Wood and Iron...and how bad we are at using them...week 6

Monday, September 28, 2015

So the most insane moment this week was finding out two things. One is that our other sister, Sister Lo, is now gone because she's already pretty much fluent in Cantonese and got her visa last week.
We have gone from 14 people to 12 Elders. Slightly less crowded, but I really hope the Elders keep their manners and use the restroom when they need to if you know what I'm saying. I'm a lucky guy. Even as a somewhat fully grown person my body still doesn't stink. My district is highly jealous, but I on the other hand get the full wall of 12 guys that just got back from gym. Simon and Ana, if you thought I stink, you are in for one of the most rude awakenings of a lifetime. 

Second is that Richard G. Scott passed away. Not exactly helping with the rude awakening. They actually announced it in residence just after we got back, so I got both of those at the same time. Not the best feeling.

I got more letters from the Felts. Tell Flossy her characters were sublime and tell Henry and Beatrice that I'm glad they are doing so well. Beatrice, I will be vague, but it is not my place in any way to advise you in your responsibilities. You are the one that needs to feel the spirit and pray for guidance as to what you do. Above all follow the example of our Savior. I miss having dinner with you guys too. Hopefully the food wasn't too delicious.

A little tidbit about the MTC: Every wednesday, your MTC card, which gives you access to all of the buildings, also receives $6 in MTC credit. You can use this at the store, the vending machines, or simply save it for later. I think I have about $25 on it because I don't really use it that much. Relay this to Tyler.

Speaking of the Taylor side of the family, I wan't to just say thank you for the love and support you have given me. Dad, I'd be really grateful if you aren't doing this already if you sent all of my weekly letters to your siblings. ALL of them (unless they don't want it in which case I will just shrug that off).

Can't wait to see Tyler next week(right?)! I think we will actually be leaving the MTC around the same day. If he has any questions, or rather if Susan has any questions, they should feel free to ask me. I have had so much clarified as well as had so many different questions come up. I'll just have to figure those out. I'm a pro at the MTC though. I think my district might be the highest seniority here actually. I feel so old, but still lacking in wisdom.

I'm pretty sure I have been here forty days now (that's how many push ups I did anyways). Starting to lose it. It'll be good to get outta here. I'm sorry that i can't send you anything cool because I can only speak the language, not write it. We're supposed to learn how to read and write in the field I guess. About that, Mom, if you haven't ordered the Triple column yet, I know how to do it from here, but I won't do it until I get the green light from you, so include an update in the next email/dear elder. If it's through email, I haven't seen it if I don't respond.

I started the Book of Mormon again after finishing this week (50 days and I was done). I have already finished 1st Nephi in three days, but I have been thinking about chapter 18:2-3 where he describes "working the timbers" and having the tools forged through the knowledge that was given to him by God. I have 2 specific questions for this time through the Book of Mormon: What does it take to be a disciple? and How can I become the Father and Husband that God wants me to be? This verse I think has a little more elaboration towards the concept of the refiner's fire. When we are working the timbers or forging tools for God's purposes, we shouldn't try to do this his way. Whether it be helping your investigators, raising children, or really anything else God has you do, we shouldn't just put aside God's instructions, do it the way we want to because it's faster or better in our eyes, and end up building a house than a boat as God instructed Nephi to build. Not necessarily a bad thing to build, but it wasn't what you were supposed to build. We are given gifts from God with a specific purpose. If you aren't sure what that purpose is yet, join the club. Until you know that purpose, don't just sit there waiting on the porch. Go do something that you know is good! Maybe God needs to make sure he can trust you with a specific set of instructions by testing your ability to use the gifts he's given you for righteous purposes. That is one of the ways to receive revelation though: if you don't know, start doing something. You might end up doing the right thing and God will just watch you as you do what he was going to have you do without Him even having to tell you what it was. He will give you the spirit of service as you use these gifts for the benefit of others. That is my testimony and I know it is true. As a missionary my purpose is to invite OTHERS! The MTC is a time where a missionary has the opportunity to test the strength of his or her testimony and see if they are really up to the challenge.
Always show your gratitude for any gift you have and for any good that comes of something you had the opportunity to help in. All good things are of God, not you.

