Friday, August 31, 2012

30 August 2012

What a crazy week. I've said it before, I'll say it again, time flies.
Last letter from the MTC!
We had a great devotional on Sunday. I can't remember who spoke but it was all about obedience and how we can be better if we do everything spot on. He told some crazy stories about lawsuits associated with missionaries separated from their companions just for a few minutes. He spoke with power. Right before he spoke he asked us all to say a silent prayer so that he could be directed via the spirit on what he should speak about. Obviously someone needed to hear about obedience.
He made some funny comments about food on his mission. He said he was a picky eater and that he struggled for his whole mission. Similar to what Cassie said (thanks for that forward, mom), he swallowed his food haha. That came up the next day in class and Hermano Angel touched on some tactics he used (Ecuador). Some were jokes. They were: drop the food into the backpack, swallow, spread, "fake spill," feed the dog, put under plate (a joke, I think, and drink lots of water. He told some hilarious stories about some of those. He said that during his mission he went from praying like, "please bless them to make good food," to, "please prepare my stomach and taste buds..." He told some crazy stories about getting really sick, like losing 25 pounds over the weekend sick.

Surprisingly, this week has had some thefts from adjacent rooms of ours. The MTC is a place full of pretty honest people. Two elders from the new district had a stamp book and SD cards stolen from their room as well as their clothes dumped on the ground. They told Elder Myler and me about it and we filed the police report. I haven't heard any news on it yet. Our room hasn't been touched, partly because we have a nerf basketball hoop on the door which makes it really hard to open. That may also explain why we haven't had a cleaning check for two weeks. No complaints from me!
Interesting experience this week. EVERYONE in our zone is getting sick.  I mean everyone. There is an entire district of 10 elders sick right now not to mention ~8 others in the zone and 3 in my district. Somehow I haven't gotten sick. With my history of a super strong immune system, it comes as now surprise (sarcasm.) We had a leadership meeting last Tuesday and my stomach was pretty painful all night. I was not in the mood to be sick. I said a quiet prayer to get better or feel better. When we sat down for the meeting, as soon as we started the opening prayer I felt 100% better. That stayed that way throughout the entire meeting. As soon as we said the closing prayer, I felt just as bad as before. I was strong long enough to get what I had to get done and then felt poor again right before bedtime. Pretty cool experience for sure.
You hear so often about the grace of God is the only reason we're saved, that through grace we can be saved. Yes, that's partly true. Hermano Angel made an interesting point this week. He said, "Grace is a sustaining process that helps us through it all." That really puts things in perspective, I think. Grace isn't the ability to completely overcome, it is the blessing of being helped. There's that quote by someone I don't know that, "God takes us to our outermost extremities then carries us the rest of the way." I think those two quotes complement each other very well.
Elder Myler and I watched Elder Bednar's first talk as an apostle this week. He looked terrified and repeated over and over how weak he was for the job ahead. It's cool to see how much he has grown as a result of his calling. We can be the same way. We're never really adequate for the job but through faith, we can accomplish anything.
There are these videos we watch in the MTC called, "The District." A camera crew followed these missionaries in California around and recorded all their lessons. Some were obviously better than others. Anyway, we've seen enough of these videos that we always laugh at the people in them. Apparently they're all still working at the MTC (They served their missions 2 years ago.) One such, Elder Christensen, we saw the other day. When we saw him, we all went to shake his hand because he's a "super star" at the MTC. Not really but it's the only thing we can really get excited about other than leaving. When I went to shake his hand, I had to walk after him. He wasn't very excited. I don't think he likes being a "celebrity." Regardless, we got a good laugh out of it.
Another good quote that I'll leave up to you to analyze. "Repentance isn't something you do, it is something you become."
Elder Thorsen still has not received his visa for Lima, Peru. He was supposed to leave for the Lima MTC 6 weeks ago. He has been a great example of faith through trials. Today he got his temporary reassignment: Chicago, IL. It is an awesome reassignment. Hopefully he gets his visa soon since he has no winter clothes. I told him to get out to Wilmette, IL asap. Too bad Grandpa and Grandma Johnson don't live there anymore. Chicago is an awesome place, though.
I got a letter from my Mission President today. He sent all of us Tempe missionaries a letter with the first day itinerary. He seems very organized. No one else going to other missions got something like that. It essentially said how excited he was to meet us and what we should prepare. The first day is crazy. I hope they throw nap time in there somewhere!
We got to host again yesterday. Our district hosted a lot of the international missionaries. It was cool to hear where some of them were from. One Sister was from Italy. I asked her if she followed Formula 1. She said yes very enthusiastically. Always funny to run into people who do follow it. People here have never heard of it but as soon as you get out of the USA, many people know it. I met some Tongans. Apparently it's not "tawnGa," but "tawnga," with a very quiet and unpronounced G. Who knew. Again, lots of tears as families said goodbye. It's crazy how rushed that first day is. I still don't remember a thing about it.
We had four elders in our zone try out to sing in the big devotional, the one that all 3100+ people watch. They qualified but it was all full on Sunday. Unfortunately, Sunday is our last day. Too bad. Last devotional I took my camera just to see how far I could zoom in. From the very back row of a "gym" that holds 4 full sized basketball courts, I could zoom in past everyone in the bleachers and get close enough to read the sheet music (blurrily) of the pianist. It helped keep me awake since it wasn't the most interesting of devotionals (Tuesday). When it is very hot int he room, they sometimes tell the Elders to take off their jackets. I got a picture before that of all the people in black jackets and right after with everyone in white shirts. It added a TON of light to the room. We were singing in the choir so I had a pretty good view. For some reason we sit in the back left. Mom, we've sung every week we've been here. It's really cool and is, "the only choir to not have enough women."
Question time: How did Michael and his hosts of Angels win the war in heaven? Spirits can't die... what defined "victory?" Also, what happens to your conscience when you're sleeping?
As I was reading Alma 7:23 this week, a word stuck out to me (Mom, quote it in here). The word "submissive." When I think of that word, I think of someone who caves in and who isn't firm in whatever it is they are doing. In the New Testament, Christ often says be as children. Children are submissive, they are humble enough to get in trouble and learn from it. I think that's a lesson for all of us to humble ourselves and be able to take critique.
Our district has been talking about how lucky we are to have the two teachers we have. Hermano Angel and Hermana Olsen teach superbly and have funny stories. Funnily enough, neither graduated High School but both got into BYU, Hermana Olsen at 16 years old. I think we're the only missionaries to have two teachers who didn't graduate HS who go to BYU. Hermano Angel came to the temple with us this morning as a sort of farewell. It was a great experience.
Thank you Eric, Will, Mom, Sister Hines, Susie, Uncle Ivan and Aunt Rebecca, Natalia, Grandpa and Grandma Johnson, and Grandpa Wolthuis for the great letters and package this week! I felt so loved. Replies are en route but they will be shorter than usual due to the hectic nature of these last few days at the MTC.
The next letters I write will be from Tempe!
Love you all,
Elder Johnson

