Friday, March 29, 2013

Off to Mexico. . .

My Visa came through today and I leave for Mexico on Monday morning. 

This past week I went with 20 other elders to the Mexican Consulate near the Bees (or buzz or whatever they are called now) stadium. On the way out there all the missionaries were giddy with eagerness to talk to someone outside the MTC. I have had so much time around my district it felt a little off to be around a group of strangers. At one point though I was with 2 other elders and we struck up a conversation with two members. One was a girl my age that goes to UVU and she was asking for my advice on how to read scriptures. She said she really struggled to make time for reading them among all of her school work. I was able to tell her with confidence that if she set aside time for the Lord then her mind would be cleared and her motivation for other aspects of her life would be increased. I have felt this in the MTC and Spanish comes easier when I have properly studied the Book of Mormon. After that we started talking to a man that looked pretty grungy; overweight, gold teeth, and ragged clothing. We found out he was baptized but that he had never read the book of Mormon and wasn’t active. I told him to read the first 3 chapters in Mosiah and to pray about it. The Elder next to me had a book and we outlined the section for him with parts to pay attention to most. The crazy part of this was that in the middle of talking to him he started to have a minor seizer. I had never seen this before and didn't know what was happening. I thought for a second that maybe he was having an Alma like experience Or something crazy like that. But after it was over he just kept talking like it was nothing. My face was probably stark white and my mouth wide open.

I was quite flattered that Henry used my email in his talk – tell him hey.  I have been looking very diligently for Adelide (partly because I hear that she has a box for me) but I am excited to see her. She will thoroughly enjoy the MTC. I know I have.

A highlight has been reading the family history that Steve sent. I read it before I go to bed. I was pretty stoked to read about a relative that had served alongside General Washington. It is also impressive to read about those that lived humble lives, not noticed by others, who just wanted to fear God and be good folks.
My advice to my younger siblings (especially Cate, who has a record of being a bully :) is to be kind. This kindness is especially needed by those who may not have good social skills. I have been thinking about a time in my ninth grade math class when an individual there was the butt of many jokes. This guy wasn't easy to be around and he hit quite a few branches on the way down the quirky tree. One day I told his tormentors to lay-off and I tried to get to know the guy. At times the math was more fun than some of our conversations but the jokes at his expense ended and that made me feel good. I have also been at the other end of this ride. There have been times when I have delivered the jokes in attempted good humor, but took it too far.  I have also had times when I was intentionally harassing someone. I always ended up regretting this and have thought about it many times afterwards. I have also been on the receiving end and it wasn't fun. So, I am learning never to put people down, especially those that weren’t given as much. You never know what people have been through. We can all hope to be the individual that people think of as always kind.

In the MTC there are all kinds of people. One kid has been all sorts of sick for the past 6 weeks; much of it due to his lack of of hygiene. He puts deodorant on at night saying that it lasts 24 hours. Well, he doesn’t smell pleasant the next day. When I tried to just laugh all that off and be buddies with him I found him to be a real good guy.
I love ya’all at home and can't wait to talk to you on Monday.

Elder Speen
We hope Spence will start taking some pictures when he gets to Mexico

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I haven’t seen Adelide here yet


Report from the week:   As far as Spanish - Elder Morris has 1000 flash cards and we have been learning 100 words every day. We are getting them down, but every day is harder because we have to review those from the previous days. I learn more Spanish outside of class than in because we mainly focus on the gospel in class. 

I was stoked to get your reference to the scripture in Acts because I had read through it for the first time this week. I really enjoy reading new stories and scriptures that I haven't delved into in the past; good thing I still have quite a bit of material left.

We teach a lesson each week to members so that we can practice more than just the first lessons. This week I chose to do it on the metaphor of rocks in the scriptures because this has been something I have been thinking about.  There is one reference to Nephi and his brothers hiding in the cavity of a rock. Ether hides in a cavity of a rock several times. Christ said Peter was the rock of the church.  We are told to build our houses on rocks, and Joseph Smith said that he was a rough stone rolling. Rock is an easy reference to understand and everyone on the earth can relate.  Rocks can create beautiful scenery and some of the wonders of the world. Some rock is easily eroded while other's, after having been placed under extreme pressure, are elevated to a more durable solid form. In this lesson we discussed how the church, scriptures, and the Grace of God are the rock that will never be broken or destroyed by any oncoming force. It can be the base of reliability by which we can shape our lives.  The member asked me what my rock was outside of the gospel. I said my family and I got to relate a little about the people I love most. Three days after this lesson we had a fireside and the speaker’s message was based on the topic of rocks. I thought that was pretty great. One story he used was of a family that he was friends with that had made a ton of money but then lost it all in the 08 crash. They were forced to move to California and could only afford a tiny home.  The father was placed under stress to provide for his family and took up construction. But, he stood up to the pressures and became great at this 2nd career. They once again made a good living and now are using their money to go on mission after mission.    