I heard that Saturday was Homecoming? How was the game? Simon do alright? Did Simon go to homecoming? I haven't seen the mail yet so you have probably already said this.

Honestly though, if anyone has any questions about the MTC, ask, because otherwise I probably won't ever get around to telling you. I hope the Andersons, Lundbecks, and Brother Ross are doing well. Does he have a new companion yet? You should work on that Dad.

Are you still working on sending me solid color pictures of the family? Brother Johnson and Sister Kwok told us we should work on getting those because they are helpful in teaching investigators.

Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything. Have a stellar week. Hope everyone is safe and happy. Can't wait to talk to you guys at the airport! Here is the Temple,

me and Elder Hewitt, 

and my 3rd perfect room inspection in a row (told you I'm not a slob).

P.S. Some really funny Church Home Front commercials that were shown at the devotional last night that I highly reccomend finding: The Practice, Braces and Glasses, Kidnapped, Play Ball, Conference Call (Australian) and many others!

Also, something funny:  
Elder Belknap got me really good last night. Two nights ago, I used one of those lazer pens that also has a button that shocks you on him. I just snuck up on him while he was journaling and touched it to his forearm. Pretty hilarious reaction, but when I was falling asleep last night, he suck up on me, grabbed BOTH pens (there are two total) and put them right on my funny bone! Strangest feeling that I have ever felt. Not so much pain as when I sat up though. I'm on the top bunk, and since I'm tall, I kind of banged my head...really, really hard on the ceiling. Elders Belknap and McGrath were laughing so hard. I was pretty mad, but I cannot deny that he got me really good.
Decided I'd tell you that. Have a good week. Love you all!

Starting week 6 (I think)...week 5

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm starting to lose track of how long I have been out as far as weeks go. I know today is day 33 though (still going on the pushups). I am so grateful for the pictures. I had REALLY short hair at that time. Adam looks happy and Calvin is still getting bigger. I hope you have some honey left for me! 

Haven't been able to get the mail in a while because of the old district leader being sick, but that isn't a problem any more cuz we have a new one. Elder Smith is one of the greats in our district. He and I have recently started a quartet with elder Belknap and Elder Chen (both surprisingly really good voices). We are in the middle of preparing "Brightly beams our Father's mercy." Speaking of singing, we actually had the chance to have an "MTC and the Spoken Word" where Lloyd Newell came and addressed us and invited the Choir of 1000 strong to sing songs chosen by the conductor of the MTC choir related to his message. Such an amazing experience. Lloyd Newell's voice may carry like Heaven itself were coming through his mouth, but he also has quite a load of wisdom that he took the opportunity to share with us.

This morning for the temple was a little different with Elder M trying to get there with his friend who's companion REALLY wanted to go with his district. That is why I am emailing so much later today. The endowment session was great though. I even saw Brother Goodsell when I walked in. So glad to have been able to see him today.

The Chipotle and Trader Joe's bags are such comforting memories. Yes Adam, I saw your addition to it. Took care of the debit card. Feeling good and seasoned in the MTC now. I'm pretty sure that next week our cantonese district will be the oldest ones here. I know this place up and down. I love going to the field and playing soccer against the Thai district (today is their last day and I gotta get my A game to be ready for it). Today is an especially beautiful day.