Thursday, August 23, 2012

23 August 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

Whew, time at the MTC FLIES by. We have 11 days left as of today and we're all starting to get excited to get out of the MTC.
Earlier this week I stumbled upon an Elder with a tiny Preach my Gospel. It is about the size of 2 notecards with all the pages, pictures, notes and everything of the full size one. I asked Hermana Olsen where I could get one (Since I'm worried about weight for my bags when I fly out. I planned on sending the full size ones home to save weight.) and she said since the Church didn't publish them, you have to go around and buy them and technically they're illegal. Well, I walked into the bookstore yesterday and apparently the church has just started publishing the "pocket sized" P my G's (Preach my Gosepls). I quickly bought one for an obscenely expensive $3.20. A steal. Spanish copies are coming this week and I'll buy one of those too. I will then send my English and Spanish full size P my Gs home to family where they can read whatever notes I have (I'm transfering mine over). I haven't taken a ton because I figure I still have 1.9 years left, no point over marking it now. Anyway, they're awesome and way more convenient.
At the MTC, Apostles, or Members of the Quorum of 12 Apostles (Think James, John....modern time though) try to make it to the MTC every 9 or so weeks. The week before we came to the MTC, there was a huge conference here where almost all the apostles came and all the mission presidents. All the missionaries here got to meet their presidents. I'm jealous. Anyway, we are running out of days here and we still had not had an apostle come speak at a devotional. On Monday night, in my nighly prayers, I asked if we could be blessed with the opportunity to hear an Apostle of God speak to us. I ended my prayers and thought nothing of it. The next day, devotional day, as we were singing in the choir, someone walked on stage. Immediately, the whole room stood up. I recognized the person as Elder Anderson, one of the 12 Apostles. Elder Myler leans over to me and goes, "Why is everyone standing up?" I excitedly said, "Elder Anderson!" He then said, "Who's that...OHHHHHHHHH" We won't let him live that one down. He delivered a great devotional about 10 things President Monson would have said if he was there (it was his birthday that day.) I don't remember them but one was, "Since you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to His help." Entitled to His help.What a powerful idea. Anyway, my prayer was very much answered. God knows the desires of our hearts before we do. Prayer is showing that we care enough to ask and have enough faith that we can receive the answer.
We just got back from the temple. We went an hour earlier than our scheduled time because there are lots of lines there. We did initiatories today. The spirit was so strong and I felt great feelings of peace as I was there. Since next week is our last P Day, we're toying with the idea of doing initiatories, endowment, and sealings in one day. That would be special.
For the entire time I have been here, I think as I have mentioned before, I have had a hard time sleeping. A couple of weeks ago Elder Myler and I went to the onsite doctor and I asked if I could get sleeping pills. He said no at the time but if it continues to come back. His concern was that I would wake up sleepy....which I did already since, you know, I wasn't sleeping. On Monday night I got a solid 3 hours of sleep which was enough proof for me to go back to the doctor. I had also woken up that night standing in the hallway. I told him it was time for the sleeping pills and he agreed. As I was walking to pick up the perscription, I ran into none other than Sister Wood, Roland's mom. She was driving up and pulled over and said hi and that she had just dropped off a package my mom sent. I said thanks, hi, and goodbye. What were the chances that I would see someone from Virginia while walking on a small sidewalk outside the MTC in a small city in Utah. It was a fun experience. Anyway, since I got the pills I have slept wayyyyyy better. Tropozene I think are what they're called. Supposedly they're anti depressants (spelling?) but I get a smaller dosage. I'm definitely not depressed. He told me to take one a night, two if absolutely necesarry. The first night I took two pills just because I wanted to sleep quickly. Within 20 minutes I was having a hard time walking since I was so dizzy. I fell asleep so fast and slept like a baby. I took one last night and didn't wake up tired at all. I think one is the magic number.
