October 26, 2011

Good News!

Dear Family,

So, I think Mom will be pretty happy to hear that I did, in fact, receive both my package and my letter. More good news: only one thing was taken out of the package and that was the rest of the Jelly beans. I have no conclusive evidence of this, but I am thoroughly convinced that my loving mother would not send me only two tiny packages of sugery deliciousness, enough to spark a craving but not satisfy it.....I'm kidding!!! I greatly appreciate everything you sent me, though, according to my companion and everyone else, there's no malaria here. But the newspaper clipping, the photos, the letter from colton, the leaf?, the jelly beans, and especially the pillow were greatly, greatly appreciated. About the pillow: I accidently washed my last "pillow" the other day, so I've been sleeping on a towel and five packages of unopened garments. I have not been happy. But now I have a pillow and it's wonderful. Thank you very much.

My life. Ah, my life. I don't know quite how to explain. I'll start with this story: So, I was asked to play a song for a baptism the other day. It was the Primary song about baptism and rain and rainbows. I don't know the title in English. It looked easy, so I agreed to play it. Let me tell you one thing: it was NOT easy. I practiced for two hours and still only played it perfectly maybe once out of every three times. Not good. But, I prayed and had confidence that the Lord would deliver me from another impending Spanish baptism crisis. One of the unfortunate consequences of my necesity to practice a lot was that we were late to our comida appointment (have I explained the differences between Mexican eating schedules and our?). Naturally, this also made us leave late. Oh, yeah, we eat comida everday with an Hermana from the ward and we eat so much that I almost explode. Comida includes a soup, a meal (always two full plates, three if Elder Juarez manages to make me take one more), a dessert, and a piece of fruit to eat on the way to the next appointment. Dinner we either don´t eat because we are still full or we eat out. So it is only breakfast in which I depend on our kitchen, which, at the very least, has a working faucet. Many missionary casas here in Oaxaca have to use the bathroom faucet. The Elders of Ixcotel (who are closest to us. Elders Nataren and Monson (Monson is 6´10" and plays on the U of U basketball team)) only have two rooms: their bedroom and their bathroom. No kitchen or living room. I´m pretty sure if Elder Monson laid down on the floor, his head would stick out the back door and his feet the front door. It is very small. Our apartment is a palace. But they have a wonderful view of this beautiful river, with rocks and a lit up view of the city at night. The downsight of this absolutely breathtaking view is that many people use the path underneath their apartment for morning excercises, which includes listening to very loud music from the United States during personal study. The downside of the night view is that sometimes their are very loud, very long concerts that start at 11 oclock at night in the neighboring stadium. Point is, I´m grateful for where I live. But back to the story.

So we left comida at 5 (very late) and starting walking to the house of Hma Elvira, who suffered a stroke six years ago and is still recovering. Her speech is very slurred and she walk with a cane and she depends on the left side of her body to do most things. But she cried during our first visit because she knew that the Savior had suffered for her maladies and that He loves and understands her weaknesses. She lives very far away (have I said that Bosque is the biggest area in Oaxaca?) and we walked the whole way. About halfway there, we noticed that everybody was just kind of standing by the side of the road. Everybody. Everybody in Oaxaca, just standing by the side of road, like it was nothing weird. NObody was moving, driving, talking. Just standing. We found this a bit odd. Then 4 racecars zoomed by. THen 4 more. And then we learned why everybody was standing by the side of the road: All the Pan America prix cars were driving through Oaxaca at that time, so we got a little show on our long walk. It was pretty cool.

The next day was the baptism. On the way I saw my first Mexican funeral, which included a full band and many people and cars walking and driving slowly behind it. It was much louder than your typical U.S. funeral, that´s for sure. So we arrived at the Baptism and quickly discovered that there was no piano in the font room. Remember how I had prayed for help with my poor piano skillz? I breathed a great sigh of relief. Until Hermana Leon came into the room carrying the oldest, dirtiest, and what I soon found out to be least reliable keyboard on the face of the planet. This is how bad it was: if you played more than three notes at once, the keyboard would refuse to play the top note. The bottom hand was always a chord and the top hand consisted of third and fifths, which means I was always playing at least FOUR notes. Guess what the top notes are? THE MELODY! In short, the song was awful, but the baptism was beautiful and nobody seemed to care but me that I was only playing bass notes. It´s probably because Mexicans don´t understand music. The concept of a dotted eighth note is quite beyond them.

