Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm lovin' It

Hello everyone!

So this week was amazing. We arrived in Japan! after a thirteen and a
half hour flight. We had airport run arounds and then settled in for long
flights. Sister Wallace gave a away a Book of Mormon on the flight to
Japa. She is brave!

We have ipads here and I miss computers. So, we landed, had quick
interviews with President Wada, chatted with his wife, and took a two
hour bus ride to the mission home. I stared outside until I fell asleep
on the bus and was oblivious to passing Tokyo Disney and a famous Sun
bridge. We had dinner at the mission home after being attacked by humidity,
slept on tatami mats with bean filled pillows, and woke up at 6:00 for
radiotaiso (morning stretches in the park with the neighborhood).

During the following two days, we had several fun seminars, met our trainers,
received the iPads,and went to our apartments. The bus & subway ride to my apartment
took an hour. I got to listen to my companion trainer Sister Wilson talk to everyone on the subway.
I tried to help a little. I still had a fruit leather snack in my bag and gave it 
to a young woman we met (she was a culinary student and seemed to appreciate the 
foreign food aspect). I loved seeing Japan from windows. The humidity is like a wall. 
I'm lovin' it.

The next few days have been filled with running trips to churches in
other districts, screaming bugs, scintillating aromas on the street and people shorter than I am.
I introduced myself in Church and my turn came after a 6'3" Elder introduced himself
and they had trouble lowering the podium after they raised it as high as it went.
The ward here is very sweet and they all smiled.

We went tracting, and while tracting, I thought we should sing at the
next house, and Sister Wilson, being kind, said yes. We knocked on the
apartment door and a middle-aged man answered the door. We told him
who we were, and that we wanted to sing for him. We sang "I am a Child
of God" and when we were done, he had tears in his eyes and said our
song had touched his soul.

Church had lots of meetings, one before, one after. Don't ask me what
they were about because I don't know. Yet. Once I do, I will tell you.

Saturday was my birthday! That was when we knocked on doors. It was
also the day I rebelled against my family and celebrated at McDonald's. 
It was fattening and delicious ;)

Today we went shopping and cleaned, and we have a sushi dinner with
members, and it is all very exciting!

I love you all very much!
Sister Cottle

Friday, August 14, 2015

Arrival in first area: Sagamihara

Date: 2015-08-14
Subject: Arrival: Photos and Map

August 14, 2015

Dear Brother and Sister Cottle:
Your daughter arrived in the Japan Tokyo South Mission on Tuesday, August 11th in good spirits and ready to commence her proselyting assignment. We had a wonderful  time with her.
Sister Cottle has been assigned to work with Sister Wilson, and they are serving in the Sagamihara area. Your daughter can receive her mail at the following address (Mission Home address):
Sister Madeleine Cottle
Japan Tokyo South Mission
1-7-7 Kichijoji, Higashi-cho
Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0002
Attached is a picture of your daughter with Sister Wada and me, of herself, her companion, and a group picture with trainers and Assistants. We have also included a map showing the locations of the various areas in the mission. You can use it as a personal record of her assignments.
By the time you receive this letter, Sister Cottle should be adjusted to her new proselyting area. The positive sustaining support she gets from you at home will be a great blessing to her. May the Lord bless you and your family as you share in your daughter’s mission experience.
President Takashi Wada

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Safe Arrival

From: Japan Tokyo South Mission 
Date: 2015-08-11 6:47 GMT-06:00
Subject: Safe Arrival

Dear Parents,
We just want to send you a quick note to let you know that your missionary arrived safely in Japan on Tuesday, August 11, 2015.
President and Sister Wada had dinner with the missionaries, visited briefly, and then sent them to bed for a much needed rest.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is orientation and training day. On Thursday they will meet their new companion who will be their trainer. In the afternoon they will be off to their new area to begin their missionary work. Pictures will be taken and you will receive another email with pictures attached.
Our Mission’s preparation day is on Monday. This is the day missionaries can email family and friends. When missionaries have a temple day, which is normally on a Tuesday, this becomes their preparation day. Please have your missionary let you know when temple day is so you will know of the change.
Thank you for entrusting your missionary to us in the Japan Tokyo South Mission. We so appreciate all you have done to get your missionary ready for this experience!
Sister Adamson, Secretary
Japan Tokyo South Mission

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Give me Liberty or Give me Death (because there is no in between)

From: Madeleine Cottle
Date: 2015-08-06 16:05
Subject: Give me Liberty or Give me Death (because there is no in between)

Hi Everyone! 

We leave the MTC on Monday at 7:00 a.m. The flight is 13.5 hours total. We stop in Portland for a little layover; I think we change planes there too. 

