Last week at the MTC

Well this will be the last email from the MTC. Last Saturday I got my flight plans! Good news, I am still going to Panama. Whew, I mean I was expecting it to say, Ohh yeah you had a last minute change and you are actually supposed to stay here for another month and you're going to Antarctica. 

I think I am finally running a mile again back at a decent pace. And the push-ups have gotten easier. And I have found one of my socks which is exciting. 

Last P-day we all went out and got a box of Mike and Ike's and played Poker. It was really fun. I think Elder Hollander was winning most of the game, but in the last hand of the game we put in everything, because we had a meeting. I decided this hand of course, had to be my Maverick hand. The hand where I wasn't going to look at my cards the entire round. And it came down to the river and I realized oh man, there is absolutely nothing here. Unless I have a six and I can pull a straight. Well I flipped over my cards. I had two sixes. And ended the game on that note. but yeah my poker face needs work.

There is a big importance of reading your scriptures daily, and I have been blessed by doing so here. However, when talking to our investigator it was troubling that she wasn't reading what we gave her. So on the second time she didn't read the assignment, we read it with her in our lesson. It was touching. That was the entire lesson. Just us reading the scriptures. But I mean honestly, that's all a lesson has to be. The scriptures were written for by prophets of old for our day now. They are for us to use to come closer to God. Motivate us. Help us in times of need. And just let us gain a knowledge of our plan here in this life, and the life to come.

Mormon 8:35 
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
Mormon 9:8
Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yet, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them

We later in the week had our last lesson and we decided that it was probably best to talk about the Word of Wisdom. Now the Word of Wisdom for those of you who don't know we treat similar to the 10 commandments. Its a set of guidelines in our life to keep our bodies healthy and strong. It was revealed to us by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It asks us to refrain away from addictive substances like tobacco, illegal drugs, coffee, or tea. It asks us to get in daily exercise and eat healthy. However, many people aren't too excited when they hear if they want to be worthy to be baptized that they have to give up coffee. Well the same thing happened this week. And my companion and I handled it in the best way I could think of. We asked her if she believed in the scriptures were from God. And she said yes. And then we asked her if she believed Joseph Smith translated them and she said yes, there is no way he could have written them. And then we asked, do you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that prophets can receive revelation for our day. Then she saw where we were going, and said yes. And then we asked do you believe that the Word of Wisdom is from God and given through revelation through the prophet Joseph Smith. She said yes, but she's going to have to work on giving up coffee. And so we promised that if she would pray she would get the energy she needs to understand the importance of the Word of Wisdom. Then we promised we would pray for her. And we have. It was really one of my favorite lessons so far.

I have made a bigger effort this week in speaking Spanish. Not just in the classroom, but everywhere. I can see my improvement. It is incredible how much I actually now feel somewhat confident with my Spanish. Don't get me wrong, I am in no way shape or form fluent. But I can understand a lot, and express a fair amount of what I want to express out loud with my words. And with what I don't know I have been learning how to use work around words to explain what I need. I mean to be fair, last week I did call my teachers feet her second pair of hands.. But I mean I'm learning.

This week we got new district of 2 Elders and 4 Sisters. I have been trying to make them feel welcome with our big zone. I make sure I'm talking with each and everyone of them. I make sure I invite them to sit with us during our meals. And most importantly, I still let them know anytime they key-card doesn't scan them in the first time it means they're being sent home early. Or that when they can't log into the email it's because they don't have enough faith. Our teacher, Brother Galbraith, tells us that on his mission that they had a saying for these types of jokes. Then they would hold there hand up to the center of there head in the shape of a lightning bolt and say "Rallà" or in English "lightning" as in don't stand next to a window cause you are about to be struct down for those low key sacrilegious jokes.

Oh on Sunday we have a little bit of down time. That is nice. This week for like and hour we watched old Mormon Messages. This is my personal favorite and we died laughing. Mr. Microchip. The other was just a cute one that I hold dear to my heart. The Fence. But that day we had a killer lesson on the history behind the American flag and the prophecy of America as recorded in the Book of Mormon. It was all going really well. Until, an elder who just so innocently slipped on his words misread this phrase, "and the gentiles will be released from captivity and bowed down before the Lord". Yeah I don't even have to explain what he said. We all busted up laughing. Like our branch presidency and even some of their wives were laughing. It was so funny that like five minutes later I looked up to see the branch presidents wife nudging him to stop laughing as she was still snickering. 

