9/1/08 - Monday
Left Saratoga Springs this morning and arrived at the MTC at a little after 10 AM. The morning was taken up with administrative tasks, orientation, etc. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help with just about anything. There are 32 couples and 2 single sisters that started with us today. The assignments, both in terms of location and what they will be doing are about as varied as you can get. When we went to lunch, it was the first time we saw a large number of elders and sisters together. There is just something so spiritually warming to my heart when I see them. They are all so polite and respectful to the seniors and we even had one elder take our trays at dinner and return them. Getting the badge to put on was a highlight, now I really feel like a missionary. I love being with Sister Tanner and working together.
9/2/08 - Tuesday
Today we learned how to use the Preach My Gospel manual and prepared our first discussion outline on The Restoration. The workshops and instruction are fantastic and the young men and women involved in instructing us are outstanding. I’m really getting into it. We presented a discussion to someone role playing the part of an investigator this afternoon. He came to our room just like a regular appointment for a discussion. What a great spirit was there even with a role playing situation. Sister Tanner is a real pro, I can’t tell you how wonderful she is. We did it like the real thing, making commitments, instructing on how to pray, closing with our investigator praying. Again, I can’t describe how strong the spirit was as we taught. It was wonderful.
9/3/08 – Wednesday
Today we worked on the Plan of Salvation and went through the same role playing exercise in the afternoon with a different person. Again, the spirit was really strong and the sister we taught had volunteered with the hope of gaining something and I think we really helped her. Again, my companion connected with this sister in a big a way and it was another spiritual high. Notice how many mentions I make about the spirit. It is because it is absolutely true. It is just with us in a big way in almost everything we’re doing here.
Tonight we checked out for a couple of hours and went shopping for coats. We got back in time to hustle and complete our homework reading assignments. It may be a little thing, but it was really nice to both be reading from Preach My Gospel, looking up scriptures, just studying together. A quiet time and feeling close to my sweetheart companion.
9/4/08 – Thursday
Today we learned how to be bold and to use the Book of Mormon in teaching and resolving issues with less actives and investigators. We exchanged role playing with 3 other pairs of seniors, each taking the teaching or less active roles in turn. We were asked to think of someone we knew and play them when we had the less active role and to prepare a discussion based on a Book of Mormon chapter to address the concerns we discovered in our first visit with them. This was a great exercise that really stretched us and again, Sister Tanner and I were directed in what to do. A very rewarding experience.
The last meeting of the day involved presentations by a senior couple and two single sisters regarding their mission experiences. Both were excellent, but I was in tears listening to the sisters describe their experience being sent to Finlay, Australia, our son-in-law Pete’s home town. They spent their entire 18 months there and accomplished a lot of good and several of their experiences brought the spirit into my eyes. We had a great few minutes speaking with them afterwards. One experience they related in particular is worth recording. The principal church in town had a minister who warned his congregation to stay away from the sisters. He said they may look like sweet ladies, but they are not Christians and are emissaries of the devil. You can imagine the tough time they had trying to work with people there, but by volunteering for anything and everything, they won a lot of people over. They became good friends with one gentleman and his wife. He was a beekeeper and kept them supplied with honey. But the upshot was he was also a member of the aforementioned church and one Sunday when his minister was deriding the LDS church and the sister missionaries in particular, the beekeeper was in the congregation and he stood up and declared that he knew these women and that they were Christians and that what the minister was saying was not true. The minister had nothing more to say.
9/5/08 – Friday
Wow, what a day. This morning we worked on the Gospel of Jesus Christ discussion and when we had our meeting with a volunteer who played a recently baptized convert, we again had a very spiritual meeting. This time we were challenged as he brought up concerns with doctrine, with being in a new culture, etc., and each time we just followed the direction of the spirit to respond and it was fantastic. I absolutely love teaching with Sister Tanner. She came up with a couple of inspired responses today that were wonderful. The gentleman we were working with felt the same thing and afterwards asked where we were going and what we would be doing and when we told him, he expressed his opinion that it was too bad we weren’t going to be proselyting missionaries which we took as a great compliment.