We had our last lesson with Mai (who is our morning Japanese teacher) on Wednesday. Wallace Shimai and I both cried. We taught Mai about the atonement and the resurrection. Then we thought that the "lamb" in the Japanese translation of the Doctrine and Covenants, was us, and Jesus was the shepard, however, it was really referring to the Lamb of God! Whoops. The verse meant that after death, Christ lives. However, we didn't really understand that so we were like, "yeah, we as humans live!" It was funny. In retrospect. 

On Tuesday, President Nelson came. He talked about writing Christ's name on our hearts. The second he walked into the room, everyone was silent and I am sure (I am 99.99999% positive) everyone felt the Spirit. He walked out after talking and waved, blew kisses, and bid us farewell with more waves. He is the sweetest, kindest man ever. 

On Sunday, Cheri Dew spoke to us. She talked about her experience writing songs and simply made me feel like, "Yeah! I can do this! It'll be easy!" (Actually, no it won't be easy, but I *will* be able to do it, and that is the important lesson that I need to etch into my brain when it gets hard.)

Wednesday morning, after cleaning windows, everyone leaving on Aug 10th from my branch got together with the branch president Lee Daniels for a 1.5 hour scripture study. He is so smart and we spent 1.15 hours on 10 verses. On Wednesday, at lunch, Wallace Shimai and I talked to an elderly couples mission teacher about her mission experience. She told us that North Dakota was awful until she learned to smile instead of scream. 

I cannot believe I am leaving! I can't believe I am going to wake up in Japan! Can't seem to get my mind around that!

However, I am super nervousexcited (new & useful word) and cannot wait to meet my mission president, my new companion, and everyone. For the first two days, we will be staying at the mission home for interviews, training, seminars etc. and I hope, sushi :) Our suitcases will go directly to our new apartments and for those couple of days, we will be living out of a carry-on bag. The adventure begins. 

Random side note: in geographic area, Tokyo South is the smallest Japan mission although it does not have the smallest number of missionaries. 

Thank you all so much for your love & care, for your letters, emails, and packages. I feel your love daily and I'm pretty sure your love is what keeps me going when my feet feel like they are giving out. 

I love you! Write me when you can! The mission address: 

Japan Tokyo South Mission
1-7-7 Kichijoji, Higashi-cho
Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0002

Thursday, July 30, 2015

We Love to Laugh, Long and Loud and Clear

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hello everyone!

So many things have happened this week. Ready for a roller coaster? Buckle up and enjoy the read. 

From the first week here, the other six shimaitachi (sisters in our district) excluded my companion and me a bit; they have similar personalities that perhaps don't really match ours. Wallace shimai and I often did our own thing during study time and she was sad about how they were acting. It's been like this until recently. Sister Wallace realized that she liked and even loved the others in our district. We talked to them, and she realized that she was excluding herself. She thought they didn't like her and didn't bother to fix her perspective until she realized that she did like and love them, that she had to change her own attitude and perception and forgive, more than the others (though they ARE cliquey).

Saturday was Pratt Chourou's (chourou = elder) birthday! Very fun & very happy. Mom sent him a lemon bundt cake and all of our district w/our Japanese teacher celebrated in the sun. Sisters James, Brady, Wallace and I made him an Oreo cookie lay and I lent him a stuffed animal for the day. The party was spontaneous, happy, and Elder Pratt was grinning for 90% of the time. Everyone now thinks that you, mom, are a super hero and Elder Pratt wants to personally thank you :)

Two Sundays ago, the sisters attended a special RS meeting where Sister Edmunds spoke to us. The most comforting thing she said was, "the Lord takes your noises and turns them into words," this was reassuring in light of Japanese. She also said "don't touch the Elders--but keep an eye on the ones you want to." We thought that was funny. She was pretty funny overall. And she lifted my spirits.

The MTC has not only bats in the belfry but also mice and rats in the gardens. When cheese is dropped outside, the friendly mice pick it up, eat it, or gather it. They are so cute. Meanwhile, when we study and feel the fall-approaching breeze, we watch Remy the rat gather nuts, acorns, and berries, scamper across the sidewalk, and dive into his burrow. Once, he jumped a foot-high little fence! Carrying things! 

We got our new name tags this week. They are in Japanese (no English) and the whole district loves them. Everyone was shouting, laughing, and not studying when the teacher brought them. We cannot yet wear them, however, because the new "baby missionaries" can't read Japanese yet. So we have to wait till Japan. Which is in 11 days. Oh gosh. Wow.

Like Sister Wallace, I needed an attitude check, only an even bigger one. A few days ago, I was not a happy camper and in my thoughts, I told everyone I met, that if they kept talking to me, I would chop off their heads. Keyword here, "in my thoughts." I was rather grumpy, to say the least. Everything struck me as stupid. The sky was stupid, the class was stupid, my companion was stupid, the flowers were stupid -- most likely everything was stupid because you amazing people were not with me! Predictably, the day was awful and I was miserable when I *could* have been happy (it really was a *good* day with lots of happy things in it). Granted, it's not like that for everyone and many do not have the luxury of choosing their emotional states. From now on, I have decided to smile as much as I can and not allow things to annoy me or make me glare at people for no real reason. 