Now with my investigators. Yes, we have put six baptism dates. And yes, we are looking to put another this week. But we have a problem: none of them have been attending sacrament meeting and they can´t get baptized unless they attend church. So we spent all of this week getting rides for every single one of them and the end result was that we had four investigators in church on Sunday, which is four more than normal. One of them, German, has a baptismal date for the sixth of November. He doesn´t seem too excited about it, but then again, he´s only fifteen and he did accept the Word of Wisdom spectacularly well, so I hope we are having a positive impact on his life. This last week included like 7 gabajibalilion birthdays in his family, so one day we showed up and there was a goat tied up in the yard. The next day we showed up and there was no goat but a really delicious stew. Mexican birthdays are cool.

Wow, this is another long letter and it is completely devoid of spiritual enlightment, so I´m going to end with my testimony, my testimony of prayer. In the United States, I was pretty okay at doing things by myself. At the very least, I could always depend on my rather large vocabulary and charming smile (kidding) to make it seem like I had everything under control there. I do not have anything here. My confidence, my ability to improvise, my semblence of intelligence, my knowledge of current events, or any type of expertise in anything. But I do have one thing: I have a Heavenly Father who knows me perfectly, who created me in every sense of the word create, from my body to my environment. He loves me more than I can comprehend. And right now, I am trying my best to do His work and His will. Therefore, every night, when I kneel down, exhausted, depressed, defeated because I said this wrong, or I missed that opportunity, or I just had to walk super far, and I start to offer up what I consider my scanty day, pathetic compared to the work of others, and I throw myself into a list of things I will repent of and things I will do better at the next day, the same thing always, always, always happens: I feel the love of my Heavenly Father encircle me, as a great hug that I need. I never depended on prayer before. Now it is the thing that keeps me determined in my path. Prayer is a tool, a blessing, a support, but also so much more. Prayer is not just the communication between yourself and a Father. It is the communication between yourself and the being that you love most. Whether it´s a spouse, sibling, friend, parent, girlfriend, whatever, a prayer is like that conversation, when you just throw your worries and your burden on somebody else, and that perfect somebody else takes them for you, and strenghtens you, and loves you even more. Prayer can be a wrestle, like between for Enos. Prayer can be repetitive. Prayer can be a burden. Prayer can be many things, but ultimately, Prayer should be as it was for Jesus Christ: the natural response of a Child with a Divine commision and birth and His loving, stregthening Parent. We have a Heavenly Father. He gave us our commissions. Our births in and of themselves are tiny miracles. Therefore, I urge each and every one of you, Mormon or not, to do what is Natural and good and pray. Pray to your Father who wants to hear you and can and will help you with whatever burden you are bearing. Whatever it is, decision, job, sin, doubt, He will help you. Because He has helped the ever-so-imperfect me so many times and I only have 12 weeks on this mission.

Elder Johnson

October 21, 2011

Great things are happening!

It´s great out here: I have a great companion, the weather is nice, I´m learning more Spanish than I thought possible, and the work is coming. So I don´t have hot water and I have to learn how to wash clothes by hand, big deal; I get to meet amazing people, I get to try amazing food (including an authentic Oaxacan Dominoes Pizza!), and I get to serve. I love serving. I´ve drawn water from wells, I´ve soldered railings, I´ve washed dishes, I might even get to use a Machete soon. We´ll see. But serving is seriously my favorite part of life right now, and that´s saying something.