Elder Myler and I are the new Zone Leaders for our zone. For those who don't know, there is a, I hesitate to use this word because it isn't really applicable, hierarchy on the mission. Not in the sense of power, but in the sense of responsibility. You get a mission president who is in charge of 100-300 missionaries in an area and his two counselors. You have an Assistant to the President. Idon't really know what they do. Next, you have Zone Leaders who are in charge of all the missionaries in a large geographical area and then district leaders and then "regular" missionaries. Zone Leaders are responsible for helping maintain order, helping new missionaries, and more. In the MTC their responsibilities are a bit different. We help with new missionary orientation, help resolve conflicts and more. For the sake of time I won't go into much detail. Moral of the story is that we're now the missionaries in charge of ~60 missionaries in our zone. It's a lot of work but very rewarding.
Yesterday was an exciting day, too. We got to be "Hosts" for new missionaries which essentially means we escorted the new missionaries when they got dropped off at the door to their rooms/classrooms etc. It brought back memories of the first day I was here, or what is left of them. That was a crazy day. Lots of crying. Lots more than I remember. Elder Myler also had to go to the Orthodontist to get his retainer re-glued. As such, we got to go off campus via shuttle to the place. I had forgotten there was a world outside of the MTC, Temple, and soccer field.
It rained last night! Finally.
I finished Jesus the Christ this week. What a book. 5 weeks later I finished the most dense 780 page book I've read since the Count of Monte Cristo. Maybe I shouldn't compare those two books but both were great, relatively hard to read. I learned so much about the life and ministry of Christ. Everyone needs to read it. The climax, in my mind, was the last two days of His life. He knew it was coming and was very ready. I learned some really interesting things about Pilate, the Roman governer who sentenced him, officially, to death. I've always heard about how guilty he was of that action but the more I read it the less I thought it. He tried five times to stop the people from sentencing him, four more times after he tried, and twice during the lashings. His wife had a dream that he should not do anything with ¨¨this just man¨¨ and he even said, "my hands are clean of the blood of this just man." His responsibility to his job and the guilt of his life beforehand came back and he was, in my mind, almost forced to do so. I do not view him as half as guilty as the Jews who gave him an illegal trial and killed him. He was the man who "signed the paper" but it was with regret. He is obviously accountable for his actions as agency comes in at some point, but he is the "less of two weavils" (who can quote that movie)
I met an Elder who watchs Formula 1! We geeked out about it for a bit. He's serving in Montreal. He told me F1 is the 5th largest GDP on Earth since they spend over 3 trillion a year on it. I haven't heard that number but I wouldn't be surprised seeing how Ferrari alone spends 500,000,000$ on engine research alone.
Spanish is making me REALLY good at Charades. Good luck when I get back trying to beat me.
On Sunday, for no reason at all, we tried to see who could go the longest without speaking. Elder Myler went 5 minutes, Elder Jacobsen went 3 hours, Shreeve went 6, I went 8, and Thorsen went 8.1. It was a long day.
Mom, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma Wolthuis: Do you know a Bonkemeyer family from Sweet Home Oregon? One of my good friends here is named Bonkemeyer. He told me his father worked in the logging industry in South Africa (they're Americans but he runs a business down there) and I mentioned my grandpa owns a tree farm. He asked where, I said a little city near Sweet Home Oregon where they live. He got all excited and said his Dad worked in logging in Sweet Home in the 80s. I don't know his Dad's first name but the last name is Bonkemeyer. I said my Mom's side is named Wolthuis. The two are not very common names and he said he recognized Wolthuis from stories his parents have told. Think hard, it would be awesome if you knew them.
I heard a story about a man who was asked what his biggest fear was. He said, "I live in constant fear that I will offend someone." - J. Reuben Clark.  
Thank you Aunt Carmen, Mom, Dad, Eric, Will, Mark, Natalia, Manda, and Aunt Andra for the great letters this week! I'm writing this at 9:50am, a little earlier than usual which means if I get any mail today it won't be able to be included in this. Thanks in advance.
Thank you all so much for your continual love and support,

