Friday, October 31, 2014

What a great week!
I have a TON to tell you so I may be a little all over the place, and this will probably be really long, but forgive me! There were many things that I forgot to tell you last week so this week I have been writing things down to remember. I am going to start with the important/spiritual things first and see how far I get.

Last week I forgot to tell you about my teachers, and there are four of them. For our morning glass we have Sister Merriman. She actually pole vaulted in high school and she served in Los Angeles. She is super nice and loving and I really enjoy having her. I feel like there are better teachers, but I am still grateful for her and learn a lot from her. For our class in the afternoon we have two teachers, Brother Mitsvotai and Brother Ditto. They are both pretty good teachers and I enjoy being in class with them. But our evening teacher is the interesting one. His name is Brother Cena. He is from Italy, and served in London and is now studying at BYU. I started a joke that he is in the mafia, and it caught on pretty well and we talk and joke about it all the time. I just really hope he doesn't figure out that we say that about him anytime before we leave! Hahaha he already thinks I am a total idiot because when we were on a five minute break I was out in the hall knocking on the bricks in the hallway hoping to open up a secret chamber that leads to a golden investigator! He thinks I am a freak, but he is a good teacher. 

I joined the MTC Choir!!! Last Sunday they had Choir practice, so me and two other elders in our district went to practice. Because Elder Dobie is a bass, I decided that I was going to be a bass, which turned out to be the sweetest thing ever! We had practice Sunday night before the Sunday night devo, and then on Tuesday evening before the Tuesday night devo, and performed at the devo on Tuesday night. We sang "Lead, Kindly Light", which I had never heard before but is one of my new faves. The Choir instructor on Sunday really talked a lot about the lyrics of the song and applied them to us and it made me love the song even more. So that was a whole heap of fun!

After the devo on Sunday nights, they show a number of different films/recorded talks and we were told many many times to go to "The Character of Christ". We were thinking that because people hyped it up so much that it was going to be a let down when it wasn't as good as we thought it was going to be... but we were so incredibly wrong!!! It was a message by David A. Bednar at the MTC a few years ago, and through the whole 1.5 hours, I probably didn't listen to a total of about 30 seconds. It was one of the most interesting and inspiring talks I have ever heard in my life.... actually, scratch that. It was THE most inspiring talk I have ever heard. I am pretty sure you can find it online, it will be worth an 1.5 hours, I promise!

We have been teaching our teachers, who act as an investigator. It is really hard to teach them for a couple reasons... one is because we only have like 10 minutes to give the lesson, and another is because it is really hard to see them as an investigator instead of our teacher that is just acting. So those are always interesting lessons. But we also have TRC, which is where we get an investigator that is honestly usually a member, but sometimes they are not.

Elder May and I got a guy named Zach, and he is in his early twenties and moved out here to be with his brother at BYU. His brother is a member but he isn't (they are all at least acting as a non-member). We have 45 minute lessons with them in the evening from 7:45-8:30. We get four lessons with them. Wednesday night with Zach was an incredible experience. Let me set it up. Before we go to TRC, we have an hour of doctrine study and then about 45 minutes of Zone Teaching. For doctrinal study our district accidentally went over the Word of Wisdom instead of what we were supposed to do, which was a review of the last three lessons. We then went to Zone Teaching, where we join with the other districts on our zone and practice teaching. So instead of teaching one of the previous three lessons, our district taught the Word of Wisdom because that is what we accidentally prepared.

So we show up for our lesson with Zach, and to make a medium story short, he asked about the freaking Word of Wisdom before we started our lesson, which was on "The Restoration". So, having just practiced the Word of Wisdom, Elder May absolutely killed going over the Word of Wisdom for about the first 10 minutes of the lesson. We then somehow perfectly transitioned into our lesson on "The Restoration". I was giving the first half of the lesson, and before we went in there, my thoughts were scrambled and I was worried about how I would do. But the spirit took over and I totally nailed the first half of the lesson. Elder May took over for the last half, and he was just feeling it too and did an awesome job. The spirit was cookin'. Right at the end, Elder May pointed out how Heavenly Father called Joseph Smith by name, and how significant it was that he did that, and how he knows each one of us. I jumped in because I wanted to testify of that. And lo and behold, there I was, crying, testifying of Heavenly Father's love. And even though I was crying pretty hard, the spirit was just carrying words out of my mouth and I was able to give such a strong testament of His love. As I was talking, I could see emotion coming into his eyes, and I could almost see some extra moisture around his eyes, aka he was on the verge of crying. So that was sweet. 

We got him to pray at the end, and it became evident to us that he was really just meeting with us because he wanted to know what we believed more than wanting to use the information to make a change. So, for our next lesson we skipped lesson 2 which is "The Plan of Salvation" and went on to lesson three which is "The Gospel of Jesus Christ". We felt that lesson 3 would hopefully change his outlook on listening to us. Which it totally did! Elder May was brain fried by that point of the day, but he was able to give the first half of the lesson pretty well and Zach was really learning by the spirit. Then it got to my turn, and I was really worried because my mind was jumbled and I didn't think I knew my points well enough. But the spirit took over and was just putting words into my mouth and I totally dominated the last half of the lesson. I invited him to be baptized, and although he wasn't quite ready to commit, it got him thinking A LOT! We got him to pray again, and the change from the previous night was evident. He now has a desire to know of the truth and really wants to know if what we taught him was true. We are hoping that tonight we can commit him to baptism! 

One thing I have been struggling with is the fact that I have learned throughout my life to love people for who they are, and accept their beliefs and faith. I have seen it in some of the lessons with our teachers that I want to just be their friend and not push the gospel on them. So I have been working on that. 

We got to go to the temple this morning, and Brother Mitsvotai told us last night that while we were in the Celestial Room to ask Heavenly Father what he has in store for us. So that's what I was thinking about when we were in there. I looked up and saw a picture of Christ, with his arms open. At that moment, I remembered something that was said at the devo on Tuesday night. The question was, "Is Christ your best friend?". As I thought about it, I realized that as I help others come unto Christ and fall into his open arms, I can do the same as well, and in turn develop even more of a best friendship with him. I picked up the Book of Mormon and started reading it, and I ran across a scripture that fit this perfectly. It was 1 Nephi 13:37. It says, "And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at the last day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon mountains shall they be." I thought it related perfectly to what I was thinking. 

Our Branch President is absolutely incredible. His name is President Laney, and he knows just about everybody and their dog. He knows cousin Loyd, and he knows people from our stake and was at our stake conference when Pres. Beus was made Stake Pres. He had connections with almost everyone. And he is the craziest scripture mastorian EVER. He literally has a scripture for everything you ever say and know the book, chapter, verse, and where it is on the page. It is literally absolutely insane. 

Y'all mention how Abby said that I saw Melissa on my first day here. Yes, I did, and I have seen her and said hi like every day since. I also saw Paige Peterson a few times as well. So I have seen as many of Abby's friends as my own friends... so shoutout to Abby's friends!!!

Alrighty, to end this already long email... I will tell you just one joke from our joke fest a couple nights ago in our dorm. This is from Elder Dobie...
Did you know that diarrhea is genetic?
It runs through your jeans (genes)!

And one other funny story. So Elder Dobie snores really loudly. So a few nights ago at about 11:15 (its lights out at 10:30) Elder Dobie was snoring super loud. So I said just loud enough for all those still awake because of his snoring to hear, "I am literally going to kill Elder Dobie tomorrow!" And directly after I said that, he completely stopped snoring. I didn't say it very loud at all, and he had zero recollection of hearing anyone say anything when I told him about it the next morning! So I felt pretty cool.

Ok, I will quit boring you. I could go on with more things, but I shall stop.
I love you all!

Elder Ericson

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2 Down, 749 To Go!!!

Hello all!
Boy, the MTC is definitely an experience! We pulled up about 15 minutes before my scheduled drop-off time, so I thought we were going to have to wait a while to get dropped off. But as we passed through the gate, they told us we had 2.5 minutes to say our goodbyes! So the final goodbye was a little crazier than expected. But as I was walking away down the sidewalk with my host, I just felt pumped up to be at the MTC. We were sent through a bunch of rooms and received our badges and other information. My host then directed me to my room to drop off my luggage, which is on the third floor of building 12M. That probably means nothing to you, but whatevs. As we were walking to my classroom after that, there were tons of missionaries outside, and I ran into  none other than Elder Austin Gorton! I sprinted to him and gave him a nice big hug!  We then went to my classroom, which is on the fifth floor of building 18M. About halfway up the stairs, I realized I was going to be in real treat having to walk up to the fifth floor like five times a day. When we got to my room, I was the only one from my district there, so I sat and talked to our teacher for a while. The rest trickled in and I met my companion, Elder Colter May. I will talk more about him and my district later. For about an hour we just sat around and started filling out our daily planners with our schedule and then went to a meeting with all the new missionaries and the temple presidency. That lasted about an hour and then we went off to dinner. After dinner, the day got rough. The enthusiasm and adrenaline died off and everyone was feeling down and a little worried. Talking to other missionaries that have been here longer, they all say that the first day is super rough but only gets better, which I am experiencing myself! Each day gets  better and better!

Alrighty, back to my companion and district. My companion is from Bozeman and was actually in the home ward of our mission president in Lubbock. He is going to Lubbock along with me. We have eight of us in our district, with 3 of us going to Lubbock and the other five going to Baton Rouge. At first, no one was talking at all.... except me of course. I thought I was going to be in for a long two weeks! But by yesterday they started showing their personalities more and it has been great fun. My companion and I get along real well. He is one of the more outgoing ones in the district so I can be more of myself with him. He ran cross country and track in high school, so we are going to put in some work here at the MTC and whip ourselves into shape! He is going to try to walk on at Weber St. when he gets home so I will be able to keep in touch with him later on down the road. I really think that they put work into giving us companions. Everyone is paired with someone that is somewhat similar to them. And that goes for the entire MTC. You hardly ever see kids that look like they are opposites. In fact, there are these two missionaries that literally look exactly alike, same stylish haircut and anything! I see them everywhere! I can't help but laugh every time!

There are six of us in our room, and the other two Elders in our district are in the room next door. The dorms are sort of interesting. I see some places that are total parties and just crazy, but then there are other places that are much more under control. Our area is much more under control. Our Zone Leaders, who are in the room next door, say that our Zone has always practices obedience. They make sure that at 10:15 when its supposed to be quiet time, that its quiet. And then 10:30, lights out. We haven't had the lights out before about 10:40 yet because we are usually finishing writing in our journals and such, but we are working on it. But even after we get our lights out, you can hear voices and yells and banging around for a long time! Last night there had to have been noise until at least 11, which is frustrating to hear because you want them to be obedient and you are happy you are, but at the same time you'd like to be a part of the fun!

I am learning a lot! We have really worked on learning to look at our investigators as God would and focus on what God needs them to hear. It sounds simple but is actually really quite tricky. One thing that is good is that both my companion and I are able to think a little deeper than most of the others and have a little better understanding on that part. I think that really helps us be able to look into the investigators needs. We haven't done any teaching yet. We have spent most of yesterday and today working on getting a plan ready for teaching our investigators, which we will start tomorrow. We have two investigators we will teach and will teach one of them five times and one of them only two times over the next week and a half. I am confident in our ability to teach them. And yes, they are fake investigators, so that takes some pressure off. One thing they are really pushing on us too is our purpose as a missionary, which is to invite others to come unto Christ through faith in Jesus Christ, repentence, baptism, and enduring to the end. It is interesting because each teacher or leader we have teaches it a little differently and makes us look at it at a different angle. So that's been interesting to see the different views on it. 

Abby, this will be really funny for you, but there is an Asian kid in our district that reminds me a lot of Anthony! At one point he said that he knows that he is supposed to serve in the Baton Rouge mission because he just really loves black people! And he is on the top bunk and doesn't have a ladder, and it is so funny when he climbs up there because he is so short! Last night he ate like half a jar of cheese dip, and then realized he really shouldn't have done that because he is lactose intolerant! He has said some other hilarious stuff, but I don't want to bore you. What a guy. Another kid in my district is like a bookstore master. He knows everything about that freakin' place. He knows everything they have behind the counter that you have to specifically ask for to buy and everything they sell off the shelf and everything in between. In two days he spent almost $30 bucks at that place, and everything is super cheep there so that is quite the accomplishment. Speaking of cheap stuff at the bookstore, they have the exact same shoulder back that I have, and they have it for $58. If you remember, I spent over $100 on mine! Freakin' rip off.

One last thing, I have seen Elder Coleman Merrill, my friend from track camp friend from Lubbock, two or three times now. Today he told my me that when we fly into Lubbock not to get discouraged because it is just awfully ugly! So that was a nice pick-me-up.... And one last thing about A-Gor, he is getting chunky. He says he's gained 10 pounds but I don't think he's weighed himself in a while. He is going to get huge in Italy!

Well that's all for this week! I have P-Day on Friday so I will have one more here at the MTC before I leave!
I will hopefully send some pics in a separate email...

LOL (lots of love),
Elder Ericson

Pictures on the day of Reed's farewell - 10/19/2014

Bryce, Maren, Reed, Bryce E. Kevin, Doug, FR: Elsina, Abby, Bethany, Malea, Angeles, Grandma, Grandpa

Boise, Idaho Temple 10-11-2014gran

Grandpa, Grandma, Reed, (mom) Katy & (dad) Carl

1 + 1 = 2 people wondering "What are you doing?"