This week, six amazing things happened. First, we went to teach German, our 16 yr old investigator who we have pegged to be our next baptism. Now, I don´t know if I´ve mentioned this, but, for someone with only 2 weeks, I can speak Spanish rather well. The problem is, I cannot understand a word anybody says. I was kind of feeling down on the beginning of this day (Wednesday) and, to make manners worse, for the first time, my comp turned to me as we waited for a bus and said, "no tengo ganas de trabajar" how. Usted necesita estar emocionado para mi" which means that he didn´t feel much like working because he was super tired and kind of down as well. Me, terrible at being enthusiastic in Spanish, decided to refocus myself. I spent the entire bus ride reading 3 Nephi 11. As it turns out, the lesson we had with German that day was 3 Nephi 11. And I had no idea. Not only that, but we did a little activity where each person would explain a part and all the parts I had to explain were parts that I had prepared for on the bus. At the end of the lesson, we extended the baptismal challenge and he accepted. Day changed.

Second amazing thing: That very same day, we stopped by a reference´s house who we had not been able to get a hold of for a very long time. They were not there, but, as we were about to leave, a 13 year old boy, Luis, walked into the yard. Luis (the son of the reference) is the coolest kid ever. He´s super, super excited about scriptures stories, from Adam and Eve to Peter cutting off an ear. We taught him the doctrine of Christ and he just gobbled it up. He practically lept at the chance to be baptized. We just need to talk to his parents and it´s a go.

Next four amazing things: On Friday, we went to teach this awesome family we had met. They were super interested and the nicest people I´ve met to date. We cannot stop by without receiving at least 3 glasses of juice, a small meal, and 30 minutes of conversation. We taught them the doctrine of Christ and lo and behold, they accepted baptism, after we assured them that we were not, in fact, a cult. The dad is super family oriented, Monica loves to read the scriptures with us, the mom studies the Book of Mormon like it´s nobody´s business, and Eduardo is just cool. So, in one week, we got 6 baptismal dates. The previous week, our entire district had zero.

The moral of this story is that the Lord is preparing people and, as often as not, the investigators help the missionaries more than the missionaries help the investigators. We needed these blessings and I am thankful that the Lord provided them to a slothful, unable to understand missionary and his patient companion. The only problem is that none of them went to church on Sunday. Oops. Guess what we´ll be focusing on this week?

Here´s my moral lesson for the week, but first some explanation: I have an hour of personal study everday. During that time, I read lessons, read book of Mormon chapters that pertain to my investigators, and read Bible chapters that pertain to the lessons I study. It is an hour of hard work. But when I have extra time, I just read the Scriptures. Like a book. Without pencil, without notebook, without lessons. And I´ve been reading the Old Testament. Thus far, I have read Samuel and Kings. Here´s a lesson from Samuel: So, David was on the run from Saul. He and his small army stopped on the lands of a very rich person. Now, the law of hospitality at the time demanded that the rich person bring food and water to the King´s son in law. David, being the good person that he was, decided to also defend the rich person´s flocks. So now the rich person doubly owed David. But the rich person instead insulted David and David, naturally, got so angry that he went to kill him. But the man´s wife intervened and stayed the future king´s wrath, saying that the Lord will punish the rich person in His own due time. And the Lord did. The point of this is that sometimes, we just have to let things go, whether it´s a stubborn investigator who won´t progress, an ornery neighbor, or a teacher who just likes to be mean. Its not our job to control other people. The Lord has His plans and whether it happens in this life or the next, people will get what they deserve, good or bad. So stop complaining, stop worrying, stop fretting, stop, stop, stop trying to control things that you can´t and just go about your days doing good. There is no greater blessing and no greater piece of advice than that. Do good within your sphere. This is what the Lord wants.

Well, I love you all. I´m having a great time in Oaxaca and I´m adjusting. I´ll do my best with the box. I´m beginning to understand people now. I´m about at the level of Elder Monson, a 6 ft 10 U of U center who has one more transfer than I do. So I´m ahead of my class. Anywho, look forward to hearing from you next week and I hope all the pictures upload in time.


