Monday, December 30, 2013

Elder Bednar came on Christmas Day!

Dearest familia,

Whoa-kay Elder Bednar was the speaker on Christmas Day AH-MAZ-ING!!! That was FOR SURE the highlight of Christmas Day. He is definately a man of God. He speaks with such authority, yet he delivers it so down to earth. Elder Bednar taught us the 
Principle: We are "Blessed with moral Agency through Jesus Christ. To ACT and not just be ACTED Upon."
Application: Ask Questions. "All questions are good, no hesitation needed. INSPIRED QUESTIONS are with THE PERSON, PLACE, & AT THAT TIME it is placed. Inspired questions are the best questions."

Then they passed out 200 cellphones into the audience. And Bednar said, "Don't you dare call home!' "If you do I will hunt you down and do bad things to you." Of course this was done in a joking/lighthearted manner. The phones were used to text questions to the ipad that Elder Bednar was holding, and then the foreign MTC's that were watching it live (all but two MTC's) were given an e-mail address to send questions to the ipad. He emphasized the importance of applying inspired questions, now was not the time to ask "Where is Laban's Sword?!" Answer: "I don't know, and I don't care." Now is the time to use the characteristics of an inspired question.

I don't have time to send all of my notes, because I was so into his talk that I couldn't even look up for most of the talk, I have five pages of notes. It was SO amazing! It was the closest thing to having a one on one talk with an apostle, he made you feel so involved. I was given a phone and texted in a question, but I guess it just wasn't inspired enough.  ;) 

Some of the questions asked:
Q: "Why do I feel so inadequate?"
A: "You realize how great the work you are about to do really is."

Q: "What is your favorite Scripture, and why?"
A: "I have many favorites, one is 3 Nephi 11:14-17" - The Savior Speaking (So I encourage you do look those scriptures up)
- He taught the application of it saying they met "one by one"
Ex: "You never will teach a family of 7, you will teach 7 "ones" in a family."
Ex: "You do not speak to a congregation (of 183) you speak to 183 "ones"." 

"If you will sincerely seek to understand the strengthening power of the Atonement, you will come to know that you can do it."- Elder David A. Bednar
"Don't let discouragement become Dysfunctional." - Sister Susan Bednar

Below is a cliche picture of me with the Map on Main Campus. Main Campus is like a mini field trip here, it is a lot bigger than west campus. I thought it was funny when people said you could gain weight at the MTC. We went to lunch at Main Campus today for p-day and yeah... you could for sure gain weight at main campus MTC. But, not as much at West Campus, their meals are straight forward, not a lot of options.

I refer to this bus as the "Smmmoulder Bus". It is a BYU Bus that we take to Main Campus for Devotionals and stuff, and I just don't get why they are so intense as they advertise for the BYU Bookstore. Ha ha.

This is me and my District, ah I love them all SO much! (Hermana Gentry, Hermana Wood, Hermana Deeks, Me, Hermana Evans, & the other Hermana Smith).

Well I love you all, and keep doing the "little things" in life, which really are the BIG things! Say your prayers EVERY SINGLE DAY. Your Heavenly Father loves you, and wants to hear from you, council with him, and everything will work out how it should. 

Love Always,
                    Hermana Smith     

Feliz Navidad

Mi Familia y Amigos,

Ah, we were given twenty minutes to e-mail today, so it is all in a rush, and I don't even know where to begin.

But, I want you all to know that I KNOW the church is true. Today marks one week for me being in the MTC, and my heart is full! Jesus Christ is our Savior, he did the work, and now it is up to us to apply it. Heavenly Father is loving, merciful, and aware of our every need.

We recently talked about angels at the Manger. And I hope that we can all symbolically be at the sided of the manger this Christmas, joining in the praises of "I Believe in Christ"! I know that he was sent to earth humbly, to ease our burdens.

Last night we watched Mr.Kreuguers Christmas, which is a stinkin sad show. But if you know of someone who is alone today, please extend your love to them. It could be to a widow in your ward, or a Single Mom down the street, or whoever you feel so impressed to reach out to. Christmas is about Christ, Charity, Love, and Service.

