Thursday, July 26, 2012

26 July 2012

Hola familia!
Week four is underway. Crazy to think I'm almost halfway done here. About time though...

Random note: I think I want to minor in Geography and English and maintain my Political Science major. I think that will help me a lot. Definitely not minoring in espanol. Also, I found the world's best pen but since it's felt tip I always accidentally break them by not putting the cap straight on. 2mm felt tip black pen. Glides like an ice skate.

This has been such a hectic week. We now speak only spanish in class, compared to the 75% or so we spake before. I've gotten good at charades. I can still make up words and be right 50% of the time. For that reason alone I'm glad I'm not learning a language like Russian or Mandarin; makes things a bit easier.

To anyone I have sent letters to up until a few days ago: In my lack of skill as a letter-sender (snail mail), I used 1 cent stamps. I don't know if those will make it to you guys but they havent been returned to me so I can hope. Woops. Also, mail takes a long time to get here. In one instance, it took someones letter 11 days to arrive. You'd think in the year that we can open someones chest and give them a new heart we could deliver a piece of paper a little bit quicker than 11 days. And it came from CA too, so not far away.

To Eric and Will: I overheard a newbie missionary yesterday. They all come in on Wednesday and are given orange stickers on their name tags. One of them said, while swinging his arms in a picking motion, "I'm picking at the walls, I need minecraft!" Jokes aside, some people really do struggle to stay off video games here. It's actually surprising.

I've been rowing 5Ks everyday for a week now. I made a graph to compare my 5K times. It went from an average 500 meter split of 2:11 to 2:05.6 yesterday. I felt like I was going to die but it's a great workout. I got Elder Myler on. He didn't enjoy it so much.

We lost Elder Peterson and Elder Adams to the Lima Peru MTC this week. They left the MTC at 3 am and everyone in our district got up to bid them farewell. It is also customary in our district, maybe others too, to sing "Till we Meet" in spanish to them the night before. There's something powerful about hearing 30+ elders and 2 sisters singing that song as loud yet reverantly as possible.

I learned a little bit more about a couple of them. Elder Peterson's original report date was a month from today. One Thursday night he got a phone call from the MTC and said, "Can you come in tomorrow?" In what is surely to be remembered by everyone in our zone of an act of complete selflessness, he said yes. In 24 hours, he did all of his missionary shopping, endowment, plane tickets, packing, farewells, and whatnot. He was here 23 hours later. Another person in our district actually had her dream job as a teacher yet felt inspired that she should serve a mission. She quit and reported. It's always amazing what some people do when they're truly dedicated.

This was a stressful week for a number of reasons, one of which is mentioned above. I felt exhausted and a bit discouraged as my spanish improvement has started to plateau. I did what so many people tell stories of and opened the scriptures, after praying, to a random chapter. It fell to DC 24. I read through it and immediately felt better. It was almost as if that scripture had been written for me specifically. I encourage everyone to read it if they get a chance.

Our zone got the chance to go the Temple today. It has been closed for repairs since I got here. We all walked over at 9 this morning and got into the 9:20 session. It is quite a bit different than the DC Temple but the spirit is the same. Apparently, but not surprisingly, that is one of the most productive temples. You get all the mormons from BYU and 3200 missionaries from the MTC going there. No wonder they're making another Provo temple. I still think that the people in southern Chile, or Mozambique or whatnot deserve one more. I can be inconvenienced a little bit if that means someone doesnt have to save for 2 years just to travel to the temple, let alone a 10 day via bus trip. It takes 10 minutes to walk to the Provo Temple. But in the end it is nice. Supposedly you can't read or even take your patriarichal blessing into the temple. I learned that the hard way today. I wonder why...If it's considered personal scripture, and there are bibles and copies of the book of mormon inside, why cant we read pat blessings?

Mom, did my last two API paychecks come through?

Elder Thorsen and I are contemplating with the idea of doing a Violin duet here. You can borrow violins for free, it's pretty easy, and he has played for a number of years as well. It will likely happen, I'll keep you all tuned on the progress.