There are little pranks going on throughout our district - which is pretty great. Yesterday we got a hold of our neighbors’ room keys.  Then last night we woke up at three in the morning and went into their room and put an alarm clock in one of their drawers. The draws have a metal latch on them and we can lock them with combination locks that they gave us on the first day. So we hooked on one of ours and left their room. As we were going back to our room we heard the alarm go off and saw the light turn on. I laughed and told Morris (my co-conspirator) that I bet Dean thought it was morning.  Then we heard Dean yell with a slightly incoherent voice "are you kidding me! It is 3 in the morning!" Morris and I started to crack up listening to Dean's stream of Mormon swear words - demanding to know why we were awake.  In the morning when we were laughing about it, he was a little sheepish :)  We did the same to the room across the hall and they couldn’t get the drawer open. We all tried in vain to keep straight faces when they asked if it was us.      

I have seen Claire Sorenson several times but I haven’t seen Adelide here yet. Some of the elders have gained up to twenty pounds.  I have gained 2 pounds (hopefully of muscle more than fat cause we have been working out a bit). But really with only a half an hour of exercise, I am just grateful I haven't blimped out.

I got to go but I still be lovin the fam and can’t wait to talk to y’all from the airport.

Spencer's Mission President

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Very Good Week

Spencer Hasn't Learned to Use his Camera Yet

I had a very good week. My boys here have been saying "we are in the business of saving lives!" (few good men). Were actually in the business of saving souls; but I got the first aid merit badge and maybe I will have the chance to save a life or two.

So, 10:15 pm is quiet time here and we are supposed to be all ready for bed by 10:30. Thankfully our room is really great about going to bed on time - probably because we are exhausted (although I did get in trouble one night for reading my scriptures out in the hall too late). But the other rooms of elders aren't so good at getting in bed on time and they normally make some ruckus until we tell them to go to bed. One of the nights this week we were in bed and then above the sound of the usual turmoil outside we heard two elders screaming. I ran out and there was a fight in the hall because someone was upset that someone else hadn't shown up for the service project that day (what in the world)? The one that hadn't shown up at the service project was swearing and then started to throw punches. We broke up the fight and then tried to figure out what was happening. This guy started yelling at us and saying it wasn't our business. Of course it was our business - it is quite hard to have any sort of spirit while reading my scriptures with two guys screaming down the hall. We reminded this guy that he was a missionary and that he needed to cool it and think about why he is here. This guy was fuming and I knew if he punched me, I would just have to take it (at least to an extent). I saw him the next day talking to his Branch President and he was back at the temple that Sunday standing on the fountains.

Our teachers are both sisters and one of them is married. The one who isn't married looks like Shaye Bunker. These two teachers are pretty much the only girls I have talked to in the last 3 weeks. I was eating my dinner one night and 2 new sisters in our zone came and sat down to talk to me. As it turns out, I am already awkward around girls.  I didn’t think that would happen so fast.

I have been wondering what the history of the Nephites would have looked like if Laman and Lemuel had died in the wilderness before having children?

I have a picture of you (Mom & Dad) in your twenties. An elder came into our room and said "you look a lot like your parents." So that’s a big compliment to you both ;)

Thanks a ton for the box. I have already made good use of the super glue.

I love you both - give my best to the siblings.

-your son

Thursday, March 7, 2013

R2D2 and the Urim & Thummim

“Hello my family.  I hope I bring honor.”  I learned that from the Asia bound missionaries on the 2nd floor. 

I really enjoy mission life.  My roommates and I have grown pretty close and we have a lot of in depth conversations; one went too late into the night and we paid for that the next day.  When I don’t sleep enough, I find myself falling asleep in random places throughout the day; like leaning against a wall waiting for my comp to come out of the bathroom or resting my chin on my hand in a position similar to “The Thinker” statue while reading something in class. 

My roommates are all very unique.  One is a dancer, one’s a skater, and one comes from a military family. They all have somewhat of a taste for nerdy things like Star Wars and such – just like me and they all work hard.  My comp one day said to the class: “I like Star Wars and I love the gospel, but I hate it when people try to use Star wars as a reference for the gospel.” I told him I thought Star Wars could have been inserted into Preach My Gospel and would work as an effective missionary tool.  Take for example Count Dooku in relation to Korihor. He tried to persuade the people of the galaxy but was trampled in the end.  Obi-wan and Moses both had the ability to move things and led their people to a safe exile. Both even had the same beard.  Chewbacca and Esau were both hairy and cared about their stomachs.  C3PO, R2D2 and the Urim & Thummim could interpret over 6 million forms of communication and they continuously pop up throughout the story.   The other elders gave me some support and we came up with a lengthy list.  My comp eventually saw the humor.  We have had incredibly funny conversations as a district but we have also had serious ones.  We sometimes have seven hours of straight Spanish class which and the pace forces us to work hard.  I am the youngest in the class and have had the least amount of Spanish – by at least a year. Most of these guys took Spanish straight through High School.  So, I have really had to high tail it.

