Hey Guys! This has been Brad's first week in the Salt Lake City South Mission. His address there is:
Elder Bradley Smith
Salt Lake City South Mission
8060 south 615 east
sandy, UT 84070
Alright I am in mission field and things are going great. As hopefully you all know by now I got called to the Salt Lake City South mission. Right now i am in one of the smallest areas in the world and half of it is covered by a golf course in Taylorsville Utah. I thought that my mission was going to be actually in Salt Lake City and the temple and Elise's house, but that is the Salt Lake mission. My area is the furthest area north in my mission and there is a street that if we cross it we go out of our mission area, we've gone halfway over a bridge so that we were right on the line yesterday and took pictures real quick.
Seeing as it has been two weeks I have a lot to say. I have the whole last week of the MTC and the whole first week in the field. I will try to remember everything and I wrote pretty well in my journal too so hopefully I'll be able to relate all the good parts to you all. Last week was what they call teaching week in the mtc (Missionary Training Center). It is where you have to schedule lessons and try to teach progressing investigators. Elder Thompson and I taught 37 lessons that week. It was very stressful trying to get them all done in not very much time. We had all of our regular meetings and things and also only an hour of class a day, but they were all really great classes and I learned a lot in my last week at the mtc and was able to really improve my teaching ability because we did it so much. I found out on Friday of last week that I was being called to the Salt Lake City South mission. As you probably know, SLC is very different than Villahermosa Mexico. It is odd being called to a different place while I wait for my visa, but honestly when I got my call, I was very excited to get out and actually get to do some work. I got called to Salt Lake City with 4 other elders in my district (Elder Knight, Hubbard, Clark, and Poulsen). Elder Dewey and Packard got called to Atlanta, Then Elder Thompson (mtc companion) got called to Colorado Springs, Elder Plummer got called to New Mexico, and elder green and Elder Eliason got called to Pocatello Idaho and also elder Hausman is staying at the mtc a little longer because he had surgery last week. The last few days in the mtc were kind of sad in some ways. I grew really close to the elders in my district and we had a lot of really great spiritual times together and we were really unified. I am certain that we had one of the best mtc districts ever, and I mean it. Every elder in our district was amazing and added something that helped each one of us grow. We all supported each other and were all friends with each other, and I cant really think of a single issue that we had over the whole two months of being around each other 24 hours a day. I will miss them, but it will be amazing to see them all in Mexico when we get our visas.
Before entering and also in my first few weeks at the MTC i kind of heard mixed reviews of peoples experiences. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect going in, but I know how I felt coming out. The MTC was an amazing experience and I am so thankful for every aspect of it. I had amazing teachers Hermana Rivas, Hermana Tate, Hermano Goodrum, and Hermano McPherson. They all pushed me to be better and help strengthen me so much. They are all amazing teachers and I'm sure they were all amazing missionaries. I love them all and am so thankful to have been able to learn from them. They put so much time and effort into us and it was easy to see how hard they worked to help prepare me and the rest of my district for the field. In our last few days we got to see Hermana Rivas again and her new baby who is very cute. It was fun and our whole district got really excited. She wouldn’t do her signature hand gesture for us though, but it was fun to see how happy she looked with her new family. We also go to see Hermana Tate and Elder Thompson and I practiced some of our contacts on her too. And we had really great classes with Hermano Goodrum and Mac our last few days. It is weird to not have them around to answer questions and tell us how to do things anymore, but they taught me enough to know how to find answers on my own and I feel ready and capable to teach, though I have so much more to learn and to improve in.
In our last class with Hermano “Mac” we had a district testimony meeting. It was very powerful and my district is so strong. They are all going to be such incredible missionaries. We all shared our testimonies, and it was cool to see how much we all had grown from the very first day when we shared our testimonies to the very last day when we shared our testimonies.
Sunday night I also had a very spiritual experience. I don’t want to share all of it, but I will share parts of it. We had a devotional that was really good and then as they do every Sunday night they showed a movie. The movie we chose to go to was “The Testaments”. I had never seen it before, but it is the movie about Christ’s life, and then Christ coming to the Americas, and also about some of the people in the Americas who were waiting for Christ to come. It was a very powerful movie, and at times brought me to tears. Watching the miracles that the Savior performed was so powerful. The love He has for each one of us is unimaginable. The Savior's life was a sacrifice for us. He lived His life as a pattern and as a perfect example for us to follow, and as a missionary I am trying to follow Him in every way, though I have so many imperfections and weaknesses, I do my best to strive to be like the Savior. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real, and is the way that we find our happiness. This is the thing that I have come out of the mtc with a much more powerful testimony of, and was the thing that I probably had the strongest testimony of going in. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered for each one of us personally, because he loves us, and because he wants us to be happy and it is only through him that we can obtain eternal life, and eternal joy, living with God, Christ and our families forever.
I am missing a lot of the events of the mtc, but it will have to suffice to say that it was such a blessing. The last thing that we did before leaving was our district went out into the hallway and all put our arms around each other and sang our districts song of "Jesus es mi luz" (the Lord is my Light). We always sing it loud and we sang it extra loud this time, and i think we sang the last verse twice; we didn’t really want it to end. Our district definitely found power in the hymns and songs of Christ. And when we sang them loud and with all our hearts as we often did, it always brought a special spirit. That is probably the thing I will always remember most about my mtc district.