Yesterday was a 39 minute language exam! Ugh. We were given hypothetical situations and had to talk about how we'd fix problems, explain a scripture, tell a personal experience, and all of it in Japanese. During our first week here, we took a short test (in Japanese) and for one of the answers, I resorted to German. Better than answering in English, I thought. Perhaps no one noticed. This week's exam was much better, and all in Japanese. 

On Monday, we had another miracle. Monday was long, and from the second I woke up after a nightmare, I felt exhausted. However, I was happy and didn't sleep in class or during study time though it was very tempting. So, come evening study, my brain was dead, and I told Heavenly Father, "I'm going to sleep now. Good night." Wallace Shimai and I were studying on the grass near two benches. Just as I lay down on the grass, Wallace said "Let's read the Book of Mormon in Japanese." (We received Japanese Books of Mormon the first day we got here. So fun & amazing.) And inwardly, I go "Oh boy." However, I sit up and just as we begin, a "golden tag investigator" comes up to us and asks what we are reading.

We talk to him, tell him we're reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese, and tell him about Joseph Smith, about how the Bible and Book of Mormon go hand in hand and are two testimonies of Christ, why we are sacrificing our time and time with our families to serve a mission/learn Japanese, and about the Church in general. He also told us that he suffered from Depression since his son died 12 years ago, and very often feels lonely. So, me being me (and learning that if I tell Heavenly Father I'm tired, He will make me not tired and give me something to do), I tell our Jorje (our GTI) that I understand how he feels. At the MTC, I have felt lonely and have had painful times, and it has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through, especially with having light anxiety issues. I tell Jorje that he is not alone. I am not alone, have never been alone. Christ has always been beside me, has loved me, has borne me up and has given me comfort when I was down and that he, Jorje, could feel that also. I told him that Christ is always with *him* also. Jorje then said I would touch lives, that he liked my stories, and that I was very empathetic. He left soon after that. Wallace Shimai and I are talking to him tonight (Thursday) and we are super thrilled to talk with him. 

I realized that loving people is what matters. I realized that honestly showing people you care about them is what counts, it is what people feel. So, all of you, know that I love you. More importantly, Christ and Heavenly Father love you. Jesus is with you when you feel down, when you feel abandoned or lonely for whatever reason; he helps you get back up and will never leave you. He loves you, knows you, listens to you, and is there to help you. 



Thursday, July 23, 2015

We Love to Laugh

From: Madeleine Cottle 
Date: 2015-07-23 18:04 GMT-06:00
Subject: We Love to Laugh


I love your letters and emails. They are like electronic hugs. You all make me feel SO happy and loved!

This week was very standard. Except for the fact that when we taught Takeuchi-san, we busted up laughing, had to leave the room, then return when calm, and continue teaching. Ironically, the lesson then had me almost crying "Spirit tears" and Takeuchi started developing faith and understanding that sometimes his prayers are answered in unconventional ways he didn't expect.

We also taught Mai--who is Tsukamoto sensei--and at the end of the lesson, she kicked us out! We asked her to go to church with us, and she wouldn't do it. (My companion and I suspect she suffered a sudden oncoming of morning sickness and needed to get rid of us. Our suspicions have not been confirmed.) You all know that these are practice and not real lessons, right? 

My iron levels, thanks to spinach wraps with spinach inside & pills, have stabilized and are normal (135 range). However, I'm still exhausted. On Wednesday, yesterday, I nearly fell asleep in morning and evening class. However, it was not too bad because Tsukamoto shimai wasn't there to teach (too sick), so that cancelled the lesson with her, and during the evening, we had our first lesson with Japanese people on Skype! 

So yes! We skyped with a Nihonjin ("Japanese person") and he was very sweet. Once we left and our teacher talked to him, the Nihonjin told our teacher that the two of us were very good at Japanese and that we were very sweet and nice. *happy*

We leave in 3 weeks! :O I cannot believe it. But it is happening and it will be marvelous!

I love you all each so, SO much and think of you all daily.
You are treasures,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ice cream, cookies, and cheesecake

July 16, 2015

Konichiwa minusan! Hello everyone!

This week was amazing! I loved spending time in class, loved walking around in the evening with my dorio one day, and once, by some sort of miracle, the cafeteria served amazing food again. Beef enchiladas that were incredible and stuffed with iron! The next night, by some other miracle, they served meatballs. 