My prayers are answered so often here, and the hand of the Lord is so obvious to me. The happiness and joy that comes from a sincere and repentant heart is nearly overwhelming. I learn line upon line that which God would have me increase in, focusing less on the external and more on my heart as well as how to strengthen the ones surrounding me. I love my Heavenly Father, and as I submit myself to his will, each day he strengthens my body and spirit, and at night he gives me knowledge. A message that I invite everyone to read brings me back to my home teaching days (since I am still not released, could you please send this message to brother Ross, the Lundbecks and the Andersons as soon as possible along with my love). A message by Dieter F Uchtdorf called "Always in the Middle" discusses the fear in the beginning of a quest as well as the lack of hope towards the end of the same. His invitation is simple: to avoid the hopelessness and fear that come from individual adventures of childhood, schooling, mission, or even marriage, by "speaking or acting with confidence and boldness" and not getting ahead of ourselves in the work. This perspective and way of life promotes happiness, efficiency, and invites the guidance of the spirit through our hard work as well as our humility. I know this is true and I see it developing in my own mission. I seek to apply it in all facets of my life and I invite all to do the same.

Now to just my family:
Mom and Dad: I love seeing the picture of you two at Yellowstone. You are the main example in my life of love through trials and all circumstances. I know you're not perfect, but your efforts and obedience to the law of God are to me surpassed by none. Thank you, and know that before I go to sleep every night I imagine you both sitting next to me, and I know that the spirit uses my memory of your counsel to strengthen me. I love you.

Simon: How great it was to see you with me at Cracker Barrel. Reminders of good memories and how much bigger you are going to be in comparison to me next time I see you. As dumb as you think you are, I know that the Lord has plans for you that you can't even comprehend. Power and responsibilities that will be placed as a heavy mantel on your capable shoulders. I miss being able to talk with you...and talk and talk and laugh and punch and laugh again (maybe a small amount of involuntary gas coming out of one of us). I invite you to be a leader to all. An example of soberness, righteousness, and complete dedication to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Never stop pushing your limits.

Ana: You beautiful girl, I wish I was still around to harass you (sorry:). I can't help but regret all of the arguing that I have done with you and how often I have not felt worthy of my calling on this earth as your older brother. It's really difficult for me to get past that, but I wan't you to know that you are, of all five of us, the cleverest. It will be you that will keep your standards among strife and temptation among your friends. I beg of you to study and seek the counsel of God through the words of his servants. They all are called of God and set apart to strengthen you. Remember to lift others in your trials before turning inwards. This is the true character of Christ.

Adam: As good as Chipotle is, I advise you to seek treasures in Heaven. Share the blessings that you have abundantly received in this life, and I can promise you that your light will grow brighter and warmer to the extent of aiding Christ in saving the "sin sick souls" that need your powerful testimony and protection from the adversary. You are meant to be a strength to your siblings, especially to Owen. I have failed in many ways, and I hope that you have learned from them and become a bigger man than I have. Never cease to be amazed with your own divine potential and abilities. In Ether, the brother of Jared communicated to the Lord his understanding and faith in the power of even the simplest miracles. That faith is the faith through which you can see and perform the miracles of your Heavenly Father.

Owen: Happiness is your greatest ally. How do you attain this happiness? I'm going to let you find out for yourself, and ponder ways to become more courageous in the dark and anxious moments of your existence. you have always had the energy and power of mind to work for God's purposes. Your next objective should then be to make a new heart like Ezekiel said. I have talked with dad for extensive periods of time about how we can get happiness. I tell you this: you are the one in control of the door latch. If you open it, happiness is promised on the other side. Convince yourself of the truth and you will be set free by the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Felts: Thank you for the study topic. I am taking Elder Bednar's council and applying it to your question: read the Book of Mormon with one question in mind and highlight the verses that help answer that question. Ears Chrissy, and I think I am in an identity crisis regarding the Young Women's award. Matt, thank you for your humility and willingness to do literally anything for your family. Bea, you're a winner always, but you can help others win too by sharing your testimony with them. Hen, strength isn't found in the gym or on the field, but on your knees. Fred+Floss, if I could hold you again, I could cause the very gates of Hell to shake and the walls of Jericho to come down from the songs my heart would sing.