Here in the field things have been great. I am assigned to a 4 some, which is kind of interesting. There is Elder Carr (one yr), Elder Pense (4 months), and then Elder Thomas (waiting for a visa to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico) and Me (both have 2 months). Before I got assigned we all met at the mission home in Sandy, Utah (which is where you should send letters to me) and I saw Kyle Rose from Beaverton and from my BYU dorm floor. He is doing great and I think he's getting Spanish down pretty good already too. I have been able to learn a lot and have been able to teach a bit, even though it is hard to have enough appointments right now with 4 Elders. The biggest challenge is to find Spanish Speakers. We aren’t supposed to teach the English speakers here, and were not supposed to just straight up tract and go door to door either. We can only ask for referrals and refer English speakers to the English missionaries. The area is having a lot of success right now though. We have 10 people on date for baptism right now. And we have the Depaz family, a family of 4 that is going to be baptized then next Friday. I have only met with them a few times, but they are great. I love the people here. The Hispanic people are all so nice and loving, but they also all talk SOOOOO fast. It is hard for me to understand much of what they are saying, though I am getting better at it. We had dinner with a family last night and we talked to them about how to say things in English, and English is definitely a lot harder than Spanish is, so I am grateful. They were also a lot easier to understand because they were from Venezuela. The Mexicans are the hardest people to understand hah.
Now for some stories. The second day that i was here in the mission It was me and the other new elder on our own for a little bit walking around the apartments that we go to most often because there are the most Spanish speakers there. The other two elders were at an appointment so we didn’t have anything set to do. We saw two ladies and a young boy carrying a table so we offered to help. We thought it would be close to their room, but it was very far away. We talked to them as we walked about the church a little bit and about themselves. They were from Nepal and had only been here for a few months. Only the younger girl spoke English so we just talked to her. They said that they were Hindu but that they wanted to be Christian, and that the English elders had found them the other day and given them a Book of Mormon and everything. They said they really liked the message and had done the readings that they assigned and were having another lesson soon. We helped get the table in the house then took away an old couch and then we had to go meet up with the other elders. I'm pretty sure they are going to get baptized and I was really excited for them. As we walked out of the house a guy sitting out in front of his door said hi, so of course I walked over to go talk to him. As i got closer I found that he had a half empty bottle of alcohol and had just finished rolling up something (though I'm pretty sure it was just tobacco). Anyways then started the most interesting conversation I've ever had in my life. He explained at the very start that he was schizophrenic and told us he was crazy and then described some of the things he says. He said he talked with his cat and he saw people’s heads fly off and he imagined fire around himself often. I immediately felt sad, but in another sense very calm. He then continued to explain how he was a member when he was young, but then that he had come up with his own belief of "self-creation". The rest was hard to follow and very detailed, but basically from a verse in revelations (that I couldn’t find later when I looked) that said that God said to John don’t write these things, he'd decided that the Bible was not true. I tried to explain how he got his reasoning from the Bible, but he kind of pushed that aside and just said he had a strong feeling that only that part was true and kept going. He explained in detail, how we all created ourselves, and what things will be like after we die. And in reality it was very much like the gospel, just with a very different spin. He explained agency but that it was only our will and that there was no Father or Son to follow, and by having them it wasn’t really agency. and Idk (I don’t know) he had a lot of different ideas. He talked to us for about 20 straight minutes and we were kind of trying to get away, but at the very end, I just told him to read the Bible again and try to have that same powerful feeling that he had for that one verse, with the rest of the book. As we walked back to our bikes, which I prayed were still there because we left them very far away for a long time, I told Elder Thomas that even though it was a crazy story, I felt the spirit in that calmness that I described before testify to me so that I knew that that guy would be alright because our savior Jesus Christ is our advocate and a perfect Judge, and this man obviously had so many trials that were hard to overcome and the Savior knows exactly how he feels. And that is the Blessing and Miracle of the Atonement!
I also had the opportunity to teach a man by the name of Luis Cardenas. I thought it was very funny and a coincidence that he had the same name as my old Young Men’s President. He just like Brother Cardenas is a very kind, cool guy and I like him a lot. I taught a doctrine of faith and in trusting in Christ and then we related it to church. From that point on he taught himself and described how he needed to come to church with his family and how he couldn’t make excused to us, because he knew he couldn’t lie to god. It was a cool experience, and then this Sunday he didn’t come. I was disappointed, but then at night on Sunday Elder Pense and I rode by his house and I said we should just go knock and see what was going on. He explained how they had a friend come in town and how they went to temple square earlier that day. I'm not sure if he went or not, but he wants to go to church with his family, so we set up an appointment to teach him tonight, and hopefully we'll get him to come to church this week.
Church was an experience. I didn’t really know what anybody was saying, but it was fun. They also had a guy translating into English and you could pick up a headset and listen. My two companions who had been here before got one so we could listen more as a joke. I could only hold the headset up to my ear for about 5 seconds before i would have laughed too hard and made a scene in sacrament meeting. It was an older man who fell asleep occasionally and it sounded like he was just using gibberish. I didn’t make out a single word that he said. So i decided to be safe, I'm just going to continue to only do Spanish.
I also found out yesterday that because I'm a visa waiter i get to go to conference. I'm going to either the Sunday afternoon, or priesthood session I think so be looking for me.
Ah there’s a lot to say, but I feel like this is already scatterbrained enough, and very long so I'm sorry. Thank you all for all of your love and support and prayers. I love you all and am so thankful for each of you in my life. I will be here in SLC for probably a month or two so send me a letter if you want. It's always fun to get mail. I hope you all have an excellent next week, and I will try to have a better put together letter for you all next week.