Hello everybody, and a very Merry Christmas. I don't know how you celebrate Christmas at your house, but here at the MTC we like to kick it up a notch. And by that, I mean watch a movie. Yes, indeed, we were fortunate enough to watch A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and then Mr. Krueger's Christmas on Christmas Day, as well as many Mormon Tabernacle Choir specials. Also, as a particularly special treat, we were fortunate enough to have Elder David A. Bednar come and speak to us at our MTC-wide sacrament meeting. It was a talk I will never forget, one all about the character of Christ and how we should constantly try to improve our lives by trying to take upon ourselves His mind and His character. It has definitely been the highlight of my stay here at the MTC.On another Christmasy note, thank you to all who sent me goodies, cards, presents, and other wonderful things that brighten up a missionary's day. If one of your incentives was to recreate the infamous Valentine's Day some fourteen years ago in which I ate so much candy in one day that I threw up, alas, your goal was not realized. But only just; I'm going to need to spend a lot more time running in the gym.That brings me to my gym time news. I have actually discovered that the key to success in four square is, funnily enough, persistence. Last week, I was completely frustrated with the fact that the other missionaries honed in on the fact that I am assigned to speak Mandarin and therefore must be some form of nerd, which gave them a strong motive to pick on me. But luckily I remembered that the Chinese elders also have an arsenal of millenia-old martial arts at our disposal to aid in dominating the four square grid. Needless to say, multiple Tai Chi and Kung Fu moves quickly brought me to reign as the king of a Chinese dynasty.On a more spiritual note, we have started reading the Book of Mormon together as a class for thirty minutes a few times a week. It is incredible to think how much revelation God is always willing to give us if we only put in the small amount of effort it is to read, ponder, and pray to Him. The fact that we can pray to Him at any time in the day and at any place on the Earth, and that He will listen to us, is a miracle. I'll conclude by praphrasing the words of Nephi where he says to his brothers, "Surely the Lord has commanded us to do this thing; therefore, should we not be diligent to obey the commandments of the Lord?" Why wouldn't we follow the commandments of the Lord?I love you all, have a great week.Elder Daniel Winters
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Hey family, and a very Merry Christmas to you all! Thanks so much for sending all of the wonderful gifts, presents, cards, letters, goodies, and a lot more! It's been a great Christmas here at the MTC. Last night we had a nice little pageant filled with singing hymns as well as the classic sheperd-missionaries with cloths on their heads. To top off the night, we got to watch Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol featuring Tom Cook (?) or some other guy as Scrooge. I never realized how mild the Muppets Christmas Carol is until I watched this one - there are some pretty scary parts. But it was all great, everyone got popcorn to eat and then we were promptly sent to go to bed at 9:15. It was weird not counting down the seconds til Christmas late Iast night like all the years before, but I was well rested as we all woke up at 6:30. I actually kind of opened my presents throughout the morning rather than tearing through them first thing in the morning like we do as a family. I waited until lunch to open my stocking with Becca to see what Santa gave us - he never lets us down. As for the presents from family, thank you all so much. I'm sure I now have enough pens and sunscreen and CDs and navigational capabilities to last me my entire mission. I loved every single present and I can't wait to use all of them.
Now for the part you have all probably been most anxious for. Well, for today's sacrament meeting , Elder David A. Bednar and his wife joined us! They were incredible. Elder Bednar's talk is one that I will never forget. He talked mainly about the character of Christ, and how that is the thing that allowed the Atonement to come to pass. He based it on a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "There would have been no atoning sacrifice without the character of Christ." He spoke of character as being comprised of moral qualities - strongly developed, strikingly displayed, and consistently lived. The one moral quality of the Savior he spoke of for his talk was the he one of Jesus turning outward when most of us, the natural man, would turn inward. He gave incredible examples of how when the natural man would be most likely to to turn inward at a point in Jesus' life, Jesus turned outward. After that, he talked of the difference between having a testimony and being truly converted. As it says in Alma 23:5-6, "those who obtained a testimony...and were converted to the Lord never did fall away." He talked of how conversion is consistently turning away from the natural man and turning towards God. It is increasingly obtaining the mind and character of Christ. And when we turn towards our fellow men in pure selflessness, we are turning towards God and towards the life that Jesus lived.