With Love,

Elder Johnson

Saturday, August 18, 2012

16 August 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

When does Mark get back? [October 2]

This week wasn't anything super special, just another super fast week.

On Thursdays, since Prep Day ends at 6pm, we go to something called TRC. Don't ask me what it stands for. But once there, we split off in our companionships and teach just a one timer lesson with volunteers. It has become my favorite part of the MTC. Last week we taught a native Chilean who had immigrated to the USA. It is way fun teaching and trying to understand Spanish, and even more fun when you do. Tonight we have our first 40 minute lesson. In the past, for week 2 and 3, we went into TRC (Again, these are in small rooms, 2 missionaries, 1 investigator) with lessons prepared. For the last 4 weeks, we have not [done this activity]. We walk in, get to know the person, and talk on a topic that is relevant to any questions or concerns the person may have. These lessons are usually twenty minutes long and tonight will be a challenge because we have to find a way to teach for 40 minutes. I think it should be fine. We'll probably spend a bit more time getting to know them and more and more time getting the investigator involved in the lesson as that has been something we have been working on improving upon. It has also started to be the case that we can teach with little to no preparation. That said, we try to prep as much as possible anyway.

Speaking of teaching, this week we did something we've never done before. Hermana Olsen, our teacher, has been out of town for 1.5 weeks and came back last week. One of the days she was back, the other three Elders had to go to the hospital for a non-serious problem. It was Elder Myler, both Hermanas, and our teacher for that whole class period. She bailed on her original lesson plan and we had her teach the four of us the first lesson. It was about 30 minutes long and unbelievably good. We were all a little bummed when it ended. The spirit was strong and we were all involved in the lesson. Afterwards, she had us teach each other, Elder Myler and I teaching the Hermanas one on one. Hermana Olsen said that before the Elders/teachers responded to anything the Hermanas said, we had to count to 10 in our heads. This, at the start, was awkward. In a society so dominated by noise, silence is very awkward. However, the more we did it, the better it felt. What it did was to force us to listen to the spirit and any small prompting we may have to take the lesson in a certain direction. We also worked to keep our minds blank while one of the Hermanas said something. It turned out to be the best lesson either of us had ever taught (it was also in English...). Hermana White, the person I taught, afterwards said that I took the lesson in the exact direction she wanted me to take it without saying anything, and the way I took it was different than I had originally planned. It was a very unique experience.

I ran into a sister missionary going to DC South. If you live there, keep your eye open for Sister Stone. Turns out that I am going to her home mission too. Small world.

This past Sunday our District of 7 people total had the opportunity to hold sacrament meeting for the cafeteria workers. Hermana White and I spoke, she on love, me on informal missionary work. I spoke on how casual it can be, even mentioning information at a workplace or school or to friends. It went well and it was a neat experience. On the way back, I saw a quote on the wall. I think that you, Dad, have paraphrased it before. It was, "When obedience ceases to become an irritant and becomes a quest, at that moment God will endow us with power." Elder Myler and I had to teach for district meeting later that night about faith and I used the given quote. I like how it says quest. Quest implies something grand with a great reward at the end. Monty Python and the Holy Grail comes to mind. People traveled far, sacrificed much, but at the end, got eaten by a rabbit. What a great reward.

Later on in that same lesson I mentioned that our district has been doing blind walks to build trust, although in reality it is more just for fun. We will walk all the way back from the classroom (~2 min walk) with one person guiding the other (who has their eyes closed) from a distance. It is tricky and builds trust in the other. I mentioned how that is like faith in God. We are guided by something we cannot see but in the end, we are assisted in getting to our destination. On the way back, people try to distract you and pull you off course. The same is true for temptation as it is ever-present but is there to slow and harm you. At one point I walked into a sign. Guess I can't trust that Elder again...

