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

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