Lessons with our "investigators" have been going well. With Mai, we have been blessed to have one amazing lesson. We taught her about faith and she said she had some, we told her that the Spirit comes in all sorts of feelings. Mai works/interns at a Speech Therapy clinic and helps children learn Japanese pronunciation (Mai, not Tsukamoto Shimai our teacher. Confusing, I know). We told her that the good feeling she gets after helping someone is the Spirit. Her eyes lit up, and it was wonderful to see. However, the day after, she flat out declined going to church! She goes shopping with friends on Sunday, you see. It was a bit of a shock, but that's how it will likely be in Japan. [It is all a bit confusing, I imagine. Our "investigators" in the MTC are pretend investigators to help us practice our Japanese.]

Takeuchi's lessons are sort of going all over the place, however, tomorrow we start teaching him about the Restoration and Joseph Smith's first vision. 

Sunday's devotional and Tuesday's devotionals were amazing. The speakers talked about 100% obedience and our Branch President Johnson has challenged us to be 100% obedient. It's been hard, but I've seen a few blessings come from it. Study time, reading the scriptures, and edible food, have (perhaps) all been blessings coming from our commitment. Oh, every Saturday, we have "Closeout" in which each district gets together, watches a heart-warming Mormon Message, and then everyone either bears their testimony, or says what they liked about the message. This week's message was about learning how trials and challenges strengthen us and can make us better people. "Bearing our Burdens With Hope" it was called, and it is worth seeing, at least once. 

This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Tsukamoto Shimai did personal coaching with companion sets and when it was Wallace Shimai's and my turn to be coached about daily/weekly planning, she gave us several huge goals to do each week. We are already scrambling to complete the goals we have already set! It was hard to hear because it made me feel like I wasn't doing enough, wasn't working hard enough, wasn't learning fast enough. 

However, seconds after the meeting, seconds after listening to my companion fume about how unfair Tsukamoto Shimai had been, Heavenly Father sent us a MTC worker to talk to us. He was Japanese, and told us ways to talk to people in Japan (for example, on a train, read the Book of Mormon, point to a difficult character, ask someone to explain what it means, and let the conversation go from there). He told us he wasn't a member, but he totally was and it was really funny to pretend he wasn't. However, he was so sweet, so kind, and we learned about Japanese culture (first born sons are duty bound to take up the religion of his parents, for example). For both Wallace Shimai and me, the Japanese MTC worker was a god send. 

Oh! Funny awesome thing going on this week. During a scripture study, I cross-referenced something from 3 Nephi 12 (Beatitudes) to Alma 26:6. The verse in Nephi 12 was about inheriting the world and the cross reference was something DIFFERENT than Alma 26:6! However, verse six was amazing. It explained that having the ability to weather the worst of Earth's tempests was what inheriting the earth was. Not being a master of everything on it, but being able to be on Earth without being torn down and succumb to the hardships we face here. I liked that. 

At the MTC, I pray for and look for service moments and it is amazing to see what little things I find I can do for people. When I give others sincere & simple compliments, their faces light up, they smile, and even if it's for a few seconds, their attitudes brighten. So, I have seen that simple service works and is not that hard to do.  

I think of you very often and love you all!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rain or Shine, on Happiness I Dine

Dear everyone!

Hi! I hope you are all doing well! You all mean SO much to me and I think of you all often. 

This week was exciting, well, every week is exciting. :) 30 days till I leave to Japan! *nervous excited ecstatic*

Japanese is going well. There are different counter particles and we have been learning those this week in class. As well as teaching another teacher who is pretending to be a less active member. We are still teaching Mai and Takeuchi. During Mai's lesson planning, it took us fifteen minutes to figure out a sentence. However, we did it on our own and it was correct. Japanese is very hard but very rewarding. We gave Mai a "Faith" puzzle with the different components that build faith, questions, a desire to know, finding an answer, praying to see if it's right, testing your faith. 

It rained yesterday and it made me happy! Every Sister in our district went out after late lessons and danced around, took photos, and got soaked. It was marvelous and everyone outside loved being outside and everyone loved my adorable raincoat. It is so soft, and on Sunday, during a morning devotional, the coat came in handy as a blanket in the freezing gym. I might start using it as a blanket in our freezing classroom. 

On Sunday, I became very discouraged. It was hard to do simple tasks, hard not to cry, and it was generally miserable. It was no fun and it was exhausting. Monday morning rose bright, and I felt numb. I saw Heavenly Father reach out to me through friendly Elders sitting with us to talk about nerdy things during a meal, Sisters randomly giving me hugs, and letters from family, however, the blues didn't leave. Then, in the morning lesson, we were practicing extending baptism invitations to each other. We took turns being the Investigator and then the missionary. When I was the missionary, I testified of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and suddenly, as I spoke, I was flooded with an all-consuming feeling of how much Heavenly Father loves me, how much he cares, and how much he hasn't forgotten me. It. Was. Incredible. Ever since then, the Spirit has stayed with me and I have been able to bear discouragement much better. 

Heavenly Father lives! He lives, he helps us when we cannot stand, and he loves us more than anyone ever will. So, when you are down, pray. The answer might not come immediately, you might suffer a bit or a lot, however, the wait, the answer God will give you will be the greatest feeling ever. Rely on him, have hope, and miracles happen. 

