Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend at the MTC

For our preparation day on Saturday, first we went looking for the 4 elders and 1 sister going to Mongolia. They entered the MTC on Wednesday April 15th. Before they came there were no Mongolian missionaries in the MTC. These missionaries will be in the MTC for three months and go to Mongolia in July.

We thought they had a class at 9:15 in the morning, but when we found them, they were doing personal and companion study and didn’t have a class until 2:15 in the afternoon. We went back in the afternoon and had a Mongolian class with them from 2:15 until 5:30 p.m. I enjoyed the class; it was very helpful. If I have a chance, I want to meet with them again, but their classes are usually during the day when we have our own training.

One thing I discovered by meeting with them was that the MTC has a program called TALL to help with learning a language. The teacher Marta gave me her logon so I could access the program. I wish someone had informed me about the program a week earlier.

With Saturday morning now free, we attended an endowment session at the Provo Temple. We’d never been inside this temple before.

In the evening we watched recorded devotionals. Elder Holland had spoken at the MTC devotional on Tues. April 14th. His talk was very down-to-earth and even feisty emphasizing the importance of not wasting the opportunity of serving a mission and of obeying the rules and not being stupid. He said going out by 2 or 3 together keeps covenants secure.

Next we watched the devotional by Sheri Dew from Sunday April 19th. She indicated that feeling the Spirit and hearing the voice of the Spirit are two separate things. We know we need to learn to recognize when we feel the Spirit, but then we need to go beyond that to learn to hear the voice of the Spirit, what it is telling us to do. She suggested getting on our knees and praying and asking the Lord to teach us what it feels like for us individually to receive revelation. The scriptures and purity will unlock the language of revelation.

Sunday morning we attended sacrament meeting, watched the Spoken Word, and then attended Relief Society. Sister Cook, 1st counselor in the YW presidency, was the speaker. She spoke about virtue which is now a YW value. The YW are invited to complete the virtue value along with their mothers and grandmothers.

After Relief Society a member of the MTC Relief Society presidency spoke about our dress. We are to dress professionally, not casually, and we are to dress modestly. That just about sums up what we need to know. The packet sent to us was misleading; she indicated we can wear lots of color. We are to fix up and look the best we can; we are to be our most beautiful self. She also said the layered look is not a professional look so when sister missionaries wear layers, only the hemline of the top layer is to show at the waist.

Sunday afternoon I worked on my blogs. In the evening we attended a fireside where Brother Allen, managing director of the missionary department, was the speaker. He had a missionary read Alma 26:27-31 phrase by phrase while he commented on it and applied it to us in an entertaining way. He also emphasized obedience, not letting Satan divert us from being missionaries, and returning home as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Finally we concluded the evening with a video of a talk given by Elder Bednar on Feb 1st, 2005(?). Missionaries are not just to go through the motions. They must have the Spirit with them. A missionary must have a change of heart and be converted. Missionaries are to open their mouths, and it will be given them what they are to say. If a missionary has no clue what to say, he is to bear testimony of Joseph Smith and the restoration. Joseph Smith will lead a person to Christ.

A missionary represents the Savior, his gospel, and his plan. Elders are sons of God and of the seed of Abraham with the responsibility to bless the seed of Abraham. When they return home, they are to continue with a lifetime of ministry.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mission Home - Week 1

John C, Amanda, and Chelsie drove Wes and me down to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) on Monday April 20th. Monday was orientation. Our group is a small senior missionary group; there are only 27 in our group, 12 couples and 3 sisters. When introducing ourselves, they ask how many missions you have been on as a couple. They want us to serve more than one mission as a couple.

The first week from Monday through Friday is Preach My Gospel instruction from 8 am to 5 pm every day. There is assigned reading each night in Preach My Gospel in preparation for the next day. Because we are learning a language, Wes (Elder Stevens) and I also meet with our tutor Sarah Batbold from 6 pm to 8 pm MWF. Tuesday evening is an MTC devotional. Sunday is Church plus a Sunday evening fireside.

Seniors do have freedoms the younger elders and sisters do not have. We are allowed to have laptops and cell phones. Because of language study, Wes and I were always busy, but those without a language to learn were free in the evening other than doing their reading. They can sign out of the MTC and go out in the evening.