I found out the names of the elders going to India and where they would be in the afternoon so Sister Tanner and I went to their room during our afternoon break. The whole district was in the room working and I stepped into the room and apologized for interrupting them. I then said I was looking for Elders Shepherd, Ott, and Hawkes and I could tell by the looks on their faces which 3 they were. I immediately clarified that Sister Tanner and I were going to New Delhi also and we just wanted to meet the elders going here too. The looks immediately changed to ones of relief and they started talking to us. They were very excited to know that Sister Tanner would cook American and she was taking chocolate chips and brown sugar with her. We left some very happy elders.
9/6/08 - Saturday
This morning the missionary couples that have welfare or humanitarian assignments met at 8:00 AM for 2 hours with Brother and Sister Jensen who are responsible for specialized training for those programs here at the MTC. The time flew by. The first hour turned into a testimony meeting as we each shared experiences regarding our call. The second hour involved reading D&C 31 and discussing a number of the verses. It was really good stuff. Again, it was a spiritual feast throughout the 2 hours. It is just unbelievable here when you get into it and really work with the program.
Took our laundry, checked out, and went to Cindy’s parents after stopping to buy a couple of things we needed. All of the family gathered at the Wilson’s in the afternoon and evening, over 30 of us, and we visited, ate, watched football games, and had a great time. We stayed there that night.
9/7/08 – Sunday
Had a great visit with Cindy’s Uncle Vern and Kathleen and her cousin Don and his family. We returned to the MTC in time for dinner and then went to the departing missionaries’ fireside which was great. There were musical numbers, a couple of brief talks, and during the MTC President Boone’s talk, he had the missionaries stand up, including us seniors, by country, by state, etc. I got a special feeling when he called out India and we stood with the 3 elders who leave Tuesday ahead of us.
Next we headed over to a devotional/fireside. All of the missionaries attend and the seniors get reserved seats down front until 15 minutes before they start anyway. One of the little perks we get. We sang 3 hymns before the meeting began instead of just listening to prelude music. You just cannot imagine how it feels to be in a congregation with over 2,000 young voices behind you singing their hearts out. I love every one of these young men and women who are willing to serve their Father in Heaven and their Savior.
Most of the couples left after a week, but the Welfare Services missionaries stayed for a 2nd week of training - Olsons, Wilsons, Archuletas, Nolls, Tanners
The large map of the world is on the wall in the main hallway in the MTC. Can't leave without a traditional picture by the map.
Elder Stevens is a service missionary working in the MTC and we became close friends working with him on our discussions and eating together often.
9/8/08 – Monday
We got up at 5 AM this morning in order to get ready and make a bus that left at 6:45 for Salt Lake City. We’ve been up at 6 AM every morning since we’ve been here and I cannot recall how long it’s been since I’ve gotten up at that time for so many consecutive days. We went to Welfare Square and had instruction for an hour or so then went on a tour of the facilities. It is amazing how welfare production works and the whole program for that matter. I had lived in the Salt Lake Valley for over 20 years at one time and I had never been there. We then went downtown to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to get a group picture, then individual couple pictures taken. Here is the best part. We had our picture taken first because Elder Scott’s office had contacted us at the MTC last week and asked if we could meet with him for a few minutes while we were in Salt Lake City.
We hustled over to the Church Administration building next door and after a short wait, we were told we could go upstairs to his office in 401. My heart was about as full as it could be when he came out of his office into his administrative area. He gave Cindy a hug and then me and invited us into his office and seated us at a small, round conference table. Cindy was seated between us so Elder Scott was looking right at me across the table. We were both so full of the spirit and I’m having to hold back the tears as I write this. I cannot put into words what it means to be so blessed to have had Elder Scott as my mission president and to have an association like I do with an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and he mentioned our special relationship. He was so gracious and kept thanking us for taking time to meet with him. After he had talked with Cindy for awhile, he looked at me and said how wonderful it was to have Cindy as my eternal companion and I completely agreed and shared my love for her. Our visit with Elder Scott can only be described as warm and tender, the only words that seem to describe our conversation and visit.
After we left Elder Scott’s office, we walked back to the Joseph Smith Memorial building and joined our group for lunch. A number of those involved in the humanitarian work administration at church headquarters joined us and we were able to get acquainted. Most of them will be down in Provo tomorrow to train us. Elder Rudd, an emeritus member of the 70 and long involved with welfare work, spoke to us and related some of the history behind the building. He is 90 and also advised us to take a nap each afternoon. That got a laugh out of me, but who knows, the laugh may turn out to be on me later on.
