Monday, June 29, 2015


This has been quite the week, so here goes! I never saw any apostles but I may well tomorrow night at the devotional. However, the next classroom over a guy talked to Elder Bednar for a few seconds and another guy saw Pres. Eyring. The cafeteria was taken over for the week so all our meals were in the gym which meant no volleyball this past week :( My district did go up by the temple and play sand volleyball though, that was fun. For the meals we had a bunch of catering which is why I saw James :D That was Taco Bell night, but we also had Subway, Costa Vida, and Chick-Fil-A. Yummo. I wish we had some different fruits like plums or peaches, we get a lot of cantaloupe, honeydew, and pineapple but occasionally grapes or strawberries. On Friday I met my mission president! Woohoo! It was weird for a couple reasons: One, I didn't have my companion. Two, I barely knew anybody because we met in the French classroom. But there is an Elder Zhu here who is going to Lyon and he's from China, so I've gotten to talk to him recently! I don't know what language was officially on his call, he has a French and a Chinese nametag which is kinda cool. I'd like to quote myself in my letter to our Branch President:

"President Brown told a story about an Elder he served with who met with his mission president two weeks before going home and told President that, because he had endured very nearly two years in the mission field taking pictures instead of gaining a testimony, he wasn't even going to pretend to try for the last two weeks because nothing would happen anyway. President told him, "Elder, you're exactly right. If you don't try, nothing is exactly what will happen in the next two weeks." President then sat back in his chair and didn't say another word. Interview over. The Spirit came and that Elder realized what he had to do to be able to live with himself. He told himself he would work as hard as any missionary for those last two weeks, and he did. One week later, the Elder and his companion knocked on the door of a beautiful French family and began teaching them the discussions. The night before this repentant Elder went home, he baptized that entire family. The next day, after dinner at the mission president's home, that Elder bore his testimony for the first time in two years, and perhaps for the first time in his life.

I didn't get the chance to comment, but the scripture that came to mind was one that I saw in a Mormon Message last night: "And as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me." (Mosiah 26:30) President Brown got a little emotional after he told this story and told us that we don't have time to waste anymore. The Lord has been hastening his work and we need to be the hardest-working missionaries we can for our entire missions. I really want to let this story and experience with my mission president change my behavior here at the MTC so that I'll be truly ready for the field, which means my prayers and effort both need work. I like to have a good time, but I also know that I need to be more responsible and accountable for myself. I'm excited for the blessings that I can receive and that I can help others receive, but I know it'll take work."

So yeah President and Sister Brown are super loving and funny and President Brown can be a little intense when he wants to. I think it's his eyes. He told us some other stories like being a greenie in Brieve-la-Guyarde where missionaries had never gone before, and now there's a WARD there! To quote my dear sister: "Gek." Last night we had an amazing devotional by Elder Stephen B. Allen who is I think the managing director of the missionary department. He called up an Elder from Guatemala who is headed to Brazil and told us a few things: First, that this is the first time they've met. Second, this young Elder is the son of Elder Allen's very first convert from his mission in Guatemala years and years ago. It was super cool. He told us stories from his mission, gave an awesome pep talk about why we shouldn't quit, was overall hilarious, and did a lot of "If you are _____/have felt ______ since being here, stand up." Really interactive, and the hour just flew by. At the end of the devotional a special 40-person choir including Elder Aaron Larson from InMotion and Elder Christian Broberg, a Sister from Fiji that I met the other day, an Elder I met going to Tonga, and poor Elder McKee who went to Fiji for HEFY and is the only missionary here going to Slovenia. I poked my head into the Slovene classroom the other day and saw him sitting very lonely-ly at the computer learning Slovenian. I learned some Malagasy recently! We've been making friends with Elders going to Madagascar and they taught us my second favorite word for "hello" in the world: Manawana. MANAWANA. HOW GREAT IS THAT?? And then "How are you?" is "Salamave?" (emphasis on "la" and "ve") to which you respond "sara" I think.