Oh it was my birthday this week. We had mission presidents in training come in to teach us. And because of that we lost exercise time. So I did get the opportunity to open my package early. But I didn't open any of the gifts until today. And let me tell you have I enjoyed the BBQ chips, the Dr. Pepper, and the licorice. It was what I was missing. But my birthday was a good day. It was very busy, 8 hours of lessons. And then we had meals, and we were supposed to fit in 3 hours of study.  I think we actually got close to doing that. However, in my studies I read in the Bible. It was the story of Samson. For all of you that don't know. Samson was essentially the Hercules of his time. Just incredibly strong man who turned to the Lord. It talks about how he slained thousands of men out of revenge. However, he didn't have the best choice in woman. And because of that he was taken by his enemies up into what I imagine to be a Pantheon and was just at the end of his life. With his last words being a prayer to Heavenly Father. He sacrificed himself by collapsing the pillars and killing 3,000 + wicked men. Yeah. Also he died at the age of 20. So other than questioning what I have been doing these 20 years, and then a little more questioning on what workouts he was doing, It was a really studious day which I loved. 

We saw a talk the other day that I loved about the Savior and his great sacrifice for us. Our savior prayed and asked if there was any other way to complete the Atonement, but there wasn't. The savior paid for all salvation. And it was difficult. So why would we ever think missionary work wouldn't be. Salvation is difficult. If it were easy Jesus Christ wouldn't have had to die for us. Missionary work is hard. But that's because Salvation is hard to achieve. As we struggle, remember the Savior has been there and he has experienced a lot worse then we ever will experience. But remember, we stand there side-by-side with him in his work.

Yesterday we had a devotional. Since all the apostles are here training the new missionaries we had 10 of them at the devotional. Elder Nelson and Elder Hales were the only two absent. But as the others entered the room you could just feel the spirit enter with them. It was such a powerful meeting. Elder Bednar spoke about it being the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and about how we need to keep the words of Christ in our heart. Powerful. I also sang in the choir, where we sang Praise to the Man to those 10 apostles. That was so tender. I mean such a powerful song. And on the day of the death of Joseph Smith and everything. I loved it. I will keep that close to my heart. 

Thank you all for the nice birthday letters! That was really kind! Also I think that picture with the hats should be our Christmas card. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! That made me laugh so hard.

Our sub on her last day.
Poker Night with Mike & Ike's
Elder Hollander
Mission President who taught us at MTC

Week Four

Shortly after I had to stop emailing last week, I collected my laundry and found out I was missing two socks. Not a pair, but one sock from two different pairs. Hopefully, I can find them some time, because otherwise, I guess I'll just mix match my socks.

We have an investigator and this Thursday we were talking to her about baptism and the significance of that. We went on to talk about when you are baptized you are freed from sin. But I got the weirdest impression that I needed to ask her about if she had repented before. Let me just say wow. Was that exactly the question I needed to ask. Listen to the spirit. At times, it may be very quiet. I think it's so easy to disregard. But we bonded and it was just an amazing experience. I just wish that or hope that this will be like the rest of my mission because I'd totally be ok with that.

This week I was reading in 2 Nephi 32:1-3 and read about feasting upon the words of Christ. It got me thinking the significance of Feasting. I mean I follow the words of Christ. I listen to the words of Christ. However, I'm not feasting. I think back to when it's Thanksgiving. I mean man I'm thinking about that meal all day long. I'm constantly seeking for something that I can just get a little nibble of. Why am I not looking at the words of Christ in that same way? With that same desire? Then I read in the Bible Dictionary about feasting (which if you're looking for something to do, it's actually kind of enjoyable and I recommend you search up feasting) that in the past feasting was a commandment or covenant. Well, there were many different feasts. Many of them were an all day event. They would go to the temple and wouldn't leave there till nightfall and just eat and give praise to God. There was also one feast that lasted 80 days or something in the New Testament. If I remember correctly they weren't supposed to fast during this time. Anyways I was inspired to try to seek the gospel as frequently as I think about food. It's going to be a challenge.