I cracked up at Meg’s story about her Spanish and I can’t wait to be in Mexico.  MTC life is very structured but I am grateful for that.  One way to shed the stress is to run it off.  We are given 50 minutes of gym and I spend the whole time running. So, I haven’t gotten plump, even with all this delicious food J.  Speaking of food – it is so crowded here that the lines go out the door and sometimes there are no seats. So I eat standing up.  Also, at night when I break out my bag of Cracklin Oat Bran the others tease me about eating dog food.  Now I know how dad feels when my buddies give him heat for eating Fiber One.  But I just laugh and keep eating my heaven cereal.

Other great things from this week: We were sitting in our district room and doing our comp language study one day. We had been hitting it pretty hard for a while so and I proposed the question "who would win in a showdown, a grizzly bear or a crocodile? This turned into a very serious debate and the elders passionately defended their animal. We threw the advantages and disadvantages on the board to get a better perspective. I personally would want to take the grizzly into battle, but then again i have never seen a crocodile in the wild.

Spanish is coming. I focus on vocab as you can’t really conjagate a word you don't know. When mom is listening to someone speaking Spanish or watching Spanish TV, she gets this focused smile on her face, because she loves it and wants to know what is being said. I think I get this look as well during our class. Which is better than the jaw-dropped look that I had from utter confusion on the first day.

Fun fact: An elder that is in our room worked on the same egg farm that was in Napoleon Dynamite and he had a jedi braid growing throughout high school and when he left, he braided it up real tight, cut it off and now his girl friend has it hanging from her key chain.

As my comps name is Dean, I grabbed some rocky road in the cafeteria one day and brought it to him and said in my best Forest Gump voice, "I brought you some ice cream Lt. Dean" he responded right and said you "ruined my life." Now we all call him LT. Dean.

I play the Conf talks and BYU Speeches on my mp3 player at night and in the mornings while we get ready and sometimes the whole zone will come in and listen. Thanks for the mp3 dad. Elders will be strewn all over our room to hear them.

Thanks for sending me Meg and Meisha's letters. It really is great to be out at the same time as them. I have felt the spirit on my mission like I never have before and I know they are having the same experience. It changes you and I diligently seek for the comforting moments when the spirit testifies and brings clarity. Tell Meg that I am nostalgic about Italy and wish I could talk to M&M about their experiences. Meish was in the ocean up to her ankles?! Naughty, naughty.

Thanks for the pics. The other elders thought Cate was attractive and I had to tell them to scatter. Congrats to her about the patriarchal blessing it made my day when I read that she had received it. Owen is my little man and I was pretty proud of the hair he was sportin' while he was putting on his snow shoes.

Elder Ballard spoke to us in a fireside and at the end of the talk gave us a blessing that:

1)      We would be aware of what is going on around us;

2)      We would never take undo risks;

3)      We would be entitled to His love and blessings;

4)      We would feel at peace night and morning;

5)      Our love for the Lord would be accelerated more than we ever thought possible.

Mom talked to me about several of those items in her advice to me before I left – so this blessing stuck out. 

While I have been here I have felt the spirit constantly and I feel lonely without it.  We were told that the stages of being a missionary are:

1)      Extreme Love – this where you feel the spirit and love everything; i.e., I love the church, my comp, the towels, etc. (Or all the sisters screaming when they see each other.)

2)      Mad at the world – this is when you are annoyed by the way your companion chews;

3)      Grin and Bear It – This is where we mature and move on when stuff happens.

I have now been around this track a few times and know it will continue. 

While reading my scriptures I have had a few insights which I have presented to my teacher. She is great and elaborates if she can – or she tells me not to ask questions when they don’t pertain to the investigator. 

For example:

1)      It appears that Nephi learned of the Savior when he received the plates and started reading them. How great was that?

2)      Nephi said he talked to the Spirit as a man – I have never thought about it that way.

3)      Our teacher told us that an apostle was on his horse and looked to his right and was eye to eye with a man covered in hair. He commanded the man to depart and when he got back to H.Q.  he asked Brigham Young about it and Brigham said it was Cain.  I wonder if people mistake Bigfoot for Cain.

Tell Steve thank you for the family history.  My comp and I had a great time reading while ironing our shirts. Also, my shoes are great and I recommend slip-ons for Will, Zach, and any future Elders.  

Epiphany of the week: People sometimes say that God hasn't answered their questions or that they just don't know if this church is true, without even diligently seeking the scriptures. I have found myself guilty of this before. God prepared a way for the scriptures to be brought forth and they are in essence an answer book. We read the answer he gives us in the scriptures and through the prophets; then we pray to see if it is true. We can’t ask a question then expect an answer to appear.

I love you all and think about you all the time.

Spence Hasn't Bothered to Take Many Pictures Yet