It was powerful when he talked of not complaining when things on our mission were not going the way we wanted - not enough baptisms, lessons, investigators, or whatever - he said that your mission is not about you. He said it a little more harshly than in he would've in General Conference, but I think it was something we all needed to hear. Our missions are not about us in the slightest. They are to be completely selfess, totally focused on others. However, if we seek to obtain the blessings of serving others through serving others, we will not obtain those blessings in the way we want. That is the key, I thought - we cannot find the blessings when we seek them, only when we are lost in the work and care nothing for our own blessings do we obtain them. To top it all off, he said that when we do some service and lose ourselves in the work, it is only through the Atonement. Elder Bednar said he would be the first to admit that he was not a worhty man enough to be in the Quorum of the Twelve - it is only through the Atonement that he could be in that position to serve others. Like in Mosiah 3:19, we can never boast in our own strength, it is always God that accomplishes His work, and we can only strive to be the best instruments we can to be used by Him.
I loved the talk so much. It has definitely been the highlight of the day, and maybe even of my whole stay here at the MTC. I love you all so much. I'm so thankful for all of you and all of your kindness. I'm sorry that I can't be with you on this Christmas, but know that I'm with Becca and that we're both fantastically happy. Remember Christ's birth today and the perfect example he left for all of us to follow. I love you all, have a wonderful Christmas!
Elder Daniel Winters
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Hello everyone and a very early and Merry Christmas to you all. It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas here in Utah, where it has snowed nearly half an inch, and the clouds look very willing to unleash more on us missionaries.
I think in my last e-mail I forgot to mention my sister, Becca, which is pretty hilarious seeing as I see her everyday. I think I'm so used to seeing her that I just take it for granted. So to fill you all in, yes, it was a very joyous reunion, and it has been great to sit with her at church, eat with her at meals, and hug her in front of people to general astonishment and shock. we even had the pleasure of singing together at this past Sunday fireside. I think Becca will be sending home an illegal recording of us singing, so you will probably get to view the profits of her rulebreaking.
I found out the way the MTC wakes up missionaries: the showers. There are two settings on the shower, Absolutely Scalding Hot and Disgustingly Freezing Cold. After much practice, you learn to constantly change between these two settings so that the instant the transition occurs you jump in, scrub everything you possibly can in three-tenths of a second, then jump out again unless you want to take a trip to the hospital. Needless to say, it wakes a body up.
I have also discovered that being extremely competitive while being not very good at anything during gym time is a very dysfunctional combination. This past week I suffered incredible ignominity in four square as I was constantly obliterated by several of the gung-ho Korean and Cambodian elders, after which I tried to get out all of my raw frustration through running on the upstairs track. I thought this might cheer me up because I used to be pretty decent at running, but my attitude quickly changed when I was gasping for breath after running for a few minutes in the oxygen-deprived Utah air. I guess in the Spirit of Christmas, there is just no room for me in the gym.
While Chinese has been going well, the teachers are focused more on helping us be more efficient and productive and understand our purpose better before we really crack down on the language. This week has been focused a lot on setting goals and planning accordingly, something I realize has been missing in my life a lot. Here is quote from Elder M. Russell Ballard that I really enjoyed:
"I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."
I know this is completely true, though I wish I knew that earlier. I would invite you all to apply this quote in your life, stretch yourself so you can live up to your fullest potential.
I love you all, and have a wonderful Christmas.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Hey everybody, welcome to my first week at the MTC. It's been pretty fantastic and pretty exhausting at the same time. I am accompanied with Elder Pak, who is actually from the Anaheim area. He's Korean, he speaks his native language fluently, and he's well on his way to becoming fluent in Mandarin. For those of you who know Seokhee Burningham, he is very very similar to Elder Pak, though Elder Pak has less of a Utah accent and passion for stylish clothes.The schedule is somewhat strict here, as I literally received a loud awakening to it after sleeping in for thirty minutes my first morning. But the rules are great, they make complete sense for one who is striving to become the most successful missionary they can be. It's all I can do to actually know them and not inadvertently break them.Class is what takes up the majority of my time here. Our teacher, Dong Laoshi, is superb. He was very careful not to speak a single English word the first few days. Our district is learning the language quickly, and we try to speak it as much as we can.Gym time is the time missionaries get to release some of their pent up energy. Unfortunately for me, some of the Korean and Cambodian missionaries have a little too much energy. I didn't know that one of the requirements for being a missionary was being good at basketball, because these high-energy elders wiped the floor with me the first day. So the next gym time, I played four square, except these same Elders came over to my game and again wiped the floor with me and all the other Mandarin speaking peasants with their tyrranical reign. I think I'll jog from now on.On a more spiritual note, there is a spirit here that is unlike any other. I have been learning these past few days that this is because my purpose and all other missionaries purpose is now God's purpose, which is to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man. When we can do the to the best of our abilities, God blesses us beyond anything we have heretofore experienced because He would do anything to accomplish His purpose. It is up to the weak and simple things, us missionaries, to do the best we can to remain faithful and worthy enough of those blessings and power.Have a great week, I love you all.Elder Winters