I still don't know how to start these letters.I'm no longer the old Thomas. I've changed so much for the better! Words can't express the things I've seen, the things I've felt, and the things I've heard.
The power in this place is real. The MTC isn't just a school for missionaries, it is a place of worship. I've seen some of the most powerful, most influential people, just walking down a hall, or studying Portuguese, or eating in the cafeteria. They may not realize it, but every missionary here has a power within them. We are called to this work. As we work diligently to become like Christ, to become master teachers, then we will gain power beyond our own.
I am a testimony of this. In everything, I've seen blessings from God, tender mercies of the Lord. For example, I've quickly learned that I love volleyball. So I do that all through my gym time. I've only played three times, and I'm improved so much. I'm still not good, but I've scored some points (even though we don't no keep score in the MTC). This is proof to me that God cares about us, not just about getting His Work done. Volleyball is not an essential missionary skill, nor does it really bring me closer to Him, yet He loves me enough to give me strength. God loves each and every one of us so much more than we could ever know.
A more relevant example of His love for me is the gift of tongues. I've taught several lessons, including 3 different investigators in only Portuguese. I knew none of the language two weeks ago, yet I can carry on a conversation in it now. And I've noticed that when the Spirit isn't present, or isn't as strong as it could be, I struggle. It's not me teaching, it's the Spirit of God. The Holy Ghost is the teacher, the interpreter. As a district, we watched "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" in all Portuguese, no subtitles. I understood all of it. Not only that, but I felt the Holy Ghost so much. I wrote down some of the promptings I received, the best being: "We [missionaries and members in general] are furthering the Work initiated by Christ, restored through Joseph Smith, sealed with the martyrs of both men, and continued through the hardship and bloodshed of pioneers throughout the last 200 years. We are not alone in this work.
I'm so glad to hear that the ward is starting to "catch the wave." That's been my biggest fear: that the fervor that I feel won't reach the home front. But I was foolish to think that the ward would not step up. I now know that it was the Adversary who was telling me that I would be alone in the work. I'm so proud of everyone back home, for pressing on. We are pioneers for our posterity. Continue to endure, and bring others to Christ!
I've learned so much! And I have so much to learn! One of the greatest things here is the opportunity to watch devotionals. We've had so many spiritual giants speak to us! And only one was a general authority: an emeritus Seventy. But tonight, as the choir (I'm in it) sings "Praise To The Man" (the really hard Mormon Tabernacle Choir one), we will be graced by the presence of some very important. Rumors are flying, but the fact is that it will be a general authority. I don't know if it'll be a member of the Twelve, but even the teachers are hinting at it.
Thanks for the package! I haven't gotten to get it yet, but I'm just tickled that I'm getting something. I was getting really discouraged (again, it was from the Adversary) that my lack of letters was my fault, or that there was something wrong with me. As a member of the branch presidency explained to me in an interview, Heavenly Father doesn't want to do anything to discourage me, but He does have a duty to refine me and to help me become like Him. This is done only through trials. I've gone through so many! But I know that they will make me better. And they already are.
Happy birthday, Dad! I forgot when it was! I feel like I've been here for several months, not two weeks. Each day seems like several, and I'm already forgetting details about home. I think it's a tender mercy. I haven't really been homesick, at least not in the traditional sense.
To update you on the secular stuff, I'll just say the following:
The food is great! But I'm still getting skinner (my belt is going to be too big very soon), even though they feed us like every meal could be our last. The weather is chilly, all the time. They are putting Christmas lights up already! I forgot about Halloween! It's been really foggy lately, but the view is beautiful! The Provo Temple (been there twice now) is right out our window, with the mountains (that still have their fall colors) right behind.
I've got a calling! Elder Beyler and I are Online Training Coordinators. We help new missionaries figure out the computers.
Elder Beyler and I are doing much better. It's an uphill battle, but we are winning. Satan loves planting contention and anger and judgments into my head. I've been bottling it up, then snapping occasionally, then we talk it out and grow closer together. I've had him tell me his life's story, and I only was able to tell him half of mine. We are starting to trust each other and communicate better. My relationships with others in the district are improving even more! We are brothers!
There's so much more I want to tell you! Like how I've started a new study method for the Book of Mormon! (It's really, really good!) But I've got to end soon, so I'll end with my testimony. I'll send pictures next week, by the way.
Life is hard, even in the MTC. Especially in the MTC. But my testimony has gotten me through so much. There have been some really terrible moments here, but those are microscopic compared to the wonderful things. And just like how microbes can hurt our bodies, guilt and shame and anger (even small things) can harm our spirits. But focus on the good things. Look to God and live. He loves all of you individually and personally. He wants so much to know us, we just need to know Him. Invite Christ into your live. Watch what He does, and try to be like Him. What starts as an imitation can turn into conversion. As we become more like Christ, everything will get better. There is nothing that Christ can't fix. I testify with all of my heart, mind, and strength that God is alive, that Christ lives, that the Holy Ghost is for us, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. The priesthood is restored! The Book of Mormon is true! If you look hard enough and pray earnestly enough, then you can see it, too. I look forward to becoming truly converted. Until then, I'll try my best.
I know this to be the truth, that Christ is the only way. I end in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, and Older Brother. Amen.