Other things that happened this week have not been as monumental. I am praying in Japanese and am remembering much better. Everywhere I look, however, Heavenly Father places German or French-speaking missionaries in my path, and I about explode in happiness to talk to them in French or German. For Monday night teaching, the first couple we taught spoke German! The sister's name was Liesel, and she had lived in Frankfurt druing her childhood. 

Sisters Brady and James got to go to the airport to help a new sister. The new person had taken someone else's bag from the airport. So James and Brady accompanied the sister missionary (who did not yet have a companion) back to the airport on the shuttle. Brady and James Shimaitachi had a lot of fun being in the airport, but the rest of us in the district were worried because the front desk forgot to tell anyone where they had gone. In the end we were happy they had a good time. 

I love you all so much!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Email Number Three: Friends & Family

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Madeleine Cottle 
Date: 2015-07-02 16:50 GMT-06:00
Subject: Email Number Three: Friends & Family

Hello everyone!
How are you? What are you doing with your summers? It's so hot here now. Though in our classroom, it is so cold I always bring a blanket. 

This week was rather thrilling on various levels. The Mission President Seminar is over now. During the seminar, on Saturday, my companion and I were invited for a little visit with the MTC president. I think the clinic mentioned something about my fatigue so he wanted to make sure I was alright. While I waited to speak with the president, I was sitting in the hall, and there was Elder Bednar. I shook his hand. And Mom, he remembers Ursula! (Ursula is probably about Elder Bednar's age?) I told him about you, and when I told him your last name, Wöss, he said, "Ursula?" And I said, "no, Michaela, but Ursula is my aunt." And he smiled. 

The branch here is very sweet. All of the shimaitachi (sisters) say that my dorio (companion) and I are the sweetest & cutest ever. Haha. I'm still tired most of the time, but I manage to push through it and continue through personal study, lessons, Japanese. It's hard but doable and I Mom, you'll be happy to hear, I do it with minimal complaining :)

On Sunday, I got to watch President Monson get out of his car, into a wheelchair, and be helped into the MTC. It. Was. Awesome. I feel so honored. It was funny because one of the security women let slip to someone in our class building that President Monson was coming that morning. So ... all of the missionaries crowded in stairwells, crouched on stairs to wait. When our whispers got loud, a husky security guard warned us that if we were too loud, he'd have to shoo us away. We become silent and wait. Until the noise builds up again. However, we finally got the quiet thing down and waited, all on pins and needles until the security guard told us, "regretfully," that he had to shoo us away. Broken-hearted, all of us, about 150 of us, went away. However, I didn't want to give up so easily, so I went to an upper window and waited. And then I saw President Monson arrive! It was fun & awesome. 

The lessons with Takeuchi-san (who is also Brother Wilcox) are going better. The last lesson with him really flowed and I was amazed at everything my dorio and I were able to say & understand, and also that we were understood. It was a miracle. 

I love Japanese & love how the language sounds. It's really amazing and I cannot believe I have been here for three weeks! I was happy that I was able to put together a note to Tsukamoto Shimai (Sister Tsukamoto, my other Japanese teacher) in Japanese. It was two paragraphs long :) 

One of the Shimaitachi (sisters) here was very sick & for an activity on Monday, Wallace Shimai and I did splits with them. I stayed with the sick sister and the other two were able to go to the activity. The Sister I stayed with was very happy, we got along well (both of us being a bit nerdy). 

At Tuesday's devotional, Elder Sitati and his wife spoke to us and it was excellent. They are from Nigeria and helped to build up the Church there. Members first met in one family's home, the classes were in rooms, and Sacrament in the main living room. I loved listening to their stories. They talked about choosing to be happy and to follow Heavenly Father and the promptings He sends. 

And by the way, in the wake of the mission presidents' week, the usual cafeteria cardboard food has temporarily turned into 3 star restaurant food as we are now eating the leftovers from the mission president seminar :) Baked potatoes with cheese, boeuf bourguignon, asparagus, zucchini, shrimp, and best of all, smoked salmon with lemon. We think we should always eat like this :) But perhaps it would not prepare us as well to living out field?  

Random note, every night at 10:15, a kind of "Big Brother" voice comes over the intercom to tell us to have "quiet time." The voice comes back on at 10:30 pm to tell us it is bedtime. It's slightly odd and slightly creepy but also funny. I think it sparked a dream where I lived in 1984 a few nights ago! 

I love you all! I pray you are doing well & are happy.
Sister Cottle

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Email number two: Eat Drink and be Merry for Today is Pday


Hello everyone!

I think of you so often! Each day holds small reminders of all of you and I love you all. 