After lunch, we went to the Humanitarian Center and had a tour of the facility and were instructed on what goes on there and I was completely blown away by the scope of the center and what it processes and does. I wasn’t going to add a bunch of statistics to this journal, but here are some to give an idea of the scope of the work. All clothing that is not kept at the DI centers is sent to SLC, to the Humanitarian Center. It is sorted into usable and non-usable by men’s, women’s, children, youth, etc. In 2007, they processed 9.5 million pounds of clothing. The various kits that are put together included 280,000 school kits, 640,000 hygiene kits, 150,000 newborn kits, 88,000 cleaning kits for emergency and disaster use, and 44,000 quilts. They also put together what they called modules that were packed in a unit that looked to be 5’x5’x8’ tall. There were 297 orphanage modules, 138 toy modules, and 1,097 medical modules. There were also 60,537 who received wheelchairs in 59 countries. I could go on, but this recaps the major efforts relative to materials shipped around the world in 2007.
Closer to the work Cindy and I will be involved in are the things they refer to as major initiatives. Vision Care projects assisted 54,000 people in 11 countries; immunization projects treated 2,500,000 people in 13 countries; Neonatal Resuscitation projects trained 18,600 people in 23 countries; clean water projects benefited 994,139 people in 28 countries; Benson Institute food production projects benefited 12,500 people in 4 countries; and there were emergency responses with goods and services to 170 disasters in 52 countries. I came away completely overwhelmed by the scope of what the church is doing in humanitarian work. It was impressive and I feel so good to be a small part of it.
9/9/08 – Tuesday
Today we began our training on the projects (major initiatives), the process involved, etc. Our instructors came down from Salt Lake and it was very well put together and very informative. Some of the picture reports really touched me.
While we were eating dinner, we were paged over the intercom to come to the front desk. We left our meals unfinished and went to the front and were met by the Elsbys who were the Country Coordinators in India and are still filling that position here until their replacement arrives in India in 6 weeks. They apologized for interrupting our dinner and asked us to go finish and met with them after. When we returned to the front, we were met by a security officer blocking access to the steps into the lounge area. He asked us to wait until the visitor had cleared the area. We explained that there were people waiting to meet with us and he allowed us to go ahead. I looked at the front and recognized President Uchtdorf’s hair and then his profile. He was going to be our speaker at the devotional. While we rejoined the Elsbys, President Uchtdorf was greeting a number of people including hugs with 2 elders that appeared to be MTC residents.
The devotional was great and President Uchtdorf’s wife is a character with a great sense of humor. In bearing her testimony, the mentioned the first presidency and then said especially the 2nd counselor (her husband). President Uchtdorf’s talk was great and near the end he revealed that 2 of his grandsons were in the audience. The 2 elders that I saw him hugging in the lobby. Another great, fulfilling day at the MTC. As President Uchtdorf said, you can try to describe it to someone else, but unless they have actually been here and experienced it, they cannot really know. I’ll say amen to that because I don’t think my attempts in this journal come very close to describing the MTC experience.
Tonight after the devotional, we gathered in the lounge downstairs in our building to have a group prayer for one of our senior missionaries who is going into the hospital tomorrow for a diagnostic procedure on his heart, the insertion of stints, and possibly more depending on what is found. Elder Wilson is a great guy and he and his wife were headed to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to be the medical personnel there. He feels confident that all will go well and he’ll only be delayed a week. We’re all praying that is the case. A large number of us fasted and prayed for him last Sunday. As Elder Wilson said, it is amazing the way we can come from all over and so easily come together and support one another. Amen again.
9/10/08 and 9/11/08 – Wednesday and Thursday
Elder Wilson underwent bypass surgery today. We had fasted and prayed for his well being and hoped he would not require surgery or have something serious. I guess bypass surgery these days is not considered a high risk operation, so the good news is he should be ready to go in 5-6 weeks.
We completed our training and spent Thursday afternoon and evening cleaning and packing and had to make a run to the store for some things we needed to pack. We got to Cindy’s parent’s house around 9 PM, a lot later than we had planned. It was bittersweet leaving the MTC, but we’re ready to move on to the next step.