Thursday, September 29, 2016

First Week!

Hello Family,
How are you all doing?! How's school? How's work? I saw all your emails and read them, it’s good to hear from you. Sorry if I don't respond to them all, I love you and I hope all is well.

I love it here at the MTC, it has been so great so far! But it has also been a very busy week. I have learned so much, I feel like the change in my testimony has gone from the Sahara Desert to the Amazon or something. Not that I didn't have a testimony before, but it has definitely grown. I think it's impossible to not have a strengthened testimony while at the MTC. Each day I learn so much about the church and the spirit is always so strong! I love it! I am actually not homesick. I hope you're not offended. Being at college before this helped. And it is kind of impossible to be homesick at the MTC because we have 16 hour days where it is jam packed full of teaching and class and devotional. And gym time is a great break! But I love learning and feeling the spirit all the time! And you would think that after studying and working with the scriptures and preach my gospel for all day every day, I would get tired of it. But I'm not. I get up at 6:30 every morning excited to get going at it again!

My companion is super cool, her name is Sister Gillie, she's from Montgomery AL. The people in my district are also really fun. All the sisters are going to New Mexico Farmington and all the elders are going to Pocatello ID. The elders are really funny and one of them has an Elmo voice and sometimes sings the Elmo song to wake us all up after being in the classroom for several hours. One of the sisters had us laughing our heads off last night at dinner when she was putting on a southern accent.

 We have class every day, and we are with our district for basically all day, and most of the day we sit in this tiny classroom and study or teach. It’s always best when we have a teacher there to help us. Our teachers are Brother Crandall and Brother Meyers. And did you know that the teachers at the MTC are really young? I thought they would all be older, but both of mine are not even a year off their missions, going to BYU. Sister Gillie and I have been teaching several investigators this week and we have learned to go by the spirit because the spirit is the real teacher. They keep telling us to teach people, not lessons, and it’s so true!

We had one investigator that our teacher was pretending to be, and we got her to commit to baptism and it was so exciting! After we had 3 lessons with her, Brother Crandall told us who the investigator really was and it was so cool! It turns out, he met her on Tinder. The Lord works in mysterious ways! And then he ran into her at temple square, and had a long visit with her. Turns out she's atheist but is slowly becoming interested in God. He taught her and she wanted to meet with the missionaries, but he was nervous to hand her over because what if the missionaries were slacking or not taking their responsibilities seriously? But guess what? One of the missionaries in her area was one that Brother Crandall had just taught in the MTC! And it was his first area, and this investigator took the lessons and is going to get baptized on Oct 10!! I thought that was so cool! That missionary was in our shoes not even 6 weeks ago, it felt so real when he told us that, after teaching her and learning to love her and wanting to help her, and now she's going to be baptized in real life! I have really learned to love the investigators we teach, which is weird because we have only met with them like 2 or 3 times each, but the church is true and I want them (and everyone) to have it in their lives.

Being a missionary is so fun! Our entire purpose is to help others and invite them to come unto Christ. We get to study and teach and love people, and that's it!
On our first day here, they gathered all the new missionaries into a room and we had a devotional and then we sang "The Army of Helaman" and wow, that was so powerful! They got permission from Janice Kapp Perry to change the words from "we will soon be the Lord's missionaries" to "we are now the Lords' missionaries" and the spirit was super strong!

We met our branch president last Thursday night, and he shared with us a really cool perspective. He was talking about Abraham being a noble and great one, and then related it to us and said we are all noble and great. But then he said that we have been alive since the premortal life, and we have had the gospel that whole time! It's only been in the past 19 years that I have been on this side of the veil, and that's nothing compared to 6,000+ years! But the coolest thing he said was that we have been doing this work our whole life. Before we came to earth, we were sharing the gospel and now, I'm on a mission continuing that work. I thought that was really cool.

In our district, there are 6 sisters and 5 elders. I think it’s awesome how we have more sisters than elders. Did you know that twice this year, the MTC has had more sisters than elders?! Go sisters! And guess what else? Spoiler alert: some of the MTC missionaries are going to be singing in the Saturday afternoon session of general conference! But I won't be, they only took the very most talented singing missionaries who have been in at least one audition choir. Not me, but that's ok. Two of the sisters from my district are going! Sam, now these missionaries can say "we're from the MTC, Mormon Tabernacle Choir," and it will actually be true :)

One other really spiritual life changing thing was Sunday night we watched a talk by Elder Bednar called The Character of Christ. The spirit was SOO STRONG! He said that the character of Christ is to turn outward when the natural man would turn inward. Basically, when you think it’s a good moment to glorify yourself or get some credit for something you did, or you want others have sympathy on you, that is actually a moment of being tested to see if you have the character of Christ, because He would turn outward and think of others, when he had every reason to have pity on himself. My whole perspective on life was changed in less than an hour. I challenge you to turn outward the next time you have a moment when you want somebody to look at you and have sympathy for you. By putting off the natural man, you will be more like Christ and you will be blessed! (Mosiah 3:19).

There are so many things I have learned and so many more spiritual experiences, I wish I had time to share them all.

I hope you are all doing well. The church is true! I know that we can all become more like the Savior by doing the small and simple things. Heavenly Father loves us and wants to helps us. He is waiting with open arms for you to turn to him. The Book of Mormon is true. I know that if we try to read it every day, we will have the strength we need to make it through this life and be able to change and when that happens, we will want to read it every day because we will notice a difference.

Sister Valerie Withers

Sister Valerie Withers

Sister Valerie Withers was called to serve in the New Mexico Farmington mission on June 4, 2016.  She entered the Missionary Training Center on September 21, 2016 and will arrive in New Mexico on October 10, 2016.  Her letters and pictures will be posted to this site.