I found out an answer to my question of why we pray in the name of Christ. It's because when we say, "in Christ's name," we are aligning our will with Jesus' will, and we are showing Heavenly Father we are trying to be faithful and obedient (any input? comments welcome). 

This week had more adventures! We now have two teachers, Mai-san (Tsukamoto Shimai) and Wilcox Kyodai (Brother). Wilcox now also has an investigator persona. We started teaching Takeuchi-san last week and have had two lessons with him. We have also had two more lessons with Mai. Wallace Shimai and I hope our Japanese, though broken, is understandable. With the spirit's help perhaps we can make sense. We prepare every free moment. All study periods are devoted to figuring out what Mai-san and Takeuchi-san need to hear. I also want to figure out what Tsukamoto Shima and Wilcox Kyodai need to hear because they (as well as their investigator personas) are learning, progressing, as well as we are. 

This morning, Wallace Shima and I slept in, for half an hour! It was great. With all the activity and noise, I don't know how we did it, but it was needed rest. 

Friday was busy; we had our first lessons with Tsukamoto Shimai and she went over teaching tips with us and grammar. Wilcox Kyodai teaches in the afternoons now while she takes mornings. Even on Saturdays we have class. 

Sunday was meetings, split up church, James and Wallace Shimaitachi (plural of sister) taught one of the lessons; afterwards Wallace Shimai and I wwatched the film Joseph Smith: The Restauration (in Japanese!) :O I understood bits and pieces. Knowing the story helps. 

Please send your mailing addresses (normal mail) so I can write you letters. 

I met one of the French teachers and it was fun just to chat, to use French, and to talk in a language I know better. I also met two Elders going to Berlin this afternoon, and showed off my German. Poor guys had been in the MTC for only two days. But i *was* nice to them, saying mainly, "German is cool," Deutsch ist toll. Simple stuff like that. 

Everyone seems to be very stressed about the language they are learning, but for me, of everything here that stresses me, Japanese is not taht high up on the list. Every time I walk into the classroom, I am so excited to start! I love Japanese, I love my classmates, and my teachers are the sweetest people. It's so fun. I love listening to the language, even if I don't understand. Wallace Shimai is getting better and it is fun to watch her progress. 

I told her funny things about me over the week, like how nerdy I am, how I love singing in empty bathrooms, how I cannot eat cafeteria chicken cordon bleu (French form of cooked chicken). She said in response that she'll make a presentation of fifty things no one knew about me. Sister Wallace is funny and very sweet. 

The two of us are also reading The Book of Mormon in Japanese together. Five verses a day. We scream each time we understand a word in a verse. It helps our reading success that God, Jesus Christ, and Nephi are such common words. As well as prophet and Spirit! 

Spiritual Thought for the week: This week's devotional was about the Plan of Salvation, the plan of being spirits before mortal life, choosing to come to earth, and returninging to God after we die. It was very basic. However, the closing hymn sang was my ABSOLUTE favorite, "The Lord is My Shepherd." 

I was thinking about how Jesus does not view us as a herd. He sees us as individual sheep, individual people. He sees us wandering off and comes to us, running, and helping us back to green pastures with still waters. 

Currently, there is a New Mission President Seminar going on at the MTC. Several apostles are here now, and we eat in the gym. We've had Taco Bell and Subway catered to us. In class, a mission president and his wife spoke to us. They are going to one of the Brazil missions. We talked about prayer and I was in awe of how smart all of the people in my district are. 

The energy in my district, between everyone, is amazing. We all contribute to helping each other learn, to setting group goals, laughing together at our Japanese, and telling each other funny stories. They are all very nice. 

The MTC has these weird inventions called sack lunches. When missionaries are lazy, or when they don't want to put on pretty or very presentable clothing, or don't want to fight the cafeteria crowds, we can get lunches "around back." It's kind of odd. The sack lunches are not good, however, even worse than the normal food. And you can't get wraps; wraps are the only really edible thing here. 

For exercise and gym two days ago, we combined scripture study, lesson prep, and exercise. My companion (doriyo) and I walked around the building and read Jonah aloud as we explored the building. It was very fun. Jonah is not my favorite. However, Daniel in the lions' den is a favorite. We are planning on teaching Mai about Daniel next week. 

We are moving back to our old apartment because there are bats in our new building. I was disappointed. I like the new building, plus I wanted to see the bats. However, bats have diseases. So after this email, we are moving back. 

I love you all!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Email Number One: Tears and Triumphs

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hello everyone!

I love all of you, first and foremost, and I miss you all very much. 

Once at the MTC, after Mom, Thomas, Lucas, and Bre dropped me off (in the MTC lobby, no less), I was shown around the main building, then ate dinner with temporary companions till I found my companion in a new missionary training seminar. She said right off the bat, "I saw you and hoped you were my companion because you looked so cute!" Her name is Sister Wallace and she is from St. George. We get along very well. 

