Hello family and friends!
First order of business, I can't send pictures while here in the MTC. Believe me, I've tried. Their system is literally foolproof. So...I guess that will give you all something to look forward to when I get to the mission field! Anyway, this week has been amazing! I've been able to see major growth in Spanish which has been a major blessing for me because out of all the aspects of the MTC...this is the most stressful. But I work as hard as I can everyday (I usually go over grammar for about 1 1/2 hours and then drill 100-150 new vocab everyday). I had a really good experience this week having to do with the language. During the week I was studying the vocabulary and I was so frustrated because my brain just wasn't working and I wasn't remembering anything. On top of that, I was SO tired and no one else in my district was studying and they were being super loud. I remember I got to my boiling point and I just quickly bowed my head and told Heavenly Father that I was trying so hard and that I just wanted to be able to speak with the spirit and with power to his children in Mexico that need to hear the gospel. I told him again that my goal was to be an effective missionary the moment I leave the MTC. I felt the spirit so strongly. I just had the overwhelming feeling that everything was going to be alright. Later that night, we taught a different investigator the first lesson (which is basically getting to know them and then teaching them about Christ and the Atonement and then challenging them to be baptized). The language was there. I could say everything I needed to say, and most importantly, the spirit was there. I know that the gift of tongues is real. I am experiencing it right now. I am very blessed.
1) So...the food. Funny story. The food here is exactly the same as the Cannon Center at BYU. I didn't really care for it then, and now it's...well...getting really interesting. Yesterday I was standing in line waiting to put my tray away on the conveyer belt and I don't know whether this was conscious or subconscious but one second I was holding it...and the next...it was on the ground...with all my dishes shattered. Another glorious moment for Elder Nielsen, don't you think. One of the workers just glared at me as he started to clean it up.
2) Second funny story. I've really gotten into playing sand volleyball here at the MTC. Now, that's not to say that I'm especially good at it...I just like it a lot. Proof of my neverending athletic talents. Yesterday (this must have been just an off day for me in general), I was in the back of the court and one of the balls was clearly going out...but, for some reason I started to back up as the ball was coming towards me. To make a long and embarrassing story short, the ball hit me because I was standing in its line of projection and we lost the point.
Now that I've sufficiently embarrassed myself. Let's see. My district is doing great! Everyone is getting along fine and we're growing close. Everyone is pretty excited to attend the temple today for the first time. We just all feel like it is much needed. They are having problems with a lack of motivation though. I see them wasting a lot of precious moments here in the MTC when they could be learning and growing both with the language, the doctrine, and in teaching abilities. My goal for them (which I have said many times) is to not waste a moment here. I don't want them to regret anything about their missions. I want them to look back on their experience and feel nothing but joy, peace, and feelings of contentment that they gave everything they had to offer to Heavenly Father for the next two years. I love them and I work with them constantly to try and make the experience worth it. My companion is doing better as well. His niece is doing great! We had a great talk with each other this week. He told me he was grateful that I was his companion because he needed someone like me to motivate him to do better and to work harder. We taught each other a short lesson in Spanish and then bore our testimonies in Spanish to each other. The Spirit was palpable. We were both very emotional after the experience. He's a great guy. We all have our quirks of course, but we are learning and growing together.
Now for me, a scripture that I have really been pondering this week is in Alma 7:23-25. Study these verses. They are amazing. The first two talk about the characteristics we need to have in order to find happiness in this life. When I read them I feel very inadequate because I have to grow so much more and learn so much more. At the beginning of verse 25 there is the phrase "And may the Lord bless you". I know that my Heavenly Father is there. And that he is blessing me. I have seen so much personal growth inside of myself and it's only been 4 weeks. His arm has always been extended and throughout my life I've occasionally grasped it only during times when I need him desperately. Now I'm learning what it means to grasp onto his arm always. Alma 37:36 pretty much describes my feelings perfectly. I need his blessings and I need the Spirit, otherwise, this work is impossible. I cannot describe how wonderful it is to be close to my Savior throughout the entire day everyday. I'm learning to have that trust and that close relationship that I've always wanted to have with my Savior Jesus Christ, my Heavenly Father, and the holy ghost. Everyday I pray that I can have spiritual experiences that will help my testimony grow and he provides in abundance. Everyday I pray for strength and help and he gives it in ways that I don't expect but that are perfect for me.
I just want to share my testimony with you. This work, this gospel is true. I cannot deny that it is true. I know this from reason, experience, and feeling. The Lord is blessing me and I know that he blesses you and watches over all of you as well. I know that my Savior Jesus Christ lives. Sometimes I look at myself and think, Why? Why would he do that for me? It's because of the perfect love that he has for us. A love that we could not even begin to comprehend. He is there to heal us of wounds and hurts that are so deep. And he's the only one that can do it because he's the only one that felt exactly as you feel. Prayer works. The more specific we are with what we need and what we are thankful for, the better it works. I know this church is true. This is the most fulfilling and joyous thing that I have ever done. I've never felt so happy and so excited to do something as I am now. Quickly, read the lyrics to the songs "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" and "Amazing Grace". Those songs are powerful prayers and they mean a lot to me. I know that they can bless your lives as well. Well, as Alma said, "And may the Lord bless you". I love you all. I love your letters. You are all in my prayers. Just know that I am giving this work my all and that I love you.