Kiefers: Jake, you taught me to have fun when I am working, as well as to know that real work is never for yourself. Carrie, you have loved my siblings and I no matter what we said to you or did wrong. Long suffering goes to you. Lila, you taught me a little bit about why I am here and who I am so that I can know where I am going. Cally, I see you as my hero. Though small you are, you still have a touch of Heaven left in your eyes.

Steeles: Max, I just wish I could have had a jam session with you. Griff, I really feel like you will end up playing basketball or something in the Olympics for Saudi Arabia (if that's even a thing). George, you belong on top of the world, but the fastest way there isn't by climbing. It's all about your attitude. Jared and Ange, I will always love you guys, and I know that any success that you have had is because you have relied on God. Thank you for that example.

Vandifords: teaching truly is the greatest of all callings. you have always done so in your lives with your children and our family. All of you are so unified I feel that I should address you as one body. That is quite a feat considering that as being what the ultimate goal for Zion is.

Hong Kong or bust! 

Long day, but I have a few minutes left on computer. This language is killing me...in a good way. Today, we talked about the difference between janleih contexts. If you say Ligo haih janleih, you are saying "this is true," but if you say "ngoh jan leih," you are saying "I hate you." By putting the jan leih in front of ngoh, you make the context very negative. The characters are different, but the pronunciation is completely the same. Fun fact for the day:)

Make sure that you are giving my remarks to the family! Love you!

This week...week 4

Monday, September 14, 2015

Leih houh from the MTC!

Before I say anything, I wan't to express my gratitude to my whole family, extended or no. Pictures from Freddy and Flossy as well as letters and emails from friends and family. You really help me remember my purpose and what one missionary can bring to pass in a family. So much potential happiness is in store if I only do what I am told! 

It's an amazing opportunity to yoke myself beside the spirit. The choir conductor told us yesterday that when we do this, we need to remember that it isn't that we are equally yoking ourselves. More like you have Babe the big Blue ox on one side and a bunch of cats hanging on for dear life on the other side, some amazed at the strength and stamina of this massive ox, some others complaining about the bumps in the road. No one likes those kind of cats.

No we didn't see the area conference. It was not addressed to us. Thank you for some of the main points though. I will see if I can find more details today.

Go Red Devils! Are my spiritually amplified senses detecting a perfect season for Simon and his team? We will see. I'm so proud of all of my brothers (and Ana, can't forget Ana) for playing clean, playing hard, and playing happy! Don't let anything get to you, because that will only distract from the real work that is for you to do. Even in the chaos of the field or the classroom, you should be primarily striving to heed the promptings of the Spirit. That is why we have seminary every other day, or for Ana every morning (push on Ana, you're stronger than I was). You will begin to realize that school and sports are easier to progress in and temptations around you begin to minimize in effect. This comes as you strive to focus on what matters most.

I watched Character of Christ for the second time yesterday. New items of focus: In Matt 4, the temptations that are given such as stone to bread, casting from the wall, and trading his glory for worldly possessions are only secondary. The primary temptation is "IF ye be the Son of God..." Remember your divine nature as sons and daughters of the most high God.

I wen't to the temple REALLY early today. Woke up at 5 am and we got to the temple at 5:30 (by the way I can tell time in Cantonese really easily now. I even have my purpose memorized!). We did both initiatories and an endowment session. Nice change of scenery and I got to go on an exchange with Elder Daplin, my best Philipino friend. Forgot my camera though. Sorry.

HA! Funny story, we were trying to convince an investigator to read a Book of Mormon on Saturday, and we couldn't find out why he was saying that he couldn't read it. I felt prompted then to take out my own personal set of cantonese scriptures and place them on my desk. As soon as I did, he lit up and I realized then that we had been trying to give him a simplified character Book of Mormon, while cantonese people only can read traditional. I felt so dumb, but I realized the influence of the spirit in this act and I am so grateful for it.