I know I'm forgetting a ton of stuff (busy week dontcha know), but I'm going to try to send some pictures to make up for it! My district hosted for the first time on Wednesday which was fuuunnnn but HOT. It's going to be around 100 this whole week, but since it's a dry heat it doesn't feel nearly as bad as 85 in Hawai'i. I hosted an Elder from Florida going to Arizona, one from Utah going to Taizhong, one from Mississippi going to Salt Lake, and one from uhhhh somewhere going to Utica. Speaking of which, that's awesome to hear about Sister Henstrom's call! I hear good things about the Utica mission :D On Wednesday a huge Taizhong group came in, a bunch of English-speakers, and Norwegians! I saw the Norwegian district at the temple yesterday so as they walked by I just said "hei sann hei sann hallo goddag hvordan gaar det?" and finally they got that I was speaking Norwegian at them. It was funny. I saw another guy that I think is from Camp Helaman going to Denmark, but I don't remember his name and I haven't talked to him yet. My English-speaking friends probably left this morning for Canada and Kansas and other places, craaazy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

MTC Pictures!

Australiens, un psychologist, et des questions impossibles

I was told pretty soon after I got in here that if you were to evenly divide up a mission into thirds it would look like this: The first third is the first three days in the MTC, the second third is the rest of the MTC, and the last third is your entire time in the field. I'm pretty sure that's coming true, it felt like I had been here forever at first, but the time is starting to speed up at a rather alarming rate O.o We've been playing a lot of volleyball with these other guys that we don't even know, we only talk to them during gym time from opposite sides of the net. That's been fun, and holy cow I'm being timed and my mind is blank (for all you Charlie Brown Christmas fans: "Marcie I forgot my lines!")! But yeah, about the title: We found out last Tuesday or Wednesday that some Australian reporters were going to be doing a story about missionaries coming to Australia and learning a second language. Since our district is the only one with Chinese-learning Australia-bound missionaries, they came to us. It was really fun and felt like we were making the District 3 although we're totally not. I hoped you would get to see my pretty face on Australian national TV but they didn't do any filming when they came to visit our classroom :/ We can still hope since they might come back, but more likely they'll just catch up with the missionaries in a couple months when they arrive in the great land of Oz. Later that day (Friday) an old MTC worker randomly came into our classroom with a couple other Chinese teachers from our building and said he was doing a survey with only one question. It felt like a therapy group because we were all sitting in a circle and the question was "what are your challenges?" We were super confused but practically against our will almost everyone in the district said something like feeling confined in the MTC or it's hard to be with a companion 24/7 or not feeling good enough or stuff like that. It was a little depressing, so it's a good thing Zong Zhanglao (Elder Brown) in desperation said something positive about our MTC experience. Once the guy had recorded all our answers and left, we all sat in stunned silence until I asked, "What on Earth just happened?" It was odd. That afternoon/evening in class we discussed some traditionally really hard gospel questions and tried to give simple answers to them. I can't think of any examples, but if you've been on a mission you'll know what kinds of questions I mean. Fun to see more friends coming into the MTC, I saw Elder Bateman going to Buenos Aires North and also one of my HEFY friends going Spanish-speaking to Los Angeles. This week we're getting like 45 new Mandarins, an entire district going to Taizhong and another district heading to England and Canada and the US. I found out just a couple hours ago that there's a Chinese guy here at the MTC going to Lyon! I think he must be learning French or something because I don't think I've met him, although I did pop my head into the French classroom and ask "Avez-vous un drapeau français?" I was met mostly with blank stares and it occurred to me that these missionaries were learning French. I'm not used to having better French than people with whom I try to speak it. Case in point: I met an Elder Ficquet from Toulouse going to Montréal Spanish-speaking (lucky duck) and last night Sorella Visconti from Pau (near Spain) going to Milan. I've gotten to see the other Frenchies fairly often, but only at meals usually. I've been meeting a lot of Italians (aka missionaries preparing to go to Italy) and gotten to confuse them when they walk by and see Chinese on my chest and hear "Anziani, come stai?" coming out of my mouth. Quick favor! Could y'all send my French flag to me pleeeeeassee? Or you can keep it and send me another? Oh and DearElder is highly encouraged! Basically you go to the website, send an email, and I'll get it in the form of a letter that I can read anytime during the week. Fin! Zhongwén sha wode fawén, 江長老