Can I just say that I LOVE Missionary Work! I mean you know that a structured day, gives me chills. And yes I know, I know, I am only at the MTC phase, but even practicing teaching Investigators I get SO excited and invested in their potential.

I have been SO humbled and touched by being a District Leader and Sister Training Leader. I feel like a District Learner more than a District Leader, because the Hermanas of my District teach me so much each day. I started one on one interviews with each Hermana throughout the week, and it is amazing to discuss our trials, strengths, and life experiences that have reached us to this point. Clearly I do not hold the Preisthood, but the power of prayer is real. The most eloquent prayers I have ever given is kneeling with an Hermana in my District asking for our Heavenly Father to bless her, and that is when I know the words weren't mine.

I wanted to attach a picture, but since they are having all of the missionaries e-mail home in such a short period of time, they don't want us to attach pictures to prevent a potential system overload/crash.

Sorry my e-mail is so all over the place. But... West Campus is great, I am not on the main MTC. I live in Wyview apartments, we have our own cafeteria, gyms (blown up bubbles), etc. But it is great, because ALL of West Campus is Spanish Speaking, so it is great to incorporate the Spanish we learn at lunch and everywhere we go.

I don't know if I can adequately express the heightened love and strength that I feel as a Missionary. Every prayer in the behalf of Missionaries counts, and I feel them, and they bring me to a greater lever.

The Spanish Language is a beautiful language, and my fluidity will come in time I am sure.

I want you each to know how much I love and appreciate you. I will not be sending out a weekly e-mail to you all until I am in the field (because I don't have enough time to read all the e-mail that could be sent), but I did want to include you in on my Christmas e-mail. And, don't forget about the 'Dear Elder' ( mailing system. For those who have used it so far, Thank You! I am the one who gets mail everyday for our District, so don't let me leave with a tear. ;) Joke.

La Iglesia es verdadero, El libro es Azul.

Love Always,
                       Hermana Smith

Sunday, December 22, 2013

12/21/13 Email

Ay yay yay, where do I even begin?!

First off, my p-day is Saturday.

I entered the MTC on December 18th, 2013.
So after my family dropped me off, it was basically like they threw us in water without knowing how to swim, but don't worry, they gave us a really long straw, so we could still breath.
Okay, maybe it wasn't that crazy, but we just jumped in without abandon and not looking back. From the car I was let by an Elder or "Host" to help me, he was from Mexico and will be serving in Brazil. But I honestly had a hard time understanding what he was saying, so I thought "Man, if I can't even understand his accent while he is speaking English, this will be a TRIP to understand Mexicans when they are actually speaking Spanish to me." He led me from building to building to get my books, cards, tag, etc. So I was handed like a twelve pound bag of books, including; Spanish Scriptures, Dictionary, Planner, Preach my Gospel, Spanish Study Tools, etc. Then we got on a bus to be shuttled to our apartments, because I am living on West Campus (which I hear is WAY nicer than the regular MTC Campus, it is Yview housing, which is old BYU apartments). As I got on the bus, everyone who was on the bus began to clap and cheer, I could tell this was going to be a great adventure we would all be taking together. I was talking to the girl next to me, and we started exchanging random facts about ourselves, she asked about school and I told her that I have my Bachelors Degree. Somehow this Big Polynesian guy behind us heard and loudly replied, "You ALREADY have your Bachelors?! You are a GENIUS!" So... then the whole bus knew, and people are tricked and think I am really smart. Ha ha. I corrected him and said, "Well... actually I am twenty-two, so...". 

I am sharing my apartment with three other Hermanas. My companion Hermana Wood and I share a room together, I have top bunk. And then our house mates are in our District, Hermana Evans (she makes random voices that are entertaining) and Hermana Gentry (YES I have another REDHEAD in my district!). So the four of us share a whole apartment together, and one bathroom.