My teacher took a leave of absence to go home to see her brother return from his mission. So, we have had a few subs. And MAN! All the teachers at the MTC as just so great. I am just really impressed with the whole of them. Each has their own strengths, but I'm glad we got to have multiple teachers. We just have had some great and amazing lessons. One day we actually paired up with another class. It ended up being the class of sisters that were also going to Panama. Sister Updike and Sister Davis. Which by the way there are two Sister Davis's going to Panama. But yeah it was pretty fun. I'm just kind of disappointed we won't get to see them much out in the field. Our mission president is very strict. He sent us an email of additional Panama rules. And I know they're to help us, but in comparison to what I've heard from the other missions, it's strict. However, I'm sure there's a good reason for everything they do. We are both rather loud groups. So it was more of an enjoyable time than a lesson, but that's relaxing to have every once in a while. 

Oh, and with my new music calling I goofed up with the songs. I forgot the sacrament hymn had to be themed around the sacrament. But it's been fun. I had three different conductors and four different pianists. I'm really getting everyone to use their talents.

I finally got the time to attend the choir. It was really enjoyable. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. The director used to be an institute teacher. And his insight is the best part of all choir. I would sit there for an hour just to hear him talk for 15 minutes. But he told us about the history of Parley P. Pratt in the church. (The writer of the song) What a stud, he was converted and served a mission for 5+ years. But I really enjoyed singing again. It's been a while. I'm glad I have a companion who will also go with me to the choir.

Five hundred missionaries came to the MTC last Wednesday. Now that has been really fun. I've made a bigger effort to talk to the new missionaries. From what I've seen some are more focused on the mission while others are more laid back. It is really just enjoyable to meet new missionaries. The new Elders in our Branch locked themselves out of their dorm after they showered and they had to wait forty minutes just outside their dorm in towels.  I'm sure that was a fun start to their MTC experience.

We all missed Father’s Day. We totally forgot that we can't email ahead of time. And so that night we were looking ahead and realized dang, well there is always next week. But we weren't alone we went to church on Sunday and very clearly the congregation groaned Ohhhh... when they said welcome to church and Happy Father’s Day. SO, Happy Father’s Day! 

Each week we have two devotionals. Donny Osmond came in and gave a devotional. He was such a funny guy. He sang a cool Father’s Day song. It was motivational. On Tuesday, our devotional was given by Diane and Donald Hallstrom from the Presidency of the 70.  It was brilliant, they talked about the importance of a broken heart. Then they talked about how important it is to decide and make sure that we have ABSOLUTELY decided what type of missionary we were going to be. It struck me again. After that, we had a group discussion, the spirit was there and prompted others to say things and everyone shared how they felt and were moved to do better. I grew a stronger testimony in the importance of sharing a testimony.
MTC Roommates! 

Only a minute to relax, but what a view.

Hanging out.
     All around a good week. It's weird it’s been like a month I've been out. But we are trying to cut down on our time we can use the computers. We are only supposed to get one hour, and in the past, I've gone way past that in the past few weeks. I will try my best to cut that down a bit. I will do my best to prepare more ahead of time. Until Next week. 

Week 3 at the MTC

So this week was a better week. A bit more happened.

On Thursday night, I was just writing in my journal before I went to bed, in the lobby. Out of nowhere, there was a guy who spoke only in Russian and very little phrases. He was digging in between the couch cushions. Knowing that he didn't speak much Russian I figured he is probably just learning it. SO after asking him like 4 or 5 times in English he broke and responded that he was looking for money that fell in between the cushions. The coaches were designed in such a way that he could pull things up from the couches with a bent paperclip. I don't think I've seen anyone work harder for 25 cents. He said he was working since Monday in the dorms and found like $11. But he was so determined and fidgety, that I just let him continue on his way.  I hope this determination and craftiness will help him on his mission in Russia. That night I also had a sub that came in to help our teacher. She has been trying to help me roll my R's and even though I can't quite do it yet. I apparently sound a lot better than I did beforehand. 

Friday was pretty uneventful, but that night we had our first tie trades. We've all heard that it happens a lot to trade your ties on your mission, but we didn't think it would really happen in the MTC. Anyways one guy from the 2nd floor of our building came upstairs and was like, "YO, I have some ties that I want to trade, who wants in?". So at first, it was just him and Elder Hollander. But I leave to go to the restroom and by the time I get back... There were at least 10 people in our room about the size of a broom closet. Now, I don't know the best way to describe this either then it was either the most underground stock market trades I've seen or the most formal flea market. Half of us were in white shirts still, the other half just in their underwear. One elder had his like 20 ties spread across the table. Others holding up tie racks yelling, "I got three ties right here!". This went on for at least 40 minutes. Our most prized possession of our district was we got 2 ties original and signed from Elder Starkey, one of our favorite Elders. And then also we had one tie from the Trump Wardrobe Collection. Elder Starkey is a rancher and is just the nicest most genuine guy you will meet. But also very blunt. This was a quote from him that same night, "Well, I was supposed to write a 12-page paper.., but I was around 3 pages and just put the font size up to 48. Easiest paper I ever wrote..." And after his story of the time he flipped a semi-truck and got stabbed in the back with his own pocket knife while rolling down the hill.., It's hard to have a more favorite Elder than Elder Starkey.

Saturday we had the most in-depth lesson that I can remember since seminary. But even more detailed than most seminary lessons. Sister Richards is super knowledgeable about the Book of Mormon. We kept asking questions and she knew exactly where to search where to find them. But we were trying to find about if the Jaredites lived around the same time as the Nephites if they were both in America. And wow... I don't think I've ever been more inspired to read the Book of Mormon and study it. I have been taking better notes after everytime I read and I've been making a bigger effort to ask questions and search for them. Also, I have been looking in the footer more often. But Maestro Jake really encouraged me and gave me tips to study better and it's been so much more exciting. I don't find myself falling asleep reading the scriptures anymore. I was super excited when I was able to cross reference something in a lesson to a scripture I read this week. We also had our sauna night that night. But some punk from the floor beneath us ripped down our curtain and let all the steam out and booked it. I don't know why he feels the need to ruin our bonding time, but It's all good. Later that night another kid from the floor beneath us came up and said we were 'too loud' and that we needed to be quieter because he was trying to sleep. He was just so confused because he was looking around everywhere almost as if there was something making the noise under our carpet. He was out of it. So hopefully he got some sleep. I think my district has been a little more respectful since then so I'm appreciative he came up.

Sunday was an eventful day. We said our goodbyes to all the Elders and Sisters heading off for Monday morning. We swapped emails. We left notes. But my favorite note is one that Sister Markward gave my companion. We misread it the first time and read, "I don't know why you are at the MTC, but I'm glad we became friends". So the ongoing joke to Elder Tenney anytime he makes a simple mistake has been, I don't even know why you're at the MTC. But honestly, I think he probably knows the most out of all of us in regards to Spanish. So we love to give him a bad time every chance we get. Oh, and we had new callings. Elder Heathcote is now our new district leader. I am the music coordinator. Elder Tenney is the Computer Specialist. Which is funny, because if you look at our strengths you would immediately swap those two callings, but it's all good. Also, Dieter F. Utchdorf toured the new MTC buildings. We were walking outside and he passed by. Then he stopped took off his glasses and waved at us with his smile and gave us two big thumbs up. Also, they have a bunch of flags that they always put up in front of the new MTC buildings. And finally, they put up Panama's flag. That night when they brought down the flags we actually caught them and got a picture of our group in front of the flag. Hopefully, Sister Feinga will send them to me by next week. But the Sunday devotional was enjoyable. My favorite day of this week.

Monday wasn't too exciting. However, I fasted and started getting weird cravings. I find that's always when you get your most weird cravings when you're fasting. But Dr. Pepper, Dr. Pepper licorice, and Hawaiian BBQ chips. That was what I was missing. But it was a good day to fast because Monday nights are days they bring in food from chain fast food restaurants. So TacoBell was a fun surprise. I wish I could have ordered off the menu, but I wasn't too disappointed. It was TacoBell!! So that meal was pretty golden.

Tuesday was super fun. I had some of the best lessons that I had taught in a while. I went to a devotional, which was just so powerful. I think it was the best one by far that we have had. I wish I brought all my notes about it with me. I could talk on and on about it. It was about listening to the promptings of the spirit, having a vision of why we are on missions, and how the Lord protects his missionaries. I don't know it was probably just some solid work that they did and excellent stories. The funniest part of that day though was we decided to run down to the gym after the devotional. We all went to weigh ourselves after what we have been eating. I after feeling upset on the food during week 2 decided to eat more healthier. Whereas some of my companions in the district have had on average 7-9 proportioned meals a day. Now to be fair when I'm hungry I find the meals are a little smaller then I'm used to and I will eat 2 plates, but they just kept downing food. So I don't know why they were so surprised when they realized they gained weight. Some of them gained like 5. But at the worse one Elder gained 30 pounds. That's 10 pounds a week. They for sure thought the scale was off. They started weighing weights from the gym. I think I weighed 1 pound more than when I left. But I think that's because I didn't weigh myself in shoes and in a full outfit. Needless to say, he's been eating a little less each meal.

Today we woke up early to go to the temple. It was nice, but we once again just barely, by like 5 minutes mixed breakfast at the temple cafeteria. But I love the temple and every chance I get to be there so that was good. I also finally got a haircut. We tried to get one last week, but they were wayyy too busy. But yeah overall a good week. I'm excited to meet the new Elders. We are supposed to get 12 more on our floor. What's weird is that we are now considered the old and experienced Elders. Like I looked up to the Elders who were there 3 weeks before me. So yeah, that hit me earlier and the week and is weird, but I'm just mostly excited.

Opening of New MTC - Week 2

Week two at the MTC! Since I've gotten here, and I wish I could say its gotten easier. However, It has definitely not but I'm holding on and doing great. This week wasn't as eventful as the prior week. Everything about last week seemed fun, new, and exciting and now we are into a daily routine. The MTC food is great, well its sufficient. They do have some pretty decent meals now and then. I mean like on Friday, I kid you not they had Mahi Mahi tacos. And of course I had to get one, recognizing the fact that we are in Utah and Mahi Mahi is a tropical fish.  I couldn't say no to my favorite fish and it tasted absolutely amazing.  It was deep fried with mango slices on top, a little bit of shredded lettuce, they had some sort of tartar sauce. I went back and actually ate four of them. It was by far the best tasting thing at the MTC.

I have been playing more and more volleyball. By no means am I as good as some of the competitive groups I've seen my sister play in. However, I definitely think I'm getting the hang of it. I'm kind of wishing I would have done a little bit more volleyball in highschool, or even college. However, I know that I'll probably pick that up after the mission.

We taught our first TRC investigator. I have no idea what that means, but it's someone who wanted to meet with the missionaries in our area, but instead they come here and they meet with us. That was a beautiful experience. She spoke only in Spanish. Even though I struggled, I think through what limitations of Spanish I had and some really spot on hand-gestures. We were able to help her and answer all of her questions.

Our scheduling has finally been making sense. We went over with the teacher how we could rearrange somethings to give us just a little bit more time. So, I am getting the hang of where are classes are and where we are all supposed to be, but then they finally opened the new MTC buildings. Now I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be in both of the buildings. However, this new building is absolutely incredible. You walk in and you just feel at peace. It has six floors or so and so many new classrooms. They have incredible views. We were told, and I genuinely think this is the best way to describe these buildings, but they were described as an investment in us. An investment to feel the spirit more. An investment to focus more. An investment to pray and ponder more. They have the classrooms and for each classroom they have a little side room where you can go off to and focus. The classrooms are practically sound proof. They have ponder rooms where they play hymns softly in the background. Its just a special place. Like not only does it look nice and its more practical, I just feel that much more focused. My favorite parts are each floor has an area with chairs in front of these beautiful murals. They are about 10ft by 25ft If I had to take a guess. They portray different scripture stories. On the other wall they have references with the scriptures, but these murals are just so grand you feel like you could walk right into them.

Well, I'm excited I'm going to head out to the temple. I will talk to you guys later!
Elder Irizarry