At orientation Brother Graham emphasized that we are heads of families. This is different from being a member of a family. There may be an occasion for which a senior could get permission to leave and then return to his mission because of his role as the head of a family where a younger elder and sister could not. (I still think this would be rare.) From Brother Graham I realized the importance of our role as heads of families.

Throughout the week the emphasis has been on the purpose of all missions, even if you have a special assignment such as mission office, visitor’s center, or military relations. All of our trainers have emphasized that we are missionaries in the same way as the younger elders or sisters. We have been set apart and are authorized representatives of Jesus Christ and have the power and authority to invite people to come unto Christ and to invite them to commit to live his teachings.

Missionary Purpose: Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

We need to keep focused on our mission because it is easy to be busy on a mission and be doing good things and not accomplish our mission.

As we have received training, I’ve realized the importance of Preach My Gospel and how brothers and sisters in the wards should be trained with it. We can use these principles in our home teaching and visiting teaching as well as being member missionaries.

When we meet someone, we can in one minute tell them something about the gospel as truth and then testify of what we’ve said so the Holy Ghost can bear witness to them.

As a missionary we teach, testify frequently (“I know ..”), invite the investigator to commit to something (“will you ..”), promise blessings (“I promise ..”), and then follow up on the commitment.

Activities we’ve had during the week include preparing and teaching lessons to community volunteers who came to our room and acted the part of an investigator. I believe we taught about four lessons. One day we answered phone calls at the call center where people who’ve received a pass-along card or seen an ad on TV call in to request a book or video.

On Tuesday Wes and I finished getting our hepatitis, typhoid, and meningococcal shots. That cost us $453. Our shots for our mission to date have cost us a total of $686. Monday afternoon they showed us a health video so we will know how to keep our food safe and how to stay healthy.

At Wednesday’s Mongolian lesson our tutor Sarah brought her cousin who has only been in the U.S. one week so we could try to communicate with him. We can do a little, but we have a long ways to do.

Everyone at the MTC is very friendly. The elders hold doors for you. One night we noticed a group of elders and sisters at the cafeteria. Whenever one of the sisters came to the table to sit down or stood up, all of the elders (about two tables long) stood up. We wondered if the elders were going to get to eat because they had to keep standing up.

When we arrived we inquired and they told us our visas had arrived. We were scheduled to leave for Mongolia on the morning of Sunday May 3rd. Those with an additional assignment stay a second week in the MTC. Our office training is from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Thursday of the second week (April 27th through April 30th). However since we are going to Mongolia, we must also have an ESL certificate. This is only taught on Friday (May 1st) and Monday (May 4th).

Thus we’ve been rescheduled to leave the MTC on the morning of Tuesday (May 5th). It will take us 24 hours to get from Salt Lake City to Ulaanbaatar Mongolia with approximately 6 hours of layovers. We will fly first to San Francisco, then to Seoul, Korea, and finally to Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.

To send a letter to us in Mongolia via pouch, you send a one-page letter folded in thirds, fastened with a piece of tape, and addressed to us (no envelope).

Elder Wesley Bischoff Stevens
Sister Joan Matheson Stevens
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

For any other mail, use the following address.

Elder Wesley Bischoff Stevens
Sister Joan Matheson Stevens
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission
P.O. Box 242
UB – 49

Monday, April 20, 2009

Depart for Mission

On Friday April 3rd we left home to begin our missionary journey. It was difficult to get away, but we arrived at Bonnie’s on Friday. We were able to listen to General Conference with Bonnie’s family. Bonnie helped me finish getting ready. We flew from Arcata, CA to Salt Lake City on Wed. April 8th. (The baggage was just within the weight limits.)

We stayed at Marjorie’s home as Wendy was finishing up her last semester for her master’s in accounting. We enjoyed being able to visit with Marjorie’s, Wendy’s, John’s, and William’s families.

On Sunday evening (April 19th) before we entered the MTC, Wendy arranged for the family to hold a family home evening at her house. Dad taught the lesson on feasting on the word of God, and he and I bore our testimonies to the family. It was a special spiritual experience. Thank you Wendy for arranging it. We particularly wanted our children and grandchildren to know that we are serving missions because we know the gospel is true and desire to serve the Lord. “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Also we want our children and grandchildren to stand together and strengthen each other so we can return to live with Heavenly Father as a family. We love all of you and will miss all of you; we will be thinking of you and praying for you.