Below is a picture of me and my Companion, Hermana Wood (she also enjoys Volleyball and ASL), she is from Pleasant Grove, Utah.

But I love my District, so there is the the three people that I just mentioned, and myself. Plus another Companionship of Hermana Smith (She is Polynesian, and I adore her)  and Hermana Deeks (Imagine a Canadian Kimberly, and you get Hermana Deeks). But I have already learned something from every member of my District. I know that Heavenly Father put us together for a special and specific purpose.

Okay, now comes the food. You should all be very proud of me, I have set and so far kept a goal to try meat once a day. The first night I eat some Salmon. The next day at lunch I at HALF a hot dog, that one was rough! And last night I had some Talapia. It will be a long road with meat joining the journey. But I know that by making efforts now, it will be easier to stomach in Mexico. 

The first night I didn't sleep very well, because I think it was a lot to take in, and I am semi claustrophobic, so I felt like the ceiling was on top of my face, because I can't sit up in bed with out hitting my head, you would all be entertained by my dive and slide method, I am sure. ;)  But I have been sleeping better as the nights go on. And yes, I am not a morning person, but I take the rules very serious because "Obedience brings Blessings, but EXACT obedience brings MIRACLES.", and pretty much every day I have gotten up before 6:30, closer to 6:00 so I can get ready more. And to bed by 10:30, that is a work in progress, I try my hardest to be laying in bed by 10:30 and let my mind unwind as best that I can.

There is A TON that I could portray right now, there has been SO many amazing lessons and classroom time, and I wish you could feel the spirit and experiences that I have had already. But one thing that I can say with confidence is that I KNOW that a mission is 100% the correct decision, and exactly where my Heavenly Father wants and needs me right now. 

I already say my prayers in Spanish, they are shaky, but I can only move up from here. We taught and "Investigator" yesterday, and my teaching IN SPANISH, can for sure go up from here. I am excited to see my progress. And I know that the improvement that I am already gaining, comes form the Lord.

So back to my District, before I cam out here I pondered the thought about being a District Leader, and I got this odd reassurance that it would be me for my District. And my immediate thought was that it was prideful and that I didn't want that mindset. The morning before our meeting I issued a challenge to my District, that on Monday we are making flash cards and taking notecards and we are going to do our very best to ONLY speak in Spanish for the entire day, why not hit the ground running, we have ONE chance to be a single full time missionary, and I don't plan to waste one second of it. But on Thursday night we met with our Branch, so our District of three Companionships and a District with two Elder Companionships and two Hermana Companionships. Our Branch President is President Bradford, and in the Presidency is Brother Monson (the Nephew of Thomas S. Monson), and Brother Durfee. We started with a Hymn to invite the Spirit, and yes the Spirit did come! Then we were each interviewed by Brother Monson or Brother Durfee, while President Bradford stayed and had each of us stand and tell who in our family had served, why we chose to serve, and most importantly our Testimony. The Spirit was unreal, each member of my branch poured out their souls. We have two huge Elders in our Branch, one is Tongan (he shared how his family had lost jobs and their house and then he did decide that he would serve a mission, and it all turned around) and one has a Scholarship to play Football and BYU (two weeks before he had to report for Football he called his coach and told him that he had changed his mind, and he was going to serve a mission, so he will join the team later), and yes they were both crying just as much as everyone else.

I was interviewed by Brother Monson, he was a funny character, but he picked my brain for sure. And again the thought came that I would be leading my District, and I disliked the pride I held with this thought. The last letter Jen Moore sent me right before I left, she told me to prepare to Lead, because she thought I would be a Leader very early on, I thought she was crazy with that statement. Before they were going to announce the leaders, my companion leaned over and asked me if when I was called if she would be called also, or if she would just be helping because we were always to stay together. She acted as if I already had the assignment. And then our Presidency went and talked and returned, and they asked me, two Hermanas from the other district and an Elder from the other district to follow them. And yes, I was issued the call to serve as District Leader for my District and Sister Training Leader for my District and within the Branch. I was humbled in this moment, I think sometimes the spirit gives us a heads up. My District is an ALL Sisters District, and the Branch President said he prayed about it and reprayed about it, and it is how it is suppose to be, and I agree. The sisterhood in our district is already SO strong!