Elder Johnson (Riley)

October 14, 2011

First Letter from Mexico!

I just realized that I don't exactly give you people great titles for my emails. I'll try to do better with that. Anyway, where to even begin? I have no idea.

Okay, first, the mail situation: you may still send my packages and snail mail. I will always greatly appreciate them. But, as stated, they now take a LOT longer to get here. I now have two hours (instead of 30 minutes) to read and write emails and I am allowed to receive emails from my friends. So, this can be the new major modicum to communicate with me. I have not received any package or letter yet, just in case you were wondering if the meds had gotten to me yet.

Anyway, yes, I am hot. And sweaty. And wearing clothes that I washed by hand. And eating some lettuce. And drinking Yakult. And treating blisters. And saying "¿Cómo? many times. And playing soccer. And reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish. And sleeping on dirty clothes in a pillowcase because I don't have a pillow. And getting chased down by crazy bicycle riding mexicans. And many other fun, fun things.

Seriously, the only thing I feel sure about saying about Oaxaca is that it is very, very, VERY different from the U.S. I'm not going to upload photos today because I have so much to write, but I took pictures of my apartment. By U.S. standards, it is small, dirty, and very unmodern. By Oaxacan standards, I have running water (though no hot water), four whole rooms (though the bathroom is about the size of me and there is no toilet seat), and there are three whole tables in the apartment. Essentially, by Oaxacan standards, I live in a mansion. As far as I can tell. See, I've been in house with only one room, I've been in houses made out of aluminum, I've been in houses with no water, I've seen a house made out of beer boxes. Oaxaca is poor. But the people, oh the people, are so, so nice.

I don't know if you got this from my emails, but in the MTC, I was a stud with Spanish. Spanish was easy in the MTC. But that only means so much. Because of all things to not learn how to do, I did not learn how to listen. And boy, is that killing me right now.

I wanted to go out of the MTC on fire, using my Greenie exuberance for good, like some kind of MTC super innocent super stud. Then came my first lesson, with a woman who I cannot name because I don't remember and I couldn't write it down at the time because I did not understand one word she said. Not one word. Not only is my vocabulary small and I don't understand simple, small, but important words like acá (don't worry; I've figured it out now), but also, I don't know if you know this, but Mexicans mumble. Every single one of them mumbles. They slur words together and they speak in very, very quiet voices. Especially the old women, whom we visit quite a bit. So my goal is understanding more. I''m starting to chip into conversation by my own volition now and I just had a perfectly normal, perfectly understood phone conversation with an Elder Jimenez (whoever the heck that is), which is a start. Hopefully, I'll get somewhere soon with that deficiency and then I'll be able to start working on my other ones. Like not knowing how to cook. I'm living off of Azucaritas (Mexican Frosted Flakes) and restaurant food.Oh yeah, and the granola bars you sent with me. Those are life savers. Send me more. Much, much more because I cannot find them in Mexico).

Now for my companion. His name is Elder Juarez. I met him last Tuesday, at the mission offices (which are actually only about 10-15 from our house by taxi, but I never see them because they are not in my area. My area, by the way, is Bosque and it is the largest area in the entire Oaxacan mission. Guess what that means? I get to walk a lot! Yay blisters! But back to my companion. The first thing I asked him was if he like learning English during language study like he's supposed to. He said he doesn't learn English. Which means he doesn't speak any English, unlike the other native companions. Which means I only speak Spanish from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed. I've started dreaming in Spanish. I think. They are hard to remember because I don't understand what is being said, but I'm pretty sure I am dreaming in Spanish. So Elder Juarez is nice. He's also a good, hard working missionary. He doesn't like contacting when we don't have references, so he doesn't try that hard at knocking doors. We don't talk to taxi drivers or people on the bus like we should. Elder Carrasco (one of the APs) was in a Taxi with me on Tuesday and he got a reference from the driver, so I know that's something we can start doing.

Elder Juarez and I traveled to the stake center because Elder Juarez had been asked to baptize the little eight year old girl of a family he had helped a lot previously in his mission. So we went and everybody was smiling and laughing and happy and the kids loved my camara and although I hadn't had the best of mornings, I couldn't help but smile and laugh and love my camara as well. Then we all sat down and the Bishop began reading the program, saying we were going to start with this song, and this prayer said by this person, and the baptism by Elder Juarez, and the Confirmation by Elder Johnson, and more singing, and the closing prayer by this person.
Wait a minute, hold it: You caught that too, didn't you? Because that was exactly how I found out that I would be doing the confirmation as well. In Spanish. My happiness vanished. It was replaced with cold blooded fear. The windows were open, giving me a good chance for escape, but the dad looked pretty athletic and I'm sure he would chase me down. So I couldn't get out of it that way. Maybe I could faint? No, I had never fainted before and I don't think Elder Juarez would ever let me live it down. Perhaps I should just tell them that if I tried to do this sacred ordinance with my Gringo Spanish, it would be too painful to listen to and God would smite me right there just to make me stop....no, I didn't know how to say all that in Spanish. So, I did it. Trembling, completely unable to roll my rr's and completely unpracticed with the tu form, I did it. And then I felt good again. I want a real baptism and I want one soon. Which means I have to work really, really hard to start pulling my weight in the companionship this week.

So aside from Yukimo Romero Soto (the little girl whom I helped God confirm), we have several other investigators. First is the family of Enrique. They are a beautiful little family of four, with Enrique, Gabrielle (the mom), Eduardo (12), and Monica (10). They are very sweet, very kind people who would make perfect latter day saints. The first visit, I got to draw water out of a well, a real well with bucket and everything, as service. The second visit lasted about an hour and a half because Enrique likes to talk. they didn't come to church on Sunday, but I have hope for them. I know they like to hear the word of God, but I wonder if they are actually interested in joining a church. They fed us a dinner last time too, despite our great protests (I ate shrimp heads, which I later observed the others had avoided. Bummer). Anyways, if it works out, it will be great for them and for the ward.

On to the Ward: the Ward is great. It's small in active members, but big in heart and capacity for service. They love helping us, feeding us, and giving us referrals. They are all a missionary can ask for in a ward. One thing you should know: Mexicans, generally, are terrible singers. They do not sing on key. I feel right at home during hymns here. Anyway, there is also a lack of priesthood holders. The bishop only has one couselor (Hermano Cabrera, who works a lot), but nonetheless they perservere. One Hermana loves missionaries so much that she bought a dining set just for the missionaries (very large plates) and is getting a bathroom installed, just so that the missionaries can stop at her house. She was the one we ate with yesterday. She also takes in starving animals off the street and has that same weird love for them that you do, mom.

Speaking of animals: We live in an upper floor apartment (house). Below us lives a vender lady and she has a dog. A very fat dog. A very fat dog named Rocky. A very fat Rocky that is a Rotweiler. Aubrey would love him. I'll send pictures next week. Rocky is very nice, but he loves to play and stick his head in between your legs. It is very awkward. Elder Juarez calls Rocky "Mi perro." And Rocky isn't the only dog around; I'm pretty sure there are more dogs here than cars. They are everywhere and yes, I have already been attacked by one, but Elder Juarez bravely warded him off with a stick. The point is, be happy you only have to deal with Dot.

Well, I love you all and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Yes, I would like fruit certs in my Christmas package. I have a testimony of this Church. The mission is hard -- very hard. Sometimes I doubt it's worth it, but then the Lord provides. He always provides if you give Him His time. Move forward in faith and do the things that you have belief you should do. I'll make it here. I will survive. I will perservere. And I will thrive. The Church is true, the Spirit is real, and most of all, Christ is our loving Savior and Guide. Believe in Him, and you shall be blessed.
Elder Johnson (El Hijo de Juan)

October 4, 2011

Last letter from the MTC

Sorry, sorry, so very sorry that I did not write yesterday. I just simply didn't have the time and I'll try to tell you what happened, if I have the time. I have a lot of important stuff to say, as well as some cool stuff, so let's get going.

First, how I got my visa and the other terrible things that accompanied this story. So, we've been waiting for our visas for awhile, myself and all four of the other Oaxacan elders. I, however, have been expecting problems with mine, so I haven't been waiting on the edge of my seat. As long as I eventually got to Oaxaca, I would be fine. However, we kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting.....and waiting. The Mexico City Elders in our district got their travel plans in the middle of last week. By the middle of this week, we fully expected to know what was going on. We didn't. Then, Wednesday, in our final class period of the day, we got called down to the travel office. It was then that a small seed of hope was planted in my mind that maybe I would go to Oaxaca on time. So, Thursday rolled around and all five of us followed the instructions we received in the travel office the day before and boarded a bus and went down to the Mexican consulate. It was a Mexican DMV, just as Elder Swensen described it. The chairs were dirty. The place was small. There certainly were no marble columns or a Mexican President. We waited for two hours to get a picture taken, two fingerprints, and three signatures, and then we left. It was rather uneventful. With one major exception: when it was Elder Wheeler's (who does not know how to shut his mouth while breathing) turn to get his picture taken, he sat down in the chair only to be informed that there were some issues with his visa. A collective gasp came from the waiting crowd who knew exactly what the word "issues" meant. He was eventually informed that the MTC had filled out his visa papers wrong and therefore he did not have a visa right now. To make a long story short, now, instead of me being the one who admittedly should stay, my good and faithful companion will not be traveling with the rest of the group. He will most likely be reassigned, like the Peruvian elders who finally learned that they will be going to Alabama on Tuesday.

Elder Wheeler (who has had a harder life than you can imagine) was understandably shook up about this. He was shook up even more after he had to call his parents and tell them what happened. I spent the most of that night just listening to his entire life story, his doubts, fears, and reasons why he is serving a mission. I will tell you honestly and frankly now that Elder Wheeler (who now owns one of my ties) has not been my favorite person. We have very different and dueling egos. But I can assure you without a doubt that Elder Wheeler has the strongest testimony of anyone I have ever personally meant and he is an ensign of faith. People have cool stories. Listen to them; find them out; apply them. It doesn't need to be a stake president, a hero, or a prophet for it to be nuggets of gold. Take notes on the testimonies of the common; follow the example of the slow. I have learned more from a red-headed, typical country boy from Kansas than I ever did from books, maxims, quotes, and legends.

Alright, enough of that. I wanted to add my favorite part of General Conference so far. President Uchtdorf, as I'm sure you heard, centered his talk on the incredibly true doctrine of what he called The Paradox of Man: Man, in comparison with God and the vastness of Creation, is quite literally nothing. Yet to God, Man is everything. This is Our Paradox. How can we be both nothing and everything at the same time? What President Uchtdorf pointed out was that Satan, in his cunning, loves to take Man to the extremes of this paradox. To one, he might tempt, saying that we should rely on our own understanding, that we are the children of a God and that we have the right to rule and reign. It is a clever, cunning lie, burgeoning our Pride in ways it was never meant to grow. Yet for others, the Father of Lies goes the other way, convincing him that he is nothing, a speck less than the sands, The Forgotten Creation of a Busy God. To one is pride, to the other hopelessness and both are the realms of Satan. We must know that God does not work in the extremes: I have truly come to believe here in the MTC that Aristotle was an inspired man when he wrote the Theory of Means. We are nothing, we should be humble, and we should cleave unto God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. God is our Father and to Him we should look for guidance. However, we must never, ever forget that the most powerful being in the vast eternity of the Universe is the FATHER of Our Spirits and He knows each of us by name. He does not think of us as one of over seven billion, an insignificant creation living for but a brief season on a tiny world in the middle of the eternally large Universe. He thinks of us as His Children and we should not ever forget that.

Thank you and I love you for all you do. I hope you get a little bit from these very hastily written emails. Bye!


October 2, 2011

Hey, I'm almost outta here!

Whaddya know, I have like a little over a week left in the MTC. It's crazy. The Mexico City Elders got their travel plans yesterday. They also visited the Mexican Consulate. See Colton's weekly letter for expanded details. The moral of the story is this: I should be hearing news on my Visa soon. It probably won't be good news, but hey, at least I'll know. Anyways, I honestly won't mind serving somewhere else for awhile. I only have three conditions: one, that I get to serve. Two, that I eventually get to go to Oaxaca. And three, that I don't lose all the Spanish that I've worked so hard to gain. That's all I ask. We'll see if that comes through soon enough.

Well, it sounds like things are actually pretty exciting back home. I'm happy for Trevor, not only because it's good for him and his career, but also because it gave me something to throw back in all the Utah State fans' faces (yes, Utah STATE, not U of U fans; apparently only Utah State fans take extreme pleasure in going out of their way to be excessively rude to BYU students. You can tell Taggart that I am very disappointed in the representatives of his school). I like bragging about my cousins. It takes the spotlight off of my lack of athletic talent. A side note: can you believe that ULTIMATE FRISBEE is banned at the MTC? Like seriously, just go and ban the one sport I'm semi-decent at, why don't you. Boo on the MTC for that decisio

Anyway, I should probably tell you a little bit about my week, shouldn't I? Anyways, my day was totally made today when, while talking in Spanish with my District leader (Elder Edwards), the only Elder I can hold a full Spanish conversation with, one of the MTC employees, who happened to have served a Spanish speaking mission, told me that I speak very good Spanish and asked me if I spoke a lot before the MTC. Bomb.com. This is also after earlier this week, when talking to one of my BYU acquaintences who leaves on Monday for Argentina, he (the BYU acquaintence) seriously asked me if I was in the Advanced or Intermediate classes for Spanish, cuz that's what I sounded like. So yeah for learning Spanish!

Oh yeah, Russel M. Nelson spoke on Tuesday. We had gotten an Ensign Magazine specially dedicated to the Book of Mormon, so an Apostle came to talk to us about it. It was a pretty good talk, but here's the main message that I remember from it: the Book of Mormon truly is a SACRED book of scripture. We often forget that. We need to treat it with respect, love, and care, and realize just how great a blessing it is. Finally, while you are reading, acknowledge that you are reading the actual words of God (see D&C 1:37-38). Reading the Book of Mormon should be a sacred and reverent experience and we should treat it as such. The Book of Mormon is precious and it is a gift that we are given this companion volume of scripture to help us understand the mysteries of God. it makes the Bible so much more interesting and precious as well.

Oh, Old Testament things that I love (since you are studying the OT in institute): Chapter 32 of Genesis details a story of Jacob wrestling with an angel until the angel blesses him. Enos describes his great redemptive prayer as a "wrestle" (verse 2). Pray your heart out, everyone. The Lord will answer. It should be a exhausting, exhilarating, and ultimately, fruitful experience. Prayer is an engaging conversation, and if we can't feel the presence of the Lord as either a member of that conversation or a member of that wrestling match (yeah, He should feel that close), then we are not doing it right. The Bible Dictionary (what an under-utilized gem) says that prayer should come naturally to people, like walking and talking. Prayer is natural and if it feels forced, you're not doing it right. THe point? Pray, and evaluate your prayers occasionally. This isn't a wrote thing we are doing; this is a conversation with a living God.
Another cool thing from the Old Testament. You know that verse in first Nephi where it says, "And my father dwelt in a tent"? Well, I just decided to analyze that a couple of weeks ago and I found that it was referenced to all the parts in the Old Testament that described Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelling in tents. The lesson? Lehi was the great Patriarch of the Nephite race, as Jacob and the others were for the Jews. It all makes sense. There is a reason that scripture is including in the Book of Mormon. The Lord does His will and Joseph Smith could not have known to include that parallel detail on his own Judgment. He only did it through the power of God.

Well, I love you all and I'm out of time. I will talk to you next week!