I thought I would take a little bit of this letter and explain how MTC language classes work. Before I came I thought it was way different. I expected to be in a class with 20+ people and one person ranting about how to conjugate "Arrepentirse" in the past imperfect or something. I was surprised to get into my classroom of 12 people (at the time) and one teacher. The classroom is tiny. Tiny. Tiny. It's also really hot since for some reason the MTC can't maintain their airconditioners but that's a story for later. Anyway, the class is all participation. You don't cram vocab or conjugations in class, rather you focus on phrases that are important. Through learning phrases, the rest comes. It is increadibly efficient as they focus on what matters, not things like colors. Which surprised me; I was expecting to learn how to count, I can count to 10 though so I guess I'm good to go! Class time is split between teaching "investigators" (roleplaying with your teacher usually who pretends to be someone who was an investigator in their mission. Oh, all teachers are returned missionaries. One of ours served in Ecuador, the other in Washington). Anyway, it's not as easy as you would expect beacuse each "investigator" (hereto referred to without the quoatations) has very different needs. "Carolina" committed to baptism, "Gabriel" took five lessons. We were running out of things to teach him. You teach every day usually. You also often have one to two hours a week, maybe three, of English doctrine study. We also read the book of mormon in english once a week as a class and share insights we have. It's very educational and a very spiritual setting. I hope that answers some of your questions about what I'm doing here.

AC. It is so hot in these buildings. Our residence building hasn't had AC for, apparently, 1-2 months. I thought I'd do something about it and went to the maintainence building and reported it. They had had no idea it didnt work. I saved the day. Our residence is starting to cool down but I havent had a good night sleep since I got here because I always wake up sweating. I guess it's good practice for Arizona.
I realized that every hallway has microphones embedded into them. Kind of creepy. I hope they only tune in when they need to. They can use the PA and talk to a certain floor only and everyone can theoretically answer. For instance, they were looking for and Elder last week, called over the PA, and someone popped out of his room and said, "he's in 2M at the gym." It's useful but weird...

I finally ran into my cousin, Rachel. Took three weeks since she has been back but found her working in the cafeteria.

I received one of the most amazing letters this week. Hm, all of your letters are great, but this one was a surprise since it was from someone I'd never met before. Douglas Campbell, someone I had never met before, sent me an increadibly nice letter. Inside, he had written a very heart warming note on paper he made himself out of corn husk. He told me a little about his life, how he knows me (Thanks Brother Harbuck!), and how grateful he was for missionaries like me putting our lives on hold to serve the Lord. It was touching and something I plan on keeping forever.

Thank you, family, Tori, Jamie, Natalia, and Brother Campbell for the letters this week. They mean a lot. Hopefully I didnt forget anyone, so much happens that I tend to lose track of which week is which.
I'm running out of things to say. If anyone has any questions they want answered in the weekly email or a personal one, let me know via mail.
Also, Mom, could you change my address on the blog site to include "MTC Mailbox #311"? Not having that slows mail down by a day since they have to find where I am.

Is the Johnson family related to Ezekial Johnson? One of the counselors in our Branch presidency, a Call by last name, has an Ezekial Johnson in his family and that name sounds so familiar. My pedigree chart doesnt go far enough back to check, meaning the one I have with me here. It would be funny if we were related.

I don't know if I mentioned the black market of the MTC in a previous letter, but if not, here it is again. The MTC has a black market. I was sitting in my room reading from Jesus the Christ and someone I didnt know popped in, opened a bag and said, "See anything you like?" I was expecting caffeinated drinks since those arent sold here, but to my laughter and surprise it was ties. Only at the MTC do people sneak around to trade ties. Anyway, I didn't trade anything because my ties are sweet.

Two random completely non-spiritual questions I had this week that I would love answered since I don't have Wikipedia anymore: How is skin attached to the bone if at all and how does swallowing work? Wave motion?

Thanks again for all the letters, love you all
Elder Johnson

Thursday, July 19, 2012

19 July 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

What a fast week! It seems like I've been here far longer than just 2 weeks (today starts the 3rd). Soy un profesional missionaero. I can't spell in Spanish.

I think the non-spiritual highlight of the week was finding Ergs. There are two gyms on campus, one at the fieldhouse area, another under the mailroom. It has elipticals, weights, and 2 ergs. I've been using those regularly. I had completely forgotten how evil they are. No other machine is as good as workout as they are though. Running the 3 miles that we do per day is easy in comparison. I rowed a 2k the first day, 3k the next, and 5k yesterady. The first 2k was 8:40, pretty lame, but a bit better than I expected, especially considering I stopped for 15 seconds to help my companion fix the shoe tightening thing. He was pretty exhausted afterwards, I won't mention his time. The 3K was equally hard. What I like to do is row 500 meters at a fast pace then every 500 meters try to get a faster split time than the previous split time. It's a good workout. I rowed the first 500 meters of my 5K at 2:17 split then dropped down to 1:50 for the last 500 meters. I almost died. Ended with an average split of 2:10, or two and a half 8.2 minute 2K's. Though it wasn't too quick, it felt good after I was in bed but pure agony during. Gotta love ergs. I'm racing the other elders tomorrow. See who can row 500 meters the quickest...we're all pretty competitive.

Mom, when you served in Honduras, did you know an Hermana Colledge/College? (spelling?) Her son is your same age and served in Honduras, can't remember the mission presidents name. If you knew her I would laugh.

Also, Dad, you never answered my question if you knew an Elder Shreeve in Portland, OR. My roommates Dad served your same years in Portland Oregon. Elder Shreeve.

Thanks for all the letters! I got nine on Tuesday. Needless to say, my roommates were jealous. Thank you Aunt Andra for your note! Glad to hear that you're following along! Uncle Matt was spot on: the MTC isn't easy but it's so rewarding.

Thank you too, Roland. There's a letter enroute. Snail mail, of course.
Random connection. Apparently Elder Shreeve, one of the four elders (including me) in our small room, knew Tiffany at BYU. What were the chances. He also just found out he dated my companion's girlfriend before they started dating. They didn't know eachother beforehand. Only at BYU...

William, I quoted what you said to some of the elders here. Apparently you guys went to a catholic cathedral and it was, "so nice that I decided to make it in Minecraft." They all laughed.

Elder Brown just left the MTC this week. At the MTC, or at least in my zone, when older missionaries leave, they leave things behind for select missionaries. My companion got a bouncy ball, my roommate got a gross robe and a quarter (?). Elder Brown passed down a poster of Joseph Smith and a sweet toy car. Good guy. He's the DC North mission but if you ever see an Elder Brown, tall and skinny from CA, blonde hair, feed him. I gave him a list of things to do in DC, as well as our address in Arlington. Elder Campbell passed down a nerf gun to me. 6 bullets and all. I'm set. If our zone breaks out into all out war, which is highly unlikely since we all love each other, I think I'll survive.
My study question for the week was one that took way longer than I expected to answer. I was reading in some scripture and realized that we pray to God in Jesus name. Why have to go through someone? I spent three days reading around trying to find a good answer. Here's my conclusion. The atonement exists because we are not worthy to return to God's presence because of our sins. Similarly, we aren't worthy to speak directly to God so we use a "mediator," or, Christ. I analogized it like this: back in the old days before even the internet, phone operators would be dialed in order to reach someone else. You had to go through a central figure to reach someone. Similarly, we pray through Christ to God because it helps us contact him. Anyway, I'm not 100% sure that's true, but thats what the scriptures made it seem like.

Elder Shreeve, Myler (companion of mine), Elder Thorsen, and I decided to sing in the Choir this week. We sang, "This Is the Christ" during the devotional. It was pretty great to hear so many people sing such a great song. I didn't know it was written (lyrics) by President Faust! The cameras panned over us for a bit and it was hard not to laugh. Nothing like being zoomed in on in front of 3000 people.
Naturally, Hermana Dicarolo, the only person at the MTC/this side of the coutnry who follows F1 got transferred to the Intermediate spanish class. Hermana Maier went with her. We also lost Elder Diaz Galarza to the advanced class on two days ago. He is going to Peru, Lima Central tomorrow. 2 weeks in the MTC and he's already going to the field. He's not going to the MTC in Peru. his Mom is Peruvian and Dad is Mexican so they are very excited. We had a nice farewell for him.
Elder Peterson and Elder Adams leave on Tuesday for the Peru MTC at 3am. After that, we will have five elders and two hermanas. Elder Thorsens Visa isn't coming in for Peru so he's getting delayed it seems. Our group of 12 will soon be 7, and then 6 when Elder Thorsen leaves.

We had a musical devotional this week. First time I've seen one of those. Elder Oaks' daughter who is a concert violinist performed. She went to Giuliard etc etc. It was pretty impressive. At the end, her four kids (Piano, Violin, Guitar, Cello, ages 13, 10, 8, 5) performed a song. It was amazing and everyone was impressed.

Our "Investigator" got "baptized" this week. Our new "investigator" committed to baptism too. (Mom, you can explain this if you want, as in what the investigators are. For the sake of time IO won't)
not sure if I said this last week but the showers here are brutally bad. They are either FREEZING or SCALDING. This morniing my shower was 30 seconds long, the longst 30 seconds of my life. I think they make them bad on purpose. Some peopel still manage to shower for 20 mintues though...

Speaking of lame, the rooms are also really hot. Some elders have fans which get passed down from person to person over the years. One such fan, a pink one, was in Elder Fullers room. He was about to give it to me then read all the signatures on it. One said, "Elder ______ will be coiming back in one year to pick this up.) He came back with the new district last week. Somehow that fan had made its way through multiple buildings, zones, and people, to come to the same floor and district that he entered. I gave him the fan because destiny is destiny.

We've been taking some cool long exposure pictures recently at night. I'll send those home when the 2nd SD card arrives here. I'll also have names/descriptions of anyone I have a picture of. There are a lot. Anyway, these elders are really creative with what they can do with some flashlights and a 15 seecond exposure. I've got all of them on my camera.

Thanks for that letter Dad. No, it doesn't distract me any more than reading any other letter would. I'm so happy Mark Webber won, he's the man. Totally deserved it. McLaren need to step up it seems. Kudos to Massa too! Keep sending me descriptive letters about the races! Also, putting that Loonie in there was awesome. Canada was a great trip, thanks for it. It's taped to my wall.

6 minutes left and I've used all my bullet point topics tio talk about. 

Does anyone have any questions they want answered about MTC life/schedules? Pop me a letter and I can answer them next week.
This week was full of teaching and teaching. "Julio"," our "investigator" is now our teacher, Hermana Angel. He served in Ecuador and has some hilariously paintful stories about food and what it did to him. Use your imaginations.

We taught a lot of lessons this week. Elder Myler and I work really well together and our whole district still really loves each other. We use less and less notes and are getting more and more confident in our spanish. That said, it's still trash.! Apparently that is an easy way to send packages. Just saying.

I've had a lot of fun discussing politics. Yes, I know, I'm on a mission, but sometimes it comes up either when we're talking about church doctrine or whatever. It's fun to talk to people who "hate Obama," because, "he does nothing." But unfortunately they don't know what specifically he hasn't done. I am educating!

Hermana White told me she can always rely on me to say something interesting. I guess wikipedia is finally paying off. Whether it be relativity in "If you could hie to Kolob" to whatever else, apparently I know interesting things. Word.

Time's up.

Yo se que la iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los ultimos dios es la verdadera. Yo se que el expiacion de Jesucristo es for nuestro y es muy importante por nuetro salvacion. Yo se que este mediante mucho diligencio y fe, todos cosas es posible.

Love you all, thanks so much for the letters again. There's few things as exciting as checking the mail after lunch and dinner and having letters.

Elder Johnson

Thursday, July 12, 2012

12 July 2012 First MTC Letter!

Dear Family and Friends,

First week here, crazy... This shift button works half the time so there may be some problems. The time is at 28:01 minutes.

We've done so much this week. Between two devotionals/meetings/4 hours+ of class per day/2 hours+ of personal study per day, this week has been an insane rush. But it has been an amazing rush.

I was the first one in our room on the first day, I walked to our room with my escort. I chose the bed closest to the AC and furthest from the door. Smart choice. The rooms are scalding since the AC doesn't work and body heat generated by the four of us in the room really builds up.
My companion, Elder Myler, is from Eagle, ID. He is going to Tempe, AZ spanish speaking too. We share the room with Elder Shreeve (Kuna, ID, going to Canada spanish speaking) and Elder Jacobson (SLC going to Tempe Spanish speaking). We have four other elders in our district and four sisters. Elder Thorsen (Dallas, TX to lima central), Elder diaz galarza (Cali to lima), Elder adams (dallas to lima) and elder peterson (NJ to Lima). hermana white is going tempe, hermana maier is going tempe, hermana crawford is going tempe, and hermana diCarolo (from italy, going california). she knows about Formula 1! She is a ferrari fan and scolded me when i said i liked McLaren. speaking of, dad, who won at Silverstone?? WDC and WCC Standings? We all get along great and everyone is excited to work hard. We all have at least two years of spanish history and no more than three.

We were rushed through meetings, classes that are only in spanish, more meetings, a short meal, and more meetings on the first day. i dont remember any of it.

We pray everynight as a room companionship in spanish and we try to only pray in spanish so that we can practice more and more. it's starting to come back.

The zone leader when we got here was named Elder brown and Elder Tonga. Elder Brown is going to DC North. He's a great guy and will be speaking spanish. keep your eyes open for a tall, blond haired elder from California speaking spanish. i told him that if he ever goes to DC South to check out the Arlington 2 Ward. i've been telling him about the area and why it's the second best mission (tempe being first). He taught me this awesome knot that i have a picture of but since i can't upload pictures from the MTC you will only see it if i mail a card home. I'll need another one to use while It's gone.

I've seen a lot of people I know. 10+ from BYU, The Goodsell's (going croatian speaking, also happen to be in the MTC at the same time as their son who they see everyday). I ran into Jared the other day and also Cassie, among others. Cassie leaves next week so we got a picture together. (I just found out two hermanas sitting behind me live in the DC north mission. small world)

So in our class, taught by Hermana Olsen (served in Spokane, WA spanish speaking, got back 9 months ago and has been working at the MTC for 4 months), we speak spanish only in the classroom. if we really need help she'll break into English to explain. I have a tendency to make up words and I kid you not, 50% of the time I am right. It is absurd and she laughs because somehow I am right. gift of tongues, yo. Or my genius leaking out. She's a great teacher.

We taught our first three lessons last week, all in spanish and over 15 mins each. We are teaching Julio (MTC teacher but he doesnt know that we know that). We have taught him about the Word of Wisdom, the Spirit, the restoration, and yesterday, committed him to baptism. I went off script beause i felt i should explain why we get baptized at 8. Since fictional Julio is catholic, I explained why we were baptized at age 8; since it is the age of accountability. I didnt know any of the words so i said, "a el ano de ocho, nosotros bautizadomos porque es el ano de....accountabilidad." I thought I made that word up but it means accountability. Good times.

On our first Sunday, we all had to rush to church. I grabbed the wrong suit jacket for the suit pants I was wearing and didn't notice till 12. Blue doesn't go with grey striped.

We found out yesterday while we were practicaring espanol that our class is three weeks ahead of schedule. Hermana Olsen's MTC companion actually works at the MTC and came to analyze Hermana Olsen yesterday. She let us know how far ahead we were and how surprised she was. Guess that means we got her good marks.

Due to the chaos of the first week and how we are always busy, I was having a hard time feeling the holy ghost. Apparently the other elders were too. We prayed that we would be able to better recognize it despite our schedule. My prayer was answered two days ago, it was almost overwhelming. I felt prompted to write in the front of my Book of mormon/bible, "how could you not believe." It wasn't even a question. It has been significally easier since then.

The best quote of the week was either, "tengo gas-o" or "I was dating her for three years, she just didn't know it." Needless to say, our spangilsh is exceptional.

Here's an example of my schedule, we only have 4 mins left.
7:20         - Breakfast
7:50-8:40 - Study history of prophets
8:50-9:40 - Gym (Elder Diaz Galarza and i run about 3 miles a day then head back a bit early to catch the showers before they explode with people)
10:10-11:00 - TALL (computer language learning)
11;00-12:00 - personal language study
12:00-12:30 - Lunch
12:45-1:55   - Personal language study
2:00 - 5:00   - language class with hermana olsen. this is the fastest three hours of the day, shes a great teacher
5:00 - 5:30   - Dinner
7:00-8:00     - Devotional
8-9 Devotional review
9-9:30 planning for next day
10-10:30 journal entry

It's crazy but it's so fun. our district is great.
Thursday is my Pday but they let us write letters for 50 minutes on tuesday mornings. We can check the mail everyday but reply only twice per week. it's nice picking up mail. Dear Elder works great.
it's a good thing i can write 130 words per min (this keyboard izsnt working well though so it's lower) so i can say more. I outlined what I wanted to type this week so the 30 mins was all typing and no thinking.

Random questions and comments below:
Dad, you served Portland Oregon, right? did you know an Elder Shreeve? My Elder Shreeve said his Dad is 43-46 and served in Portland, OR. he met his wife there too. that would be crazy if you were with an Elder Shreeve and I was with his son,.

What year did Orson Hyde dedicate Palestine for the returning of the jews? I read about that yesterday. It must have been mid 1800's, a cool prophecy to what happened when the UN signed it over to the jews.

Thanks you aunt Carmen for the package and Taffy, that was actually the best taffy i've ever had.

Also, thanks for the letter Grandpa. it's nice to keep up with your journal entries and life while i'm gone.

Yo se que el libro de mormon es las palabras de los profetas, yo se que jesucristo es unes salvador.

Love you all,
Elder Johnson

Friday, July 6, 2012

5 July 2012, Entering the MTC

Grandma and Grandpa Johnson were in Arlington to say goodbye to Paul.

Andrew Hall, Elder Johnson, Ryan Hall
(Aunt Carmen and Uncle Bruce kindly picked Paul up from the airport, hosted him overnight and delivered him to the MTC)

Elder Johnson meeting his host at the MTC who will guide him around for a little while.

Rainy day. . . a blessing for Utah since they've been suffering from fires and drought.  

A lot of missionaries began their missions on July 5, 2012.  Many more than this!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mission Farewell Talk

Below is the talk I delivered July 1, 2012, as I prepared to leave for the Missionary Training Center on Wednesday of that same week. 

Good afternoon brothers and sisters, my name is Paul Johnson. I have lived in this ward for my entire life and this day has arrived quicker than I ever anticipated. I spent the last year attending Brigham Young University in Provo, UT where I am majoring in Political Science. I have been called to serve a mission in the Tempe Arizona mission where I will be speaking Spanish. Hablo un poquito espanol. I leave July 4th for the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

Perhaps the most asked question is, “what is the meaning of life?” Ever have philosophers, scientists, and the religious sought the answer to this seemingly mundane question. Fortunately, this Church has the answer to this very question: to learn to be like God and return to his presence.

Moses 1:39 sums up not only our purpose in life but also the reason behind the Plan of Salvation. It says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This was my favorite scripture mastery, not only because it is one of the shortest, but also because in its simplicity is great depth. By teaching what Gods purpose is, it tells us what our purpose should be. The Plan of Salvation separates the Latter Day Saints from all other churches. Only something divinely inspired could be so perfect.

Simply put, the plan of salvation explains what we did before we came to earth, why we came, what we must do on Earth, how we get back to heaven, and what happens when we get back to heaven.

When I was in young mens all those many years ago, Spencer Oscarson would have one of us get in front of the group each week and explain the Plan of Salvation in under sixty seconds. This was no easy task and proved to be so hard that he introduced a little drawing he had used on his mission to illustrate to his investigators each aspect of the plan of salvation.

The drawing, which, again, was just a brief summary, began with a picture of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and an anonymous person. This person is you and I. Now the first step in our lives came when chose to come to Earth. We chose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan and come to Earth; however, we had to pass through a veil of forgetfulness so that we could be tried and practice faith. We were given two things as we came to Earth. The diagram was illustrated with two literal gifts, representing a body and moral agency. The next step in the diagram shows a drawing of Earth, our destination. Once here, we would be tried in all manners of ways. The diagram shows that after we passed on from this life, we had to overcome two barriers represented by two walls. In the drawing, one wall had a ramp leading over it and the other had stairs. The ramp was there because overcoming physical death is given as a free gift to all due to the atonement. It is an obstacle that everyone overcomes. The diagram showed that the next wall had four steps leading over it. This wall represented spiritual death, something that takes work on our part to overcome. The four steps represent the principles taught in the fourth article of faith, or Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism by immersion, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. According to Joseph Smith, faith allows us to, “readily discover that it is faith and faith only which is the motivating cause in all action in them and that without it, both mind and body, we would be in a state of inactivity.” It is through faith in the Lord that helps us climb those steps. Acts 2:37 states the importance of repentance and baptism. It says, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Lastly, the gift of the Holy Ghost, for those who have been baptized, is a source of continual guidance and inspiration. To overcome spiritual death, or rather return to God’s presence, these four things must be done. After they are accomplished, repentance through the atonement must be an integral part of ones day-to-day life so that we may remain worthy to return to heaven.

In our pre-mortal lives, we all lived as spirit children in heaven. While in heaven, we developed identities and increased our spiritual capacities. We came to the point where the next step in our progression was to come to earth to gain experience and a greater understanding of all things.

Mortal life is perhaps the most important time of progression. Here, we are tried in all aspects. Temptation is aplenty but it is through faith in the Lord that we are able to overcome it. When we do, we are blessed with a stronger testimony and a personal testimony to the power of prayer and strength that we get from prayer. Batman isn’t often quoted from the stand, but he had it just right in a batman movie when it was said, “Why do we fall, Mr. Wayne?” The response was perfect. “so we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.” I think this is a great example of how we can learn from our mistakes and use our shortcomings to strengthen ourselves.

A great example of this comes from Book of Mormon prophet Alma the Younger. During his younger years, he was the very definition of an Anti Christ. He caused havoc, broke laws, and worked to take down the Church of Christ. However, when he was shown his wrongs, he repented of his sins and was born a stronger man. He went on to become one of the great Book of Mormon prophets.

One of the most important aspects of mortal life is taking advantage of the atonement. The atonement is an integral part of the Plan of Salvation. Without it, we have no hope of returning to be with God. Jesus Christ came to earth and performed the atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross so that we may be forgiven of our sins. He felt the sorrows and pains that every single person, everywhere, anytime has ever felt. It is comforting to know that we are never alone in our trials and using the atonement to its fullest will allow us to make that crucial step of repentance.

Life after death starts when our body and spirit are separated as we await resurrection. Once we are judged and resurrected, the two are joined into a perfect, flawless being. Depending on how we lived our lives, we will be sent to one of three kingdoms. The terrestrial kingdom excels the Telestial kingdom, and the celestial kingdoms, “glory excels in all things – where God, even the father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever.” What a marvelous sounding place. My Book of Mormon teacher at BYU was often heard saying, “when asked what kingdom of glory we will be inheriting, we should always say Celestial, not because we are sure but because it helps us live our lives in a way to help us get there.” This principle is very similar to the “say no at a young age” advice we often hear because if you grow up thinking and planning on not doing something, chances are you will have an easier time avoiding it.

In Alma 36, Alma expresses the anguish he feels for the thought of becoming “extinct both in soul and body.” He said, “and for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.” However, when he repents just two verses later, he says something truly inspiring to his son. “And oh, what joy and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” He continues to say, “Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”

Elder Neal A Maxwell gave a great conference talk years ago about why it is important to have a testimony in the Plan of Salvation. He said that, “full faith in the Lord Jesus Christ includes and requires full faith in His Father’s plan of salvation.” Faith in these two things builds upon each other just as faith in the Book of Mormon builds on and provides further testament to the teachings of the Church.

Brothers and sisters, how does knowing these things affect our day-to-day lives? What changes can we make to better prepare ourselves and get ourselves spiritually clean?

Let me bare testimony of the sense of joy felt through repentance truly is remarkable. The Plan of Salvation is the fullness of the Gospel. It is the creation, the fall, the atonement, all laws, ordinances, and doctrines of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is the true church and President Thomas S Monson is a prophet ordained of God, the only prophet with the authority to exercise all keys. I know that serving a mission is the right thing to do and I hope I can make the next two years the best years of my life. Add more here, tell story about mission interview

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.