Me and my Companion will be Fasting this Sunday, to prepare to better teach our Investigator, I know that Fasting is a true principle in the Gospel and something that I can improve on, I am excited to apply it and see the blessings, because I know they will come. 

Ah time is long in class, but short when you are writing e-mails. I love you all, keep me updated! Let Dear Elder be your bestfriend, because I will get it daily, and I am the one who gets the mail for my district, so don't let me go to the mailbox sad. Everyone pick a day and just give me a quote of the day or something, eh? Those with smart phones or devices, it is as easy as sending a text. So I expect those puppies to be flowing in now, eh?  ;) 

Again, my p-day is Saturday, but WE DO GET TO E-MAIL ON CHRISTMAS!!!


Love Always,
                    Hermana Smith 

Farewell Talk

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters,
Well… if you would have asked me a year ago if I was going to serve a mission, I would have told you that it wasn't in my plan. If you know me well, you know that I LOVE to plan. I love to make lists, even lists of lists to be made. I love to set goals, and check things off.
If you would have asked me when I was about sixteen or seventeen about a mission, I would have said, “Can I go now?!” But as I began college, going on a mission just got pushed to the back burner in my life.
At no point were any of my family members pushy about me going on a mission. It was always purely my own choice. But before I turned 21, my Dad had asked me a few times… “So… what do you think about serving a mission.” I continually kind of brushed it off. It was my Senior Year at BYU, I was 21 and my Dad asked me again what I thought about serving a mission, with the key phrase “Did you Pray about it.” Honestly I think praying about it gave me added anxiousness, that I would get a yes. But I replied to him with, “Praying about going on a mission, would be like praying about Medical School, it’s not something I intend to do, so why pray about it?!” He took it as an answer, but I don’t think that he sincerely bought it.
I made the choice that I wanted to finish my last two semesters before a mission would ever come into play. So if people ever asked, I would reply “Well… I haven’t ruled a mission out, I for sure want to go on several Senior Missions.” Then a few months after I turned twenty-one at General Conference, it was announced that the ages for Missionary Work had been lowered. I was oddly relieved with the thought, “Ah… it doesn't HAVE to be me!” Which was the wrong attitude, it never HAS to be me.
Then I finally decided to pray about it, but I gave myself the answer of a no, before I prayed. Which fun side note, that isn't the wisest of things to do. If you stubbornly give yourself the answer of no for something, and then pray about, you don’t typically get a magical yes response as your answer. I gave myself the no answer, and then I prayed, and I knelt down… waiting… listening… And all I heard was the noise of crickets outside my window. So in my prayer I replied, “I hear crickets outside my window… I am taking that as a no.” Check check, I had officially prayed about a mission, I gave myself a no, I prayed, I heard crickets, no mission for me. I told my best friend, “Listen, I finally did pray about that whole mission thing, heard crickets, not going.” I felt that I was fully content with my “answer”.
So months passed… and I came to another crossing point in my life. It was a “What do I do next?” moment. So I took my options to prayer.
And again with these options I thought, “Hey, why not throw that mission option in there again.” During or after my prayer, the room didn’t shake, I didn’t hear a booming voice say “YES. SERVE.” An Angel didn’t come down and slap me, “Psh Psh, Get out there!”
I had just received my Bachelor’s Degree. And with my, what I thought were perfect planning skills I laid out my options for life in prayer. I decided that I was going to move to Salt Lake, accept an Internship offer and work towards career goals that I had set for myself.
But I did mention in my prayer that if my choice wasn’t the one that I should be making, that I would receive a stupor of thought. That I would know that it wasn’t the path or choice that I should be leading.
I moved forward with the plan that I had set for myself, that I thought was SO perfect, and nothing was falling into place. And then my attitude changed about a mission, I sat down and began to visualize the work and dedication that I could do as a Missionary. I know that it won’t be easy. But imagining giving all of my efforts to the Lord for a year and a half, brought me peace and happiness. It was what I had been searching for all along.
So I called to arrange a meeting with the Bishop for the very next night. There is opposition in ALL things. I contemplated cancelling that meeting SO many times within that 24 hour period. So many doubts flooded my mind. But when I met with Bishop Wilding he had no idea what I was there for, I imagined that was what a Confessional must feel like… I couldn’t look him in the eyes, my voice trembled as I attempted to stammer out what I wanted to convey. And then I just cried as I proclaimed… “I want to go on a Mission!” There, I said it. I told him that I was 90% there and 10% scared. The unknown always gets me, but I knew that it was what I needed to be doing in my life.
I finished my papers in about a week, I thought okay if I try to rig the system, I put my availability as the soonest I could, which was July 24th, then if I am lucky I will leave in September, more realistically October, November is pushing it, and December is psh… December is an unlikely after thought. Well, guess what, there is no such thing as rigging the system when it comes to God’s timing. I was called to the Hermosillo, Mexico Mission, to be leaving DECEMBER 18th. All things will come in Gods timing.
It was key for me to align MY WILL with GODS WILL.
I share this lengthy story with you, because it is a process. Prayer, Timing, Faith, and Action.
I’m here to tell you that you can do it, if you want to serve, you can. And I believe Mitch is here to tell you, that if you do, it is worth it. And as we all well know, there are many forms of missionary work. Every member is a missionary, and that was highlighted even more this past Conference.
In this past conference Elder Ballard’s Talk: Put Your Trust in the Lord, he said,
“The Lord knows us. He knows we have our challenges. I realize that some of you may feel heavy laden, but I pray that none of you would ever feel that reaching out in normal, pleasant ways to share the gospel would ever be a burden. Rather, it is a privilege! There is no greater joy in life than being anxiously engaged in the service of the Lord.
The key is that you be inspired of God, that you ask Him for direction and then go and do as the Spirit prompts you. When members view the work of salvation as their responsibility alone, it can be intimidating. When they view it as an invitation to follow the Lord in bringing souls unto Him to be taught by the full-time elders and sisters, it is inspiring, invigorating, and uplifting.
We are not asking everyone to do everything. We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just “one” between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior.”  End Quote.
I would like to echo what Elder Ballard has said, and… Good news, you still have an entire week and a half before Christmas. So as you are out shopping, or mingling at various parties. Don’t forget, that the best gift you can give this year is The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and sincere love like Jesus Christ.

First I know that serving will bless the lives of SO many people that the Lord puts in my path. But I also know that it is something that will bless me for the rest of my life, and my future family as well.

Goals for My Mission:

-         Wear out my knees from sincere and earnest prayer.
-         Be a TRUE friend to each of my companions.
-         Thank my Heavenly Father every day for the opportunity that he has given me to serve him. Thank him for my blessings, but especially thank him for my trials, because I know they will make me stronger and closer to who I want to become.
-         Don’t overlook the man sitting in the gutter. Meaning, every person I come in contact with deserves the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives.
-         Serve with a pure purpose, letting others know that the Atonement is real, and that it will change their lives forever.
-         Humbly obey mission rules, BIG and small.
-         Bring converts to Baptism, and lead them to the Temple.
My Testimony:
It isn’t just a hope, or happy wishes, My Testimony is KNOWLEDGE that I have gained.
-         I know… I know… I know…
-         God has a plan… Happiness
-         Jesus Christ & The Atonement
I feel it is an honor to join the Army of Missionaries to move this Gospel Forward. And I will take it as a privilege to wear Christ’s name upon me every day.
Here I am, Send Me.
I say these things in the name of our Beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.


Hola everyone! This blog will be updated with pictures and emails/letters from Melanie (uploaded by her family) as she shares her 18 month journey. Enjoy!