At first we were in Building 5 M and had a room on the top floor. Now, as of today, we are in Building 17 M and not on the highest floor. Mom, I hate to tell you this, but they have cake and ice cream in the vending machines and they no longer have fruit. :( Sister Wallace and I share a room with two others, Sisters James (from WA) and Brady (ID). Sister James is very stream of consciousness in the way she speaks, while her companion, Sister Brady, is very thoughtful & tactful. She is a bit older and taught at a middle school for a year before her mission. 

Class is difficult; it was 3 hours a day; now it is 6 hours. For the last five days (Sunday not included) we have taught a Japanese "investigator" named Mai Inufuku. The lessons are in Japanese. They are half an hour long and it takes about two hours to plan for them and even then Sister Wallace (Shimai = Sister in Japanese) and I are tongue tied each time she asks a question!

However, though it's hard for my companion, the feeling is not so foreign to me. Therefore, I try to be very positive and point out to Wallace Shimai that we ARE progressing and that we ARE understanding, at least a few things--which is GREAT! 

Days are spent doing almost everything. We get up at 6:30, have PE (Wallace Shimai & I mainly walk around an indoor track or get on the stationary bicycles), get ready for the day, breakfast @ 8:30, study, class, study, lunch, study, class, eat, study, sleep. Basically there is lots of studying every day. And I'm learning SO much.

I didn't know that while Jesus Christ was on the earth teaching, the Holy Ghost's powers were diminished. (Source: Bible Dictionary, Holy Ghost). Random, but I am learning stuff :)

This week's research question for me has been: what does it mean to say "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen" at the ending of a prayer? What are your thoughts? 

There are ten people in my little district, which is my class. Two young men and eight young women. All of them are so smart; one wants to go into biology, another into chemical engineering. In Japanese, all of us are forming sentences, badgering our teacher (Brother Wilcox, who is Brad Wilcox' son) about dates he goes on, teasing each other, laughing at the things we say. It's fun and I already feel like they're family, which is a good thing because we have nine weeks together. Hmm, nine weeks.

Every day has been an adventure. The second day was simply EVERYTHING. After a rough night's sleep, the alarm clock sounded like a military morning bell and I frightened my companion by remaining silent as we got ready. For the first 30/40 min of each morning after I get up, I have trouble speaking.  

I saw Brother Tanner and then we had a fire drill in the middle of his class (Brother Tanner is the bishop in my home ward). 

On Friday, horror of horror, my companion's dress malfunctioned. Right in the middle of class. First the zipper ate a few teeth. Then the dress simply ... popped off one side. I have never seen anything like it. And I have never seen anyone blush as deeply as our teacher did. So, once it was determined that the dress was broken, I ran around trying to find the two other sisters in our room (Brady and James). They then ran to get a dress for Wallace, who, the poor thing, had to sit in the classroom alone while everyone waited in the hall.

Saturday was relaxing. My companion and I chatted, didn't study much, had a great lesson with Mai, the investigator. Who next week will become our teacher. Plot twist! She is actually a "pretend" investigator.  

Sunday there were so MANY MEETINGS. Church is cut up and spread out between meals and smaller meetings. We studied for our lesson on Monday. Sunday evening, we watched the movie "The Characteristics of Christ" (it is Elder Bednar talking about Christ). He gave the talk several years ago in a Christmas devotional at the MTC and the talk was recorded. It was awesome and I learned a lot. And you all need to read it!

On Monday, we taught Mai, and had an amazing lesson and understood so much. :) 

I still don't have any sense of direction. That's fun to work with. It's good that Wallace knows where we should be going. She doesn't mind listening to my feminist rants (which I have been trying to keep to a minimum), she doesn't mind leading the way to places we go to every day, and on Wednesday, she even let me take a secret nap. Shh, don't tell anyone (good news: blood test showed my very low iron levels are inching up a bit). 

Tuesday was normal till the evening. That evening was a devotional. It was very instructive. The message was on obedience. 

After the devotional, my district/zone had to clean up because devotionals are on the gym floor and it's our job to clean up the chairs/mat after it is over. That took a long time and it was late when we got back to our rooms, finished for the day, and got to sleep.

I am having trouble sleeping, but I hope that this new bed will be better. 

On Tuesday, the doctor here gave me a prescription for iron pills that are more digestible than the ones I have. After the blood test, I was exhausted and it was REALLY hard not to fall asleep but somehow I stayed awake, likely because angels were bearing me up :)  

On Sunday we walked up and around the temple in the afternoon. 

Thank you so much for all of your support!

Wednesday was really hard. I slept badly, and by the time I woke up, I felt dizzy. Teaching Mai (for the last time) was really hard because my companion wanted to just read out of the manual and a little Japanese phrasebook we have. I was too tired to object and to tell her that's probably not the best way to teach a lesson. 