Monday, June 15, 2015


It didn't take long to find someone I recognized. When I drove up to the MTC curb for dropoff, my host standing there was Ammon Luckart from Camp Helaman, it was cool to see him again! Christian Broberg also found me at lunch the other day, we had a nice quick chat.

I am doing great, but it is hard for sure. Getting up at 6:30 isn't too fun, and once the novelty of the first couple days wore off my companion and I both felt kind of overwhelmed by the language. I'm only learning Chinese, but I've been able to run into some guys going to my mission that I talked to on facebook previously. My companion is Elder Fristrup (Feng Zhanglao) from Logan, he had Chinese in high school and we're really similar. We both quote the Best Two Years all the time, we like to sing, and we just bonded really fast. In some ways the MTC isn't what I expected, but I don't really even know what my expectations were so I'm not really sure about what surprised me or what didn't. I've seen a ton of people from BYUH including Elder Peterson (Bi Zhanglao) who was in one of my classes first semester and is now in my district! He's going to Taipei and he's the only one in our district with no prior Chinese experience. It's been tough, but he's a good sport and really working at it, we've had a lot of fun. There are two sisters, one going to Melbourne and one to Brisbane and they actually knew each other at EFY I think last year. One tongbantuan (companionship) is a guy from here in Utah and one from Arkansas both going to Brisbane. Elder Peterson and Elder Clark from Georgia are both going to Taipei, Elders Pedersen, Brown, and Fristrup are all going to Auckland, New Zealand leaving me as the lone man going to France. However, I heard a rumor from Elder Kimble going to Lyon that this week another Mandarin Elder going to Lyon is coming in! I hope it's true, that'd be super fun to meet him. Elder Clark and I, due to our more advanced Chinese, were both given the option to be on "fast track" and get out of here in 6 weeks, but I don't think either of us will. Our district is already like family and Elder Clark has been really valuable as Elder Peterson's tongban (best Chinese + worst Chinese in the district).

Quick favor to ask: Could I get a copy of my priesthood line of authority? I forgot to bring it with me. And tell Mom that our very first day in the MTC my tongban mentioned that a lint roller would be really helpful, so I reached down and guess what I pulled out of my bag? Thanks Mom, you're the best! Wish I could have sent a quick email last week but that wasn't an option, we really jumped into it. Class is all in Chinese and our teacher knows a few people I knew at BYUH, both missionaries and Taiwanese students. He had zero knowledge when he entered the MTC and now his Mandarin is fantastic, so it gives us all a lot of hope.

I promise I've taken pictures with my tongban, my diqu (district), and the MTC but we can't figure out how to upload them. We haven't been able to find wifi that we can access and the missionary-safe computers won't allow anything but this email,, and TALL which is a language learning program so we can't figure out how to get pictures from our cameras onto the computer.

Our whole district went to choir practice last night and it was super fun, there were more people there than the entire MTC had before last wednesday. We more than doubled the MTC population on the 10th and we're not even at half capacity yet. We're supposed to get like 45 more Mandarins in the next couple weeks including the Taizhong group (we've got a bunch of Taipei in our zone right now). For a little overview of our zone/branch, the destinations of all us Mandarin learners are Lyon France, Auckland New Zealand, Melbourne Australia, Brisbane Australia, Arcadia California, Los Angeles California, Richmond Virginia, Washington DC South, Taipei Taiwan, Taizhong Taiwan, Leeds England, Birmingham England, and Hong Kong. I might have missed one or two, but you get the point. Very different from the Malagasy Elders, one of whom I was talking to yesterday and found out he did HEFY in Tonga last year, so we had a bunch of shared experiences in Fiji and Tonga. Super fun to relive that a little bit!

Our third night Feng Zhanglao and I taught our first lesson, it was mostly awful partially due to the language and partially due to a lack of preparation. However, I bore my testimony right in the middle and the Spirit was so strong, I had this huge smile and it was awesome. Our investigator from Taipei might have started to tear up a little bit, I wasn't 100 percent sure. Anyway, the next day we had our second lesson for which we were a lot more prepared. We taught her about Jesus Christ and baptism and then invited her to follow Christ's example and be baptized on July 1st. She ACCEPTED! In the second lesson!! It was super cool and we still have a ton of stuff to teach her, but the MTC missionary guide says that we should always invite someone to be baptized in the first lesson (which we did, albeit rather awkwardly) and invite them again with a specific date in the second lesson (which we did much less awkwardly). Prayer works!

Also last night the choir director (who is hilarious and an amazing singer) told us all about Parley P. Pratt, his life story and why he was such a boss missionary. It's an awesome story, ask a Parley P. Pratt expert about him being locked up when Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail and then going Rambo-style for a week after breaking out of prison. Yup. The Sundaynight devotional was given by Brother Heaton, the MTC administrative director, and he talked aaaallllll about prayer. He had cool stories about prayer and miracles and my companion and I just looked at each other and said "I think we know what we're teaching in our next lesson." That lesson is tonight, we still have a lot of preparation to do for it.

One big thing that's been stressed here (in addition to Speak Your Language) is "Fucong chansheng zhufu; wanmei fucong chansheng qiji." That means "Obedience brings blessings; perfect obedience brings miracles." Our branch president told us in district meeting yesterday about an amazing string of miracles during and right after his mission all brought about by perfect obedience, it was really inspiring!

We watched Meet the Mormons last night! It was really fun to see it again and I completely forgot that Dave from Melbourne was in it until we got to the part and I FREAKED OUT because it was the same guy in the same store and I totally had the sit-down with Dave about proper foot hygiene and the testing tie colors with suits and that whole gig. It was so much fun to see it.

To close, I love you all and I know that perfect obedience and going the extra mile will bring more blessings than you could possible imagine. Also, go watch Legacy with the Korean dub. According to the other tongbantuan in our room (Wang and Zong Zhanglao both going to Auckland), the Korean voice of Joseph Smith is super smooth and intense and amazing to listen to.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Off I go!

The full extent of my personal belongings for the next two years...

Yes, I'm freaking out! I've waited a long time for this and now it's GO time!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Les temples sont les meilleurs

Last post before I enter the MTC! I just wanted to share with you all the joy I feel in going to the temple. I was privileged to attend a number of different temples in the past couple months, pictures of which are below. Temples are places we go to worship and feel closer to God and while they're all designed differently, they all share similarities and at any one of them you can feel the peaceful feeling that comes from doing the work of the Lord. Attending the temple at least once every week for the past couple months has been a great blessing for me because the months before you report to the MTC can be difficult. I didn't think it would affect me much, but I have noticed it being a lot more difficult to be a diligent student of the Gospel even though I'm looking forward to this wonderful period of spiritual growth in my life. Thankfully, that time is now here! I'll always be grateful to those who helped me gain experience serving in the House of the Lord and allowed me to have that spiritual boost every week to keep me going before I start my mission. The Church is true everyone! The missionaries just want to help people, but they can't do all the work themselves. We have to be willing to reach out to those around us (something I wish I'd done more of) and share the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."

First time at the temple (Laie, Hawaii)

Brothers at the Salt Lake Temple
Happy mom, handsome boys!

Beautiful at night

Early morning at the Draper temple
Draper temple

Provo Temple

Payson Temple open house

With Grandma Judson

Bright day!

Provo City Center Temple under construction

Portland Temple

Timpanogos Temple