MTC--Week 4

Today, my companions and I are beginning to speak solely in Portuguese. I've not done a very good job of it so far, but my dictionary isn't here so the only thing I can really do from memory is testify or teach a rudimentary lesson. I've been focusing a lot of my language study on conjugation in preparation for today, and I can see the blessings of the Lord in my life helping me to recall what I've studied so I'm able to speak properly.

It has been my blessing to see how the gift of tongues works in the life of a missionary. If you can imagine being able to recall something after you've studied it once, and being able to use it without difficulty--that is essentially what my experience with the gift of tongues has been. I've studied Hebrew and French in my life, and I've never had an easier time with a language that I'm having right now, and I know it has absolutely nothing to do with any skill of mine. My ability to speak is limited only by what I have studied and what words I make the effort to use on a regular basis. The thought of what else I could be accomplishing with such a capacity boggles the mind.

In my time in the MTC, I've heard a great deal about obedience. That's pretty standard, and it became much more understandable to me when I realized that there are new missionaries coming in on a regular basis who need the same instruction on the subject that I needed as a new missionary. But as I've taken the time to think about obedience in its proper context, alongside the grace and mercy of God, I've learned great lessons on how the Lord accomplishes His purposes.

Something that illustrates my point is in Lehi's dream. A lot of times we focus on and emphasize the symbols of the dream--the iron rode, the great and spacious building, the mocking crowds, and of course the tree. What we don't focus on is the beginning of the dream. Around verse 8, we see Lehi wandering for hours, as he describes it, in darkness and despair. The thing he does to instigate the dream--the spark to the whole experience--is when he prays to receive the mercy of the Lord, (see 1 Nephi 8: 8.)

The only way that Lehi could understand the great love that God has for him, his family, and for all of humankind, is through the mercies of the Lord. If Lehi had never called for those mercies to come down uponhis head, he enver would've had that vision. He never would've become the man God intended him to be, the gospel head of two nations in a new land. Without mercy, there can be no love--and certainly no understanding of the love of God. Without mercy, there is no hope--no hope of redemption, no life. Lehi would've remained in the darkness he described in his dream.

That is exactly the life we live when we rely on the law to save us. Lehi was brought to and understanding of his standing before God, and it was hopeless and helplessly dark because he did not yet know or understand the mercies of the Lord. Everything that happened to his family after this vision is because of one prayer--a prayer for mercy which only the Atonement of Jesus Christ has extended to the entire human family. Nothing else has provided for that redemption.

We sometimes think that we need to be obedient because through obedience we have greater merit in the sight of God, and that is what allows us to perform greater miracles, or to have greater faith. This, however, is false. In the sermon of King Benjamin, specifically from Mosiah 2, we learn in powerful word the truth of the relationship between mercy and obedience. If we served God with everything we have to give, giving all of ourselves according the laws God has set, we will still be unprofitable servants because our contribution is still miniscule in comparison to the great and eternal gifts God has given to us. We couldn't earn our happiness even if we tried. We certainly could never pay back the great debt we have to God for our very lives and all the great blessings we have received.

But deserving our blessings was never the point. That's not why they were given to us, and that's not what we should be doing with them. We have the ability, even in our imperfect state to share those blessings--to magnify their influence in the lives of others. Through the mercy of God, our efforts are complete, no matter how imperfect. I'm convinced that the greatest blessings no more automatically belong to those who blindly and unwillingly follow the requirements of laws than to anyone else. That is not what obedience and mercy are about.

Mercy and obedience together create within us a deep love and gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. Those who embrace this appreciation with sincerity are better off than the blind and grudging obedience of one who hopes to get something out of acting a part instead of changing himself/
herself. Obedience for obedience's sake is a lie and an act, and must be carefully rooted out of the heart of every disciple who truly wants to serve God and keep His commandments.

That is why the first two commandments are and always will be to love the Lord with all our hearts and to love each other. Breaking those commandments bring the greatest condemnation under the law, and nothing else we do can justify us if we lack that love in our hearts.

I know that God lives, and I know His love and mercy is the purpose for everything we do. As we increase in obedience, our love for others and for God must also increase. That is the testimony and experience of my life, and I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

Things I have Learned So Far at the MTC

  • You know you love your companion when  you dive at the closing door between you like it's the difference between life and death.
  • It's impossible to yawn and smile at the same time.
  • The tree next to the Samuel Smith statue smells like red cream soda.
  • Never give Elders balloons. Ever.
  • There's a special corner of outer darkness reserved for parents who don't write their missionaries.
  • Singing Bohemian Rhapsody together is always a surreal experience, especially before teaching a lesson in Portuguese. Also, no one ever remembers all of the words.
  • Portuguese is better than French. (The evidence is in the conjugation. I love it!)
  • Your teachers fall asleep during your lessons.
  • Sharing your conversion story in Relief Society will get you a lot of free hugs.
  • You come in with no brothers and leave with 7.
  • Dying watch battery = having to do a door approach when you're late to class
  • Cannibalism trumps chivalry. An Elder would honestly rather chew his own arm off than let a sister get in front of him in the breakfast line.
  • Chuck Norris jokes and song lyrics are funnier when applied to other missionaries (Ex: "Chuck Norris wears Elder Brown pajamas," or "Elder Brown is the reason for the tear drops on my guitar.")
  • Hair dryers at 6:15 in the morning are the root of all evil. Conversations in the bathroom at 5:45, doubly so.
  • You haven't lived until you have been serenaded by Tongans or Samoans.
  • There are a million ways to break the rules, but only one way to obey them.
  • You know you're a missionary when you know which song in the media library is "the Mormon High School Musical song," and you think the videos are better than YouTube.
Most importantly of all, however, I've learned that prayers are powerful. I can feel the prayers that members all over the world say for the missionaries, and I've felt those prayers sustaining me as I train myself for the days I have ahead of me. Those prayers mean everything to me, and to everyone who ever reads this who has prayed for the missionaries, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It means more to me than you will ever know.

I love the Lord and I love His restored Church. I love the gospel and how it blesses families. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. I'm sorry I only have one lifetime to give for this work, but glad I get to spend the one I have serving the Lord and His children.

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

MTC--I've lost count completely

The MTC continues to be a place of great change and challenge for me. In many ways, I feel as if I'm being prepared for greater things than I've ever dared to imagine. I've been on the receiving end of many answered prayers and private miracles that have been essential to many of the lessons I've learned.

Being a solo-sister, a coordinating sister, a visa waiter, and a convert is a very interesting combination here at the MTC. The uniqueness of my position and the influence I have (specifically) upon elders because of it has given me a deeper appreciation for Deborah from the Book of Judges, that "mother in Israel" who stood beside men in battle, whose courage inspired them to prepare themselves, to go and fight to preserve what mattered most in life. The reality has been impressed upon my mind that much of what I'm doing here is like combat training, only instead of training for literal warfare, we train for spiritual battle instead.  The rigor of the planning of our days is essential to our success, and stepping up to that standard of wasting absolutely no time seemed unattainable to me until I began to see it through the lens of life and death. Success that is planned for in the Lord is victory. Anything short than that is sub-par, and will feel like a defeat simply because the greatest blessing was not obtained, the best performance was not given to the Lord. If I learn nothing else from the MTC, if I relay nothing else to my comrades in arms, I would wish to impress upon the minds of my fellow servants the importance of inspired planning.

I've also been given an assignment to share my conversion story in Relief Society, which gives me a special chance to speak to all of the sisters serving in the MTC at this time. Thinking about the number of people, the caliber of hearts and souls within the angels to which I will be testifying is daunting to consider. But we are brought to our positions and assignments through the wisdom and will of the Lord. I believe that now more than I ever have in my life. I've seen how my experiences here have helped me to have a rough idea of what I need to say and what aspects of my experience will bless the lives of my fellow sisters.

I know that the word we're preparing to do here in the MTC is the most important work on the face of this earth. Noting short of victory is acceptable. My life is my testimony to that truth, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

MTC--Week 2... Or 3

I read Catch-22 back in high school, and there was always this question as to whether or not anything that
was happening in the book was real, or if the narrator was just crazy.

Being in the MTC is a lot like that, especially when you're a solo sister. A member of my branch presidency acknowledged that the MTC is a lot different than the mission field in a way that really is artificial, and I can't really express how much of a relief that was to hear. Knowing that my entire mission isn't going to be like the MTC is one of the best balms of Gilead I've received since I've been here.

Things are going well. I'm learning a lot about what it means to teach simply. And even though the take-home lesson from everything we do here is supposed to be obedience, I spent enough time in Utah at BYU to know that obedience to the law never compensates for a lack of love for others in the heart of a disciple. So, the aim I've chosen for my time here is to learn how to teach with love and through the Spirit. I trust that if I do that and somehow don't get around to shining my shoes, I'm not going to ruin my mission or go straight to hell.

Do they say that openly? No. But is it implied in almost every setting we go to? It has been my experience so far, especially since I was made coordinating sister. A coordinating sister is basically the female equivalent of a zone leader, and it's my job to help new sisters in my district adapt well to the MTC, and to make sure sisters in my residence hall are abiding by the MTC rules.

I appreciate that this position exists, because the dissemination of information at the MTC is really tricky. Having a chain of communication for all the expectations and rules is useful. But I admit, I didn't realize that such a leadership position was basically a hall monitor/babysitter, and would include asking sisters to put their hair dryers away after 10:15 every night.

In a lot of ways, I'm beginning to understand what a mother goes through. She spends all of her time trying to take care of others, making sure they're doing what they're supposed to do. And the price she pays is to essentially have no time to herself, except what time she can steal as she says her prayers at night--sometimes through tears because she's just so tired.

Realizing, though, the kind of influence I have here though, and seeing what it has already taught me about the kind of woman the Savior wants me to be, I would trade any of this for any other experience in the world.
I'm here because I love my Heavenly Father, I love my Savior Jesus Christ, and I know that the message of His gospel is worth every price we pay to share it. I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

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