Needless to say, Mai took away the phrasebook AND the manual. We then felt terrible when everyone else was gushing about their lessons, "Oh my gosh, our lesson was amazing." It was a relief to have my suspicion confirmed that Mai was not a real investigator. I will wear a disguise next week when Mai becomes our new morning teacher. She will teach in the mornings and Brother Wilcox will teach in the evenings. 

Thursday is Pday (preparation day)! We don't get to sleep in, but the day is not as busy, so we do get to take naps if we want; we do laundry, go to the temple, rest; we moved into our new room, and I had a following-up dr. appointment. 

I love you all! Tell me news of you!! And news of the world!

Cottle Shimai (Sister)

Elder Bednar, The Character of Christ

Brigham Young University-Idaho Religion Symposium
January 25, 2003
Elder David A. Bednar
Good morning, brothers and sisters. I am delighted to be here with you. I pray for and invite the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you as together we discuss an important aspect of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last September I participated in an area training meeting in Twin Falls, Idaho. Elder Neal A. Maxwell presided at the training session, and on a Friday night and a Saturday morning he, the Idaho Area Presidency, and other general church officers instructed a group of approximately one hundred stake presidents. It was a meaningful and memorable time of spiritual enrichment, learning, and edification.
During the course of his teaching and testifying, Elder Maxwell made a statement that impressed me deeply and has been the recent focus for much of my studying, reflecting, and pondering. He said, "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." Since hearing this straightforward and penetrating statement, I have tried to learn more about and better understand the word "character." I have also pondered the relationship between Christ's character and the Atonement--and the implications of that relationship for each of us as disciples. This morning I hope to share with you just a few of the learnings that have come to my mind and heart as I have attempted to more fully appreciate this teaching by Elder Maxwell.
What is Character?
After returning home from the area training meeting in Twin Falls, the first question I attempted to answer was "What is character?" The Oxford English Dictionaryindicates that many of the uses of the word character relate to graphic symbols, printing, engraving, and writing. The usages I found most relevant, however, relate to ". . . the sum of the moral and mental qualities which distinguish an individual or a race; mental or moral constitution; moral qualities strongly developed or strikingly displayed" (Oxford English Dictionary Online, University Press 2003, Second Edition, 1989). Interestingly, when we look up the word "character" in the topical guide of our scriptures, we discover that it is cross-referenced to the topics of honesty, honor, and integrity.
Brigham Young emphasized the significance of the Savior's character as he taught and testified about the truthfulness of the Holy Bible:
. . . the Bible is true. It may not all have been translated aright, and many precious things may have been rejected in the compilation and translation of the Bible; but we understand, from the writings of one of the Apostles, that if all the sayings and doings of the Savior had been written, the world could not contain them. I will say that the world could not understand them. They do not understand what we have on record, nor the character of the Savior, as delineated in the Scriptures; and yet it is one of the simplest things in the world, and the Bible, when it is understood, is one of the simplest books in the world, for, as far as it is translated correctly, it is nothing but truth, and in truth there is no mystery save to the ignorant. The revelations of the Lord to his creatures are adapted to the lowest capacity, and they bring life and salvation to all who are willing to receive them. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 124, emphasis added)
Brigham Young further taught that faith must be focused upon Jesus' character, in His Atonement, and in the Father's plan of salvation:
. . . I will take the liberty of saying to every man and woman who wishes to obtain salvation through him (the Savior) that looking to him, only, is not enough:they must have faith in his name, character and atonement; and they must have faith in his father and in the plan of salvation devised and wrought out by the Father and the Son. What will this faith lead to? It will lead to obedience to the requirements of the Gospel; and the few words that I may deliver to my brethren and sisters and friends this afternoon will be with the direct view of leading them to God. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p. 56, Brigham Young, July 18, 1869, emphasis added)
The Character of the Lord Jesus Christ
In a message entitled "O How Great the Plan of Our God" delivered to CES religious educators in February of 1995 (p. 5), Elder Maxwell specifically linked Christ's character to the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice:
Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement. Without Jesus' sublime character there could have been no sublime atonement! His character is such that He "[suffered] temptations of every kind" (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations "no heed" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:22).
Someone has said only those who resist temptation really understand the power of temptation. Because Jesus resisted it perfectly, He understood temptation perfectly, hence He can help us. The fact that He was dismissive of temptation and gave it "no heed," reveals His marvelous character, which we are to emulate (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:22; 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27).
Perhaps the greatest indicator of character is the capacity to recognize and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. Character is revealed, for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. Thus, character is demonstrated by looking and reaching outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and turn inward. If such a capacity is indeed the ultimate criterion of moral character, then the Savior of the world is the perfect example of such a consistent and charitable character.
Examples of Christ's Character in the New Testament
The New Testament is replete with "strikingly displayed" examples of the Savior's character. We are all well aware that following His baptism by John the Baptist and as a preparation for His public ministry, the Savior fasted for forