This week went by the fastest of any of my weeks at the MTC thus far. Let me finish telling you about Sundays, and then I will tell you why my heart grew this week.
After church on Sundays, we go back to our classrooms and have a lesson with our district prepared by one of the companionships of missionaries. It is usually on the same topic as what the talk we all prepared for church was on, as well. This past Sunday my companion Sister Brooksby and I actually prepared the lesson on repentance. We watched a short video on lds.org about repentance, and then we had a few questions and scriptures prepared to prompt class discussion.
Repentance is always a hard topic because it is something so personal between the repentant person and the Lord, but we had a really great conversation and I learned a lot. Let’s be honest, I learn a lot every day that I am here from my companion, the other elders in my district, my teachers, my roommates, the letters I receive from friends and family…well, the list goes on. After our lesson we kill some time watching “The District” videos provided for missionaries to watch where we can learn about how and how not to share the gospel with people. We’ve watched one a week! We don’t have a lot of media access as missionaries, so my district has scoured lds.org and mormon.org looking for music and videos to watch. I am now well versed in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Mormon Messages. After that, our whole branch walks up to the Provo Temple together, which is just across the street behind the playing fields. We just walk around and take pictures, sometimes bringing our scriptures and reading all together. It is cool because there are usually a couple of hundred missionaries milling around the temple gardens and grounds at any time on Sundays. After our temple walk, we all go to dinner together! After dinner we have time to study, read, drill vocabulary, and take some assessments available on the computers to test our personal growth, scripture knowledge, knowledge of the gospel lessons and even of the missionary handbook. We don’t have bicycles in the missions in Korea, so my companion and I always skip that part when we read the handbook. So, when I took the handbook assessment this past Sunday, I got all the bike questions wrong! Apparently we aren’t supposed to ride our bikes in bad weather, but we are allowed to ride in high pedestrian areas, who knew?
Like Tuesday nights, on Sunday nights we have a fireside or devotional. I’m never sure which one is on Tuesday and which one is on Sunday. Sundays are usually by really cool people! For instance, the day I arrived in the MTC was the anniversary of the death of Joseph Smith, the prophet who restored Christ’s gospel in the latter-days and translated the Book of Mormon for our use, so that Sunday a man told of the life of Joseph Smith from the point of view of one of his closest friends whose name I can’t remember and who wasn’t hurt when Joseph and Hyrum [Smith, Joseph’s brother] were killed…not John Taylor but the other one [Willard Richards]. It was so powerful! The closing song was “Praise to the Man” which is all about Joseph Smith. All 2,300 missionaries or so stood while we sang the hymn in honor of Joseph Smith and all he did. After the fireside, the MTC shows church movies all over campus. Last Sunday they even showed some in Korean!! The classroom they picked almost wasn’t big enough to fit all of us. First we watched “Joseph Smith’s First Vision” and then we watched a general conference talk by a member of the 12 Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar, about pickles. And then we plan the next day and go to bed! Sunday is great! I always learn so much, even when most everything is in Korean.
Before I close, I want to share a funny lost-in-translation story that I experienced on Sunday. Ever since the Koreans got here, they, the sisters and the elders, have told me that I am beautiful. Ok, so I knew that Asians think white skin is beautiful, no big deal, no reason to let that go to my head. On Sunday during our temple walk I was taking a picture with one of the elders and when he looked at the picture on his camera he said, “Oh, you have small head!” Ah, rude! So I told him maybe he just has a big head and he roared with laughter!! I found out that a small head is beautiful in Korean!
This past week was the last week before the “older” classes and the natives left for their missions. When missionaries are about to head off to their missions, we are all set-apart or given a special priesthood blessing to help us with our mission. In my blessing, the priesthood holder blessed me three times that I would love the Korean people. When I was receiving this blessing I thought that was strange because I already knew that I loved them and that I would love them. Now that the natives are gone I truly understand and feel the power of that blessing, a blessing that was so important it was bestowed upon me three times. I could barely even speak to some of the missionaries because my Korean is so limited and their English is, too, but I know that one day I will meet them again and I will remember the great influence and love I felt from each of them and for them. On Sunday, after sacrament meeting, all the missionaries, both native and not, who were leaving this week got up and sang a Korean song for the rest of us. It started with just the 6 sisters and then picked up tempo and everyone joined in. The song is about leaving for now but meeting later. As I saw the faces of these missionaries about to go out into “the real world” I could see their fear and their faith; understand their concerns, but also feel their confidence and conviction in what they were about to do; and I knew their discomfort, but no one could deny that these sisters and elders had an overwhelming desire to serve. I am so grateful that I have a whole 12 weeks here in the MTC to prepare to meet the Koreans, to meet my brothers and sisters because I want to learn as much as I can so I can tell them how much I love them and how much their Heavenly Father loves them.