A quote from my journal: Are God and my Savior my first priority? I know I love Them more than anything, even myself, but I'm just a man. I found comfort and inspiration in 2 Nephi 4 though. Though Nephi was grieved because of His sins he didn't dwell on them. Instead he went on ahead praising God and exclaiming his loyalty to Him."

I have seen a broad category of repentance and forgiveness as I review the week. True repentance comes from change though, and being willing to forgive others of the same sins that we have committed.

I know that Christ is our Redeemer. I have been testified to by the spirit that, if I will strive to my utmost abilities to be obedient to the rules as well as to the promptings of the spirit that language will never be the problem. I wan't to say that language never really was the problem because I know it can be possible to feel the spirit even if you don't know what is being said.

To all siblings individually, I wan't you to know that I love you. You are strong, brilliant and kind. These attributes will increase as you strive to obey the spirit and become like your savior. Look to the positive examples of our parents and siblings and forget about the negative. Don't waste words in lightness of mind. Be a happy, but sober person. Be the bigger man or woman that God wants you to be. A special promise that I will make to you is that if you sincerely pray and study your scriptures BEFORE you do anything, your way will not be harrowed up, but rather the ways of your enemies. You will also increase in wisdom and joy, knowing more deeply and with more conviction of the truthfulness of the Gospel. Mom, Dad, I miss your loving counsel and your constant support. I do feel it, but it's like a weaker signal. I know that this is required, but I have struggled in the wrestle daily to be the companion and leader that I have been foreordained to be. I invite you to do the same in your marriage and in your callings. You will receive the same blessings.

Feel free to ask questions. I need the practice and I love hearing your concerns and workings with the Lord. GO TO THE TEMPLE!!!!!!

Here are the pictures :)

Yeah, sorry I forgot to include this in any of my past emails, but I will be needing: Brown Shoe polish (dark brown), athletic socks, and mouthwash. Thank you so much mama!
I checked the kit today because I WANTED to polish my shoes. Just neutral and black. Whoopsey.
Thanks mom! Just sitting here on a quick exchange with the district leader because he and his companion had a little bit of an argument. Really ridiculous and a little hilarious. Love you too!

Note from Mom:  I informed Ian of our new callings and he had this to say when I reminded him that I would be serving with our beloved neighbor, Laurie Rasmussen, and reminded him of her awesome treats.
"You guys will do great. I am well aware of the deliciousness of her treats. Don't taunt me. Love you to. Leaving the lab now. Have an AMAZING week and tell Adam to stop picking his nose (if he is). Tell everyone I love them."

Week 3

Monday, September 7, 2015

Leih houh ma! How is life everybody!

So this week has been one of a high amount of mental, physical and spiritual progress. We did TRC on Saturday, which is where we have volunteers who speak the language were studying come and listen to us share a message and bear our testimony as well as ask us questions and fix any problems that we have with teaching and the language. I wasn't able to do the whole lesson in Cantonese, but my goal this upcoming saturday is to speak no English at all. 

As for Papa's question, we do have written material. Two of our main resources we call Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan is a book with about 80 pages about grammar sequences and example sentences related to asking for and giving directions, possessive and descriptive words, using what would in english be sequences related to "through, because, if/then, although, etc..." and also contains example prayer and testimony sequences. Bruce Lee is a smaller but thicker book with translated phrases from Preach my Gospel as well as relevant vocabulary for teaching, getting to know someone, and other Missionary tasks.

Still on track with the push ups and sit ups. I'm so glad to hear that Simon is doing well on and off the field. Hopefully you get my letter in a few days about specific details I would like to hear as well as some important information regarding choices.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a world-wide MTC devotional on last week's sunday (Aug 30). You will have to read my letter to get the details due to my limited time.

I haven't been able to pick up your most recently sent package yet because of today being labor day and saturday having the mail room close early at 2 o'clock. So frustrated about that, but I'm really excited to get it. I always appreciate the kind notes that you include. At some point I would like to have a note from everyone about how they are feeling and how their testimonies have grown.

A question that I wan't Ana and Simon to ask their seminary teachers and for everyone to figure out: In 3 Nephi 7:15, which Nephi is referred to? Is it Nephi the son of Nephi or Nephi the Son of Helaman who in 3 Nephi 1:2-4 was said to have gone off into the wilderness never to be heard from again. I'll give you a hint. The same nephi is also said to have performed the miracle of rescuing his brother Timothy. Who is it?

Elder M is finally feeling better after about a week of serious sickness. Simon was usually the consistent waker-upper of the two of us. Thankfully I have been blessed with energy enough and a surprisingly convenient need to use the restroom after my prayer. Having the top bunk just makes it harder to get out of bed, and I feel so lazy saying this, but it's just so much more effort required to get out of that bed without hurting myself (haven't hurt myself yet). Isn't it amazing what the spirit can do?

I realize now why, even in perfect understanding, I would not change the way I acted in many cases. It is because I never even thought to desire to convert myself to any specific law of God. Just understanding the difference between right and wrong is not enough. Conversion to anything cannot occur without these steps. 1) participation in the act. 2) desire to increase repetition of the action 3)Enjoyment of some sort found in both the participation and the increase. 4) an either physical or spiritual experience that more firmly ties you to that action. Realize that this is a generic conversion pattern, using the word conversion in a sense meaning changing one's view in a conscious acceptance of an external will or influence. This is why addiction to anything of substance, ideal, or act is such a terrible sin, and even the act leading to that addiction is terrible in similitude because of the fulfillment of the law. You are not only deliberately disobeying God's will, but you are becoming tied to something that in actuality will soon fail your faith. This will sadden your Heavenly Father immediately and will at one point sadden you as well as those with whom you interact. It's a form of disobedience to the first and greatest commandment to worship Him alone. Other specific laws will follow such as the word of wisdom, the law of chastity, tithing, consecration, and every single other law. If you are deliberately removing yourself from God, it will surely end in you disobeying all of God's commandments, even unto the denying of the Holy Ghost. This explains why it would be impossible for most to do so, because if any light of Christ is left unextinguished, desire for good is still present to any degree. With that light extinguished though, it seems simply consequential that one would commit such a grievous and unforgivable sin. Either way, their would couldn't get any darker.

So what can we do amidst the trials of our Faith in Christ? How can we remain steadfast and immoveable o'er the moors, fens, crags and torrents till the night is gone? The answer is found in the same hymn: Let Him LEAD YOU ON! Love not the garish day, but immerse yourself in the faith you have, and immerse yourself also in the very things which developed the core of your faith. What did Joseph smith do in trials like Liberty Jail or the time when the church could no longer fund the temple payment? The same thing he was initially instructed by the spirit to do by the spirit when he knew not which way to go: he Prayed, and did so with the most fervent desire to have faith whereby he could obtain truth found only in and through Christ. What do we do if we find ourselves in the pit of addictive behavior? I would recommend the videos about the 12 steps to addiction recovery. Mom and Dad need to watch them first to figure out who it would be appropriate for, but all twelve videos are on the Church Website.

Closing remarks:
I have seen Elder Knowlton, Elder Hale and Elder Beisinger. It's so wonderful to have a few familiar faces here at the MTC.
I will soon be needing new pens. Preferrably black fine point G2 pens. BIC are good too though:)
I want everyone to discuss in family home evening tonight one of these topics
-John Taylor Quote (pg 182 in Preach My Gospel)
-PMG Ch. 2
-Page v (not 5) in PMG.
-12 steps videos

Can't wait for the package tomorrow. Thank you so much for the support. Tell Chrissy and Carry to email me first if they want personalized emails. Love you all!
Elder Taylor

ps, in order, this is Elder Chen,

A buch of people from my district as well as our best friend district the Laotians,

and then a statue in the MTC of Samuel H. Smith, the first missionary EVER and Joseph Smith's brother.

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