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