Here are a few facts:
- There are 126 senior missionaries who arrived on April 7, 2014 in our training group. They are from all over the country.
- 22 of the 126 are going to Nauvoo. All missionaries going to Nauvoo will arrive sometime in April.
- With some senior missionaries leaving and others arriving, as of April 15th, there were 180 senior missionaries.
- There are 876 missionaries currently in the Provo MTC which includes young women 18 and over and young men 19 and over. They are from all over the world.
- Last summer at one point there were 4,000 missionaries in the mission home--the largest number ever.
- There are 15 MTC's throughout the world.
- There are currently 1,100 missionaries at visitor's centers throughout the world. This includes senior missionaries.
- There are currently 23 church visitor's centers around the world.
- There are currently over 83,000 missionaries throughout the world.
- Meals are served in a timely manner. I've never seen a more efficient manner of serving so many people. We have never waited for anything for very long.
- Food is fine with plenty of options and adequate preparation. Some people complain but I typically like most food I didn't have to cook. :)
- We dress up for meals. Men are in suits and ties with women in skirts or dresses. Actually, we dress this way all day unless we are in the exercise room.
- There is an exercise room that we utilize every morning, we take lots of walks during our break and we've had a long walk every evening.
- There are over 4,000 staff members to help run the MTC. A vast majority are volunteers. I imagine many of them are part time. The paid employees are typically return missionaries going to school. They seem to know their job well but nothing outside of their responsibilities. There is probably too much to know.
- Some 19 year old missionaries look the size of a deacon (12-14 years old) while others are so men-like that I fear if they step wrong they might crush the deacon size'd ones.
- The young missionaries are not only all sizes, but they speak many different languages. They are all well groomed and well behaved. Being nervous and reserved seems the norm, but at the same time they smile and possess a sense of peace and many times even confidence. I know that it sounds like an oxymoron, but it's the way it is some how.
- We had 5 days of classes in which we studied Preach My Gospel and then 2 1/2 days of helps for working at a visitor's center.
- We were most impressed with the chat room. Young missionaries chat with people all over the world answering questions, giving discussions, and they are extremely successful. It was fun to see the boiler room and how well it functioned.
- Our group of 126 missionaries in training was labeled the "most interesting". I believe Gregg gets credit for part of that. On the first day we were asked to tell everyone where we were going and what we would be doing. Rather than saying that we would be working in a visitor's center, Gregg said that we would be singing and dancing. The song and dance trend followed us all week.
- We are not the youngest senior couple but all most. Most senior couples are in their early 70's. One is 86 and another 81.
- We feel the "Spirit" a lot at the MTC. Some say it is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Others say that it is within each missionary as they are striving to serve God and be the best they can be. Whatever it is, Gregg and I feel something that is not like anything else we have ever felt. What a great place to prepare to serve.
Here are a few notes I took.
Elder Bednar was asked how you know when you feel the Holy Ghost verses when you're having your own thoughts. The answer was, "Don't worry about it". He then told of a time when he was a young missionary in Germany. As an assistant to the mission president, he felt impressed to give 30 franks to Elder Packer for food while on a train between east and west Germany. Elder Bednar found out many years later that the money was used to keep Sister Packer from being retained in east Berlin because she had a 3 year passport with a two year extension. It would have otherwise cost far more than 30 franks to get her out. At the time, Elder Bednar was responding to a feeling that they might need money for food. Was it the Holy Ghost? Of course.
Elder Holland rephrased a French poem:
He said, "Go to the edge." I said "No, I'll fall."
He said, "Go to the edge." I said No! I'll fall!"
He said, "Go to the edge." so I went to the edge and He pushed me.
What makes the biggest impression on investigators? I thought perhaps temples, focus on families, or something. The answer is MISSIONARIES! Cool, that's us.
Elder Eyring said to a small group of missionaries, "Jesus Christ is kinder than you imagine, and closer than we dare believe." That brings chills if you think about it.
Kathy Andersen, wife of Neil L. Andersen, said that her husband often has 15 drafts for a talk he is going to give in General Conference before he is content with the outcome. In other words, apostles work very hard on what they say to the whole church.
Elder Andersen gave some survey results taken from 18-20 year old individuals. He said that recently it was concluded that 1 in 5 people are skeptical that the Bible is inspired of God and were unlikely to read it and/or use it as a guide in their life. The same survey taken in 2005 was 1 in 10. That is a pretty significant decline. He talked about how to get the doctrine of Christ down into our heart.
Elder Maxwell said that when we try to counsel God it is like counseling someone who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars when we only wear a wrist watch.
It's hard to leave our families, especially our grandchildren. However, we sacrifice a few years of our life so that other families how to be together forever.
Here are a few notes I took about our roll as missionaries.
- Many members of the LDS church use language that other's don't understand. We should be careful what words we use. We should keep messages simple and clear.
- We should teach people not a lesson.
- We need to be prepared to answer questions clearly, simply, and truthfully of course and in a short amount of time.
- We need to live in such a way that we invite the Holy Ghost to be a constant guide.
- We used roll plays part of every day. Sometimes we played people that we know that are struggling or have deep concerns. Other times converts were brought in for us who were playing the person they were before their conversion. (Gregg and I were told that we work well as a team--go us!)
- When we feel overwhelmed and under qualified, we should count our blessings and comfort each other. We can also build our relationship by looking for and bringing out the best in each other.
- It is hard to leave our families and life. It will be just as hard to leave our friends in the mission field at the end of our mission.
- We should study the scriptures every day. It doesn't really matter which ones.
- Don't be afraid to answer hard questions. Make sure you understand the question, emotion behind it, and where they are going with it. Practice on each other to gain confidence and skill.
What an amazing week and a half we have had. I feel so empowered, so equipped with usable tools, so full of love for the Savior and mankind. I am incredibly excited.