Every Tuesday and Sunday at the MTC, we have a devotional. I'm still waiting for when a member of the Quorum of the 12 or President comes, but the last one was pretty great. At one point, the speaker called for all who were baptized in the last 2 years to stand. He then said, "Now I want you to come up (pause........), I will choose two of you." One of these converts was standing up right behind us and in the time that he paused, his district yelled at him to go up and he literally ran up. In the meantime, the speaker chose the two. He interviewed each one and when he turned around and saw a third missionary there, he was quite surprised and said, "Now, I can't wait to hear from Elder _____, I'm sure he'll be the icing on the cake." We were all laughing in the corner. No one else in the room with 2300 missionaries knew why it was so funny. When the Elder was finally interviewed, he said things like, "I'm from the Garden of Eden," with a super awkward pause and many other very awkward things. It turned out to be hilarious but a strong message of faith on how prayers are answered.

So I still haven't figured out who sent me those shoes. Thanks again whoever did, they're like walking on clouds. I think my feet are still growing though since my toes almost touch the end of them...they're size 14.

Yesterday I officially finished my first mission planner. They last 6 weeks and you plan out hour by hour what you will do the next day in it. On to number two. I'm writing the dates that I used them on the front so that I know they're retired and that I can read them later.

We went to the temple today and performed sealings for the first time. Elder Myler and I went into a small room with two other missionaries from our zone and two proxy couples. I learned some interesting things. First, proxy work for those deceased is very clear in the Old/New Testament. I mean, Jesus Christ and the atonement was the epitome of proxy work because it applied to all people, anytime, anywhere, living or deceased. The second was something that the sealer said. He said, "If you cannot complete a two year mission, you cannot complete mortality or immortality with an eternal companion. I have been married for 53 years and it is easy! It's all about making and keeping commitments." The spirit was strong and it was a very peaceful morning.

One of the proxy representatives had the last name Lindberg. I went up to her afterwards and asked if there was any relation to Charles Lindberg. She said it was distant but they were indeed related. It was cool meeting a descendant of one of, arguably, the most important men in aviation history.

On our way back from the temple today, we stumbled upon a free tie box. Inside were hundreds of ties. I grabbed a bunch and plan on trading them if possible. I'm going to participate in the black market. Unfortunately, they're hideous ties. No wonder they were free. I'd want to get rid of them too.

I may or may not have torn/separated a muscle in my arm. We were playing soccer and someone corner kicked it. I jumped up to hit it away (which, just to get it out of the way, I did) while someone on the other team was running forward. He slipped and hit me while I was in the air and I fell hard on my shoulder.  I'm not planning on getting it checked out but I'll let you know if it is still bad in a weeks time.

20 days left!

Thank you Aunt Andra, Dad, Mom, Eric, Will, Natalia, Tori, Doug, and Grandpa and Grandma Johnson for the letters and package! It was a great week. Replies are in the mail. If I forgot anyone, sorry, I write down all I get but sometimes one slips past me.

Thank you all so much for the letters and care, it means so much and is nice to hear of the "outside world" and how family and friends are doing.

With lots of love,

Elder Johnson

PS: Romney chose Paul Ryan as a running mate? Why on earth... he was struggling with moderate votes, not republican votes. Ryan is Palin of the 2012 election, he doesn't need more republican-ness in his platform.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

9 August 2012

The statue of Angel Mornoi on top of the Provo temple represents the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations, calling all to worship and give glory to God, in preparation for the second coming of the Lord.
Not all temples include this feature (e.g., the Cardston, Alberta temple does not).  The inclusion of Moroni is an architectural and stylistic decision; it is not a feature of worship or a requirement on all temples.  Nice photography Paul!

Paul has always been intrigued by tie knots.

Paul's desk at the MTC.

Paul's nametag.  As he spends more time in the mission, the white letters will become more yellow.

Paul and his MTC companion.

Provo Temple

Paul's schedule at the MTC.

Paul mentioned this "oops" in a previous letter.

Farewell party for departing missionaries from the MTC.

Dear Family and Friends,
So this week we passed the halfway mark! It's crazy how fast time flies. I think I mentioned it last week but weeks feel like days and days feel like weeks. Yesterday, when we realized that today was P Day, we were amazed because it felt like two days ago was P Day. That's only a good thing though! We're all itching to get out of here and into the field. The MTC is great, but...there's more out there than a small fenced off campus. Some of the things we do to make the weeks better are Purple Tie P Days (Preparation Day = P Day), Smooth Tie Sundays, Trump Tie Tuesdays (If you feel inclined to send me another one of these ties...they're pure class.), and that's it. Super super lame, yes, but it makes time go by a bit quicker. We always get funny looks when our whole district has matching ties. Two of our elders are trying to do "Change your Hair" Wednesdays. I'll pass.
The family reunion sounded like a blast! Glad you all could get together, family is important. Going out on the lake in the boats must have been a good time, too. Did anyone fall over? Grandma Wolthuis, we have a Sister here from Hawaii. For some reason I am forgetting the Island but it starts with an M. I told her about you teaching the granddaughters how to do that dance and she got a good laugh out of it. Grandpa Wolthuis, that's a fantastic quote about being on time. For those who don't know it, it is, "If you are five minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late." That's so true for missionary work. Granted, we are still in the MTC and our time is pretty scheduled out for us, but being early really does make a difference. That has been our districts goal for a few weeks. After gym, we have 20 minutes to get back, shower, dressed and back to class. It's not much time but we have been getting better and better at it. It has made quite a difference in our evenings. 
I've been reading Jesus the Christ more and more involvedly. We will pretend that that is a word.. For those who don't know, it is basically a history of Jesus Christ from his birth to death, but not in that order. I think everyone should read it, if not with a religious text then just a curious view on a historical event. I've learned a ton about his life in Israel. If anyone wants a copy, let me know, I can get discounted copies here. 40% discount off everything in the bookstore! Anyway, my new way of reading it is not just...reading it as I have been doing. Instead, I'll get my scriptures out and when I find something with a footnote/reference from the Bible, I will go to that page and if anything from that story sticks out to me, take a note about it in the book. For instance, I was reading about Jesus and the tax collector and when he asked for money from Jesus and Peter. Peter, going to Jesus, asked Jesus what he would do. The tax was atonement money, money that would be used to help forgive sins. It was implemented by Moses. Jesus said he didn't need to since he was the Son of God but he sent Peter to go catch a fish and he said the first fish he caught would have enough money for "thee and me." The last three words stuck out to me and apparently James E Talmadge, the author. He said that in every instance that Christ compares himself to people, he never says us. Instead, he says, "my God and your God," or, "My father and your father," or the aforementioned example. This is significant because it shows that he is different from everyone, being the literal son of God. It also shows how similar he is that he can use his own name in the same sentence as the others. I took a note of that in my scriptures and now I'll always remember that. Its a more involved method of study and applies Jesus the Christ to the scriptures far more.
So remember about that Canadian saying that Canada burned down the White House and it's only white because that was the only color left? I heard something else classic at dinner. It was, "And the Fukushima thing was way stupid, too. I mean, more people die on planes than nuclear incidents." This made me laugh because the comparison had absolutely nothing to do with the threat from Fukushima, which was the problem with escaped radiation into the water and adjacent area, not to mention the uncertainty over the problem in the first place...or the magnitude 9 Earthquake associated it. They went on to say that Chernobyl wasn't dangerous, either. I held myself back. Sometimes its not worth it. Did I just say that?

We have also been reading about the Apostles of Christ during his ministerio terrenal (earthly ministry) [editorial remark:  Paul is starting to mix Spanish and English!] . Peter, James, and John are considered those closest to Christ. Peter is the one who denied Christ three times. He is often considered as betraying Christ, though to a lesser degree than Judas. They were brought to see Lazarus raised from the dead, the transfiguration of Christ, and many more miracles. One such, though, the Atonement, is more important. On that night, directly afterwards, he was taken prisoner by the government. When they tried to tie Jesus the first time, Peter jumped forward and cut the ear of the man who tried off. Jesus promptly healed him and scolded Peter by saying, more or less, "Would you not have me do the will of the Father?" Peter then followed these people to where he was tried and sat in to listen. He waited for him to come out. During his wait, he was approached and in that time period  he denied Christ three times. Directly afterwards, when he realized what he did, he cried. Then, he stayed and waited until everyone left when they moved Christ. He waited to see him go. To me, it almost seems as if Christ asked Peter to deny him. This would allow Peter to be kept safe and experience the Atonement in full and give him an opportunity to grow before he lead the Church. Anyway, my point is that Peter was far too dedicated, at least to me, to have not had a testimony and deny Christ in earnestness. He cut off the ear of that soldier in front of the leaders of government, something that was very dangerous. His devotion to Christ was also very apparent. When Christ called to them when they were on the sea at one point, instead of waiting to sail back, he jumped in the water and swam. When word came to them that Christ had risen, he ran there, and while John waited outside, he ran right in. He also took the most criticism from Christ, called Satan even in one part when Peter asks him not to die. I cannot believe that Peter didn't have a strong enough testimony in Christ to die for him when the people approached him.

Another thought I had this week was comparing Jesus and Joseph Smith. Directly before the crucifixion, the Romans offered Christ an alcoholic mixture to dull the senses. He denied stating that he would rely on the father for strength. When Joseph was a child and the surgery was performed on his left, he turned down alcohol and instead asked to be with his Father. In both circumstances, they rely for strength on those who have more strength to give and practice faith greatly.
Changing topics to a weekly summary in the little time I have left, our district sang in the Devotional this week. We got on camera twice, one such instance we were zoomed in on. I couldn't help but giggle, but that's ok, because I was zoomed in on. People have come up to me and said, "hey, we saw you on camera!" Another time, during the devotional, the Elder directly in front of us was called to stand up and they panned the camera to him. Elder Shreeve, Thorsen, and I just sat behind him smiling. It was pretty hilarious.
Here's a great quote from James E Talmadge. It says, "To deny the actuality of miracles on the ground that, because we cannot comprehend the means, the reported results are fictitious, is to arrogate to the human mind the attribute of omniscience, by implying that what man cannot comprehend cannot be and that therefore, he is able to comprehend all that is." That stuck out to me while reading Jesus the Christ this week. Powerful quote.
Mom, please send my SD card back! Also, do you have any cool family history stories? Both sides of the family, please! 
Everyone should read Doctrine and Covenants 87 (Mom, link it here and explain what DC is). It, in 1830s, predicts the Civil War in surprising detail. That is decades before the war.
I got shoes in the mail today. Whoever sent them, thanks! I imagine it was family because I told them my old ones were literally falling apart. I think my feet are growing because my toes are near to the end of the size 14 shoes. They are comfortable.
Thank you Susie, Natalia, Jamie, Family, Cousins and family from the reunion, Tori, and Doug for the letters! What a great week it was to hear from all of you.
Thank you all for the letters, they mean so much!
Elder Johnson

Sunday, August 5, 2012

2 August 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

Despite this being letter four, we are approaching week six in the MTC. They count weeks strangely. As such, we are now within one or two days of being halfway done. Time sure does fly. Someone here said it spot on, "Days feel like weeks, weeks feel like days."
Just wanted to thank my family, the Hines, Scott, Alex, Michael, and Max, Grandpa and Grandma Johnson, Natalia, Katie and Brother Campbell for the letters this week. Letter are always so fun to get and it's nice to hear what is going on outside of these walls. I've never felt so in the dark about what's happening in the world. Luckily, I'm in the light for all that matters for the next two years. I think that was everyone, if not, I'm sorry.
We were sitting in on one of the devotionals this last Tuesday. Elder Pinegar spoke about "Why we are here" and some other topics. He told a lot of great missionary stories about missionaries receiving life saving revelation and whatnot. It was one of the best devotionals. I also heard one of the funniest things I've heard in a while. Right before it started, some elders behind me started talking about US history. I heard, verbatim, these words, "Do you know why the White House is white? It's because when Canada invaded and defeated the United States, we burned down the White House. They had to rebuild it and white was the only color left." I later found out they were from Canada. I let them have pride for something and didn't correct them. We started talking about the Oil Sands since they were from Alberta. Unfortunately, they didn't know much on the topic.
I finally learned how to roll my R's this week! After years of being taunted by Mark with him "machine gunning" me, I can finally do it. Granted, it isn't so smooth yet, but I'm learning. It's crazy how quickly we are learning here. We just sat down and in 15 minutes I had learned it. I have spent hours and hours growing up trying to master it. The MTC is amazing.
Something about the MTC is making me sleep walk. I've sleep walked once, maybe twice in my life. It started last week. I woke up at 3am and didn't know where my sheets were. (Elder Myler and I are the only two in our four person room). I found them hanging from the empty bunk above Elder Myler. I had either put them there or thrown them. The next day, I woke to find my socks folded on his bed.
But it only gets better. Three nights ago or so, I woke up in someone else's room. The way the rooms are set up is that the buildings are rectangular. There are two bathrooms per floor in the middle with a hallway going around their perimeter with rooms on the outside of that hallway. Our floor has two zones: zone 38 (mine) and zone 40. They are split down the middle. In the middle of the night I woke up in room 219. I sleep in room 243. Those are different zones. I do not know how I got in their room and how I left mine, but I did. I freaked out and stumbled out the door. Half awake, I half walked half crawled around the hallway looking for my room. It took two laps to realize that I had passed it twice. I knocked on my door a couple times without looking at the room number. On the second knock, I noticed it wasn't my room either so I stumbled away not wanting to be the person standing, half awake, outside their room banging on it for them to open it. So I got up again and kept walking. After a while I found my room with the door barely open. It was a tad stressful. The next day I was talking to Elder Myler about the incident and he said he remembers me walking out of the room around 10:45. He got up since I had sleep walked before but assumed I was going to the bathroom so he let me go. Some companion he is... (sarcasm, he's great.) He said he waited a bit for me to come back but when I didn't he just fell asleep. Weird, I know. But I've gone two days without sleep walking so maybe I'm cured. We joke around that I have an evil spirit (we've been reading about Christ casting out Evil spirits when he was in Israel)
One of the games we play as a district to spice up the MTC is to pretend we know other Elders here. Since everyone has name tags and only calls each other by our last names, it's pretty easy. We'll go up to a random person, one person on one person obviously, and be like, "Oh, Elder ____! How are you? I haven't seen you in forever!.....remember me? I moved away _____ years ago" and so on and so forth. Most of the time they call us out on it at the endwhich is fine but others it gets going and going. One such Elder started saying, "wait, you're from Alpine, Utah? 5th Ward?" It was perfect. Just putting words in Elder Shreeves mouth. It's harmless fun and makes the long days a bit more exciting. For the sake of time, I'll cut out the specific stories and leave it at that.
We were reading in class the other day, out of the Book of Mormon, and I had two interesting insights. In Moroni 7:6, it says something along the lines of offering up a gift to God 

 For behold, God hath said a man being aevil cannot do that which is good; for if he boffereth a gift, or cprayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real dintent it profiteth him nothing.

I started thinking about if prayer is a gift to God. Do we give him gifts when we pray? Obviously he wants to talk to us and it's up to us, most of the time, to open that channel. The other one was in the first five verses of 1st Nephi. Lehi sees the vision of Jerusalem getting destroyed if they don't repent. What if Jerusalem is representative of us and if we dont repent, we will get destroyed as well? Nothing too deep in these two insights, just little thoughts I had while reading that struck a chord with me.
I met three elders going to the DC South mission (that's my home mission for anyone who doesn't know.) Mom and Dad, keep an eye out for Elder Gustafson, Allred, and Felt. They're all from Calgary, Alberta, CA going to DC South. I told them it was the second best mission after Tempe, AZ. It's close though.
Mom, turns out those black pants we got that were machine washable aren't. Luckily I caught a glimpse of the tag first. The two grey ones are but the two blacks from Mr Mac are not. Too bad.
One of the Hermanas in our district got a package of cookies. It had home made oreos, which I had for the first time inside. Those. Are. Heavenly. *hint hint*
A little excerpt from a letter that made me laugh out loud. Brother Campbell apparently emailed you, mom, and said you responded instantly to it. Just reminded me of the few times that instead of calling you about an emergency, we've emailed you because you're better at responding to email than picking up your phone.
It dawned on my yesterday that I have only known the Elders in my district for ~32 days or so. It feels like we've known each other forever. Maybe it's because we get along so well, maybe it's because we spend every minute of every day together, but either way, it is crazy. Sad to think that half of us will be splitting up for two years to Peru, California, Canada, and AZ. It has been fun though,
We got to go to the temple today. It's great to see such a profound difference between even the outside and the inside. It is hard not to notice the strong spirit inside. You always feel good in the temple, but sometimes something just sticks out. One such occasion was today. I felt such a great feeling. It was almost as if someone was saying thank you to me. Pure elation was the emotion. The Church is true as are all it's teachings. No way it can't be. Anyway, I had some other interesting insights which I'll avoid mentioning in this letter but the temple is a great place to just think. It's refreshing and a great place to be. Glad to know I've got a few temples in Arizona.
Oh, speaking of AZ temples, can anyone find out for me which temple(s) are inside the Tempe, AZ mission?
I really am running out of things to say about the MTC. Seems like the letters are getting shorter and shorter. Everyday here is so similar since it's just classes, studying, and whatnot. If anyone has particular questions they want answered, let me know.
Random questions:
Why can't we draw what we see? What causes us to be unable to convert what we see to what we draw?
In Genesis during the creation recount, it mentions the two commandments that God gave to Adam and Eve. One: Do not eat of the tree of knowledge. Two: Multiply and replenish the earth. Our district went to the temple today and I started thinking about that. We know that Adam and Eve had to break the first commandment because they could not have kids in the garden so either way they were breaking a rule, hence why we believe we are not accountable for Adam's transgression. But why use the word REPLENISH? "Re" in English means to do something over again. Refill your cup, refuel your car, redo an assignment and whatnot. Does anyone know why it uses the word replenish? Just something I thought of and am unable to answer. I'd love to hear ya'lls insights. (We have a Texan in our district...)
Love you all, thanks for the letters again
Elder Johnson