly exhausted your limits. Feel the immediate sleep and sleep with dreamless ease. This is the reward of exhausting yourself, of giving your all to the Lord. And He will know that it is what you can do.

Of course, this whole thing isn't perfect. The fatal flaw is that I am an inherently lazy person and therefore this blueprint, if you will, only applies occasionally. Most of the time, when I sit down to write in my journal, I know exactly what I could have done better. But of course, those just become my new goals and the process repeats.

Here's an interesting happening of the week: One day, while playing soccer, Elder Wheeler (who folds his clothes before they go in the laundry basket to be washed) and I were playing defense, as we always do, when a certain Zone Leader whom I love came charging at us with the intent of trying to score a goal. Acting heroically, rashly, and completely losing my head, I bravely did what any soccer player would do in that situation, provided that they suffered from a debilitating head injury, and I ran into him. It hurt. Several minutes later, the situation repeated itself, but this time, Elder Wheeler (who invented a very useful word, Kershmeggle) ran into the Zone leader Whom I Love.

A consequence of this is that Elder Wheeler (who hasn't received a package or letter in two weeks) severely sprained his knee and we got to go visit the wide and scary outside world of Provo in order to stop by the BYU Student Health Center. It was fun to see things other than the brown and boring buildings of the MTC for a change. Also, I realized how many good memories I have of the Provo area already and how little bad memories I have of the Provo area. College has been good and it's nice to know that I can look forward to something after my mission.

Well, I'm out of time. I hope to hear from you soon!



September 11, 2011

Yeah, that's right, this Saturday is exactly my halfway point in the MTC. Time just flies by here. I'm not sure if I got here yesterday or if I've always been here, but I'm pretty sure it's one of the two.

Next, VISA: I'm pretty sure I won't be in the MTC longer than I'm supposed to be, but I might not be going to Oaxaca immediately. I'm pretty sure that's what will happen. THey haven't said anything yet, but VISA's take forever. So I'll probably be kickin' it in Ogden or somewhere for awhile before I leave for Mexico.

Dwills: I cannot wear my shower flip flops out of my dorm building. The laundry is in 1M. I live in 11M. Hence, I cannot wash them. But they are smelling better.

Colton: Your Spanish word or the day is descargar, which means "to dump." Learn it, love it, be it. Also, awesome choice with the band thing. Jazz band and Jazz music are ballin'. Please live a Jazz lifestyle

But that is all I have to say on that subject. I want to talk about Jeffrey R. Holland, who spoke to us on Tuesday. Jeffrey R. Holland is THE man, right now, amongst missionaries, mostly as a result of his conference talke "Safety for the Soul." Watch it: it's very powerful. So, we discovered one day that during planning sessions from 9 to 9:30 at night, we could watch conference talks and/or listen to hymns via So we watched "Safety for the Soul" on Tuesday afternoon. It was great. Then we started joking, saying that we should spread a rumor that Elder Holland was coming to the MTC tonight to that we could get the nice chairs in the overflow while everybody crowded in the hot, uncomfortable gym. We didn't actually do this, but it was funny to talk about, right up until the point when we were sitting in the overflow and then everybody in the gym stood up and we knew that it was an Apostle. And then it was Jeffrey R. Holland. And then the joke was on us. But, the Spirit knows no bounds and nonetheless we felt it as we listened to an apostle of God first rebuke us and then uplift us.

One of the first things he talked about, by way of rebuke, was that the Church has no symbols. However, he added, if there were to be a symbol of the Church, something recognizable for all people, it would be the image of two young, perfect missionaries. Yes, perfect, he said. He said that in the eyes of investigators, recent converts, ward members, and even our own family, we are supposed to seem perfect. We are not and we won't ever be, but that does not give us the right to take the image away from people who believe on it. We do not have the right to be anything other that representatives of Jesus Christ. For the Church, for the families, for the investigators, and even for the people who hate us, we do NOT have the right to ruin the image of missionaries. So I'm not going to. Not on my life I wont.

He talked about many other things, including how we should be bold inviting people to repentence. He said that repentence is saving people from suffering which they cannot comprehend. Calling people to repentence should not be offensive, uncomfortable, or overbearing. It is charity. But the point that I really want to talk about is this: Elder Holland, who was fielding questions and answers at this point, ended with this question, "Why does our Heavenly Father love us?" He said many things on this point, but here's what stuck out to me: He said if you want to know about the Father, look at the Son. Heavenly Father has always seemed a distant figure in my life. I love Jesus; I know Jesus; I understand the role of Jesus, but God just seemed to be that all powerful figure in the background. But, as Elder Holland pointed out, the Father is the Son, essentially (no, not in a Trinity sense). Christ only did what he had seen the Father do; He only said what he had heard the Father say; the will of God was and is Christ's will. This Gospel of Jesus Christ in really the Gospel of God. God is well pleased with it. He is as loving, knowing, and understanding a being as Jesus Christ is. He should not be far away, but rather neck-in-neck with Christ in our minds and our worship. Finally, Elder Holland said that in the hour of most agony ever possible, in the Garden of Gethsemene, the word that escaped Christ's lips was "Abba." There is no direct English translation of this word, but according to Elder Holland, an Apostle of the Lord, the closest we can come is "Daddy." Pure and simple. Christ called out for Daddy when He needed the most help, when he was in so much agony that even He, a God, quaked and trembled with pain. This is the love of the Father. This is the image of Christ.

Another thing that I wanted to talk about in reference to Elder Holland is not about what he said, exactly, but rather how he said it. I want to be one of a great many things when I grow up. I have many ambitions. Now, thanks to the MTC, I have a better idea of how to achieve those ambitions. Elder Holland, however, showed me exactly how long I need to work and how hard I need to work if I am to achieve the greatest of my desires: I cannot give myself a break. I cannot say that I can't think of more ideas of how to improve. I can always improve. Day by day, I need to make a conscious effort not just to act correctly, or productively, but to THINK correctly and productively. I can have fun; I can be myself. But I cannot allow myself to be lazy, or young, or immature anymore. If I want to do what I want to do (and I can assure you that I want to do it), then I need to act as if I am great now. That means the humility to realize that I need to work immediately because greatness does not rest. Greatness is improvement, constant and vigilant.

I love you all and I promise to write you some more mudane of happenings here at the MTC with my picture letter. Again, I love you. I look forward to hearing from you
See you in 2!
Riley Johnson

September 4, 2011

Letter Number 4

Hey all!
Okay, I have a lot to tell you in this letter, so if my sentences aren't up to their usual grammitical standards of glory, please know that my apparent ignorance is more the result of quick typing and not actually me forgetting parts of the English language, which I swear untruthfully is not happening in any way whatsoever.

First, to Colton: Happy Birthday! I promise I actually remembered your birthday the day before and had a plan to send you a letter on your birthday. I swear that very truthfully. What I will admit to you is that the letter did not get written nor sent until today, so I apologize for the lateness of its arrival. Anyway, happy birthday bud and I hope you are enjoying the realm of music that has been opened up to you.

Next, Mom: Okay, to answer some questions. First, I haven't done anything to my Dwills yet. Here is the problem: I wear my p day clothes to laundry. I only have one pair of p day shoes (dwills). I cannot wash and dry the dwills while they are on my feet. Thus, I am left to hide the smell in my closet (which I'll admit isn't as bad anymore, but still present nonetheless) and use copious amounts of fabreeze in order to not offend my roommates. Next, I did get the package. I appreciate it quite a bit, especially family photos. Indeed, I also picked up on your subtle hint to wear mosquito spray in Mexico, which I am not sure I have. Finally, I have heard about my visa. Last week (or maybe a week and a half ago?) They called me down to the travel office and assured me that I had, in fact, screwed up my visa photo. So I took a new one. Also, they said that my signature did not look like my signature enough, which meant I had to resign it, but I still don't believe it. I have signed everything the same way since 8th grade, which is to say, I scribble. My signature is a blob. How can I screw that up? Apparently, I underestimate my own incompetency.

Dad: Good luck with everything. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now and I do not envy you. However, trusting to both the Lord and your own dependability, I am confident that everything, from cars to computers, will turn out okay. I believe that. Also, both you and mom referenced Elder Payne's scripture quote, which is very good. I'd like to couple that with what I've learned here at the MTC. What I've learned is something that I probably should have learned a long time ago, but that is that prayer is not a unilateral act. What I mean is that prayer is not just asking God for answers or solutions, nor just asking God to verify the things you have studied out in your mind beforehand. He sometimes does that, but that is not a prayer of complete faith. Faith is an action, meaning to pray for faith is to ask for the guidance, direction, comfort, etc. that you need in whatever it is you are doing and then moving forward with your plans with confidence that the Lord will protect you from supreme adversity and/or redirect you to a more proper action through the Spirit. Faith is a hard thing, but we really should be consecrated all of our actions to the will of the Lord and move forward continually in faith. That's the big picture of what I have learned recently.

I don't really want to leave with so serious a note to end, so instead I'll fill this section with some funny stories (at least, I think they're funny) of my district. First, while waiting in a large crowd of people wearing suits on a hot August day in Utah, I heard this conversation between Elder Swenson and Elder Jones (hereafter S and J):
J: "It's hot out"
S: "Lets hug"
J: "That's not an appropriate response"
S: "Oh?"
J: "Try again. It's hot out"
S: "I like your shoes"
J: "Better. Again. It's hot out"
S: "I like butterflies"
J: "Getting worse. Try again. It's hot out"
S: "Your tie really brings out the color of your eyes"
J: "You're hopeless."

I love my district. They are awesome. Elder Butler, legitimately unaware of what he was saying, asked this week "What's that song called that goes Because I have been given much?"

Finally, the quotes of the day for the past two days: 1. (slightly edited) "It's not about the dog in the fight. It's about the Lord"
2. "Faith is like marrying your fourth grade pen pal"
It's great here and I'm looking forward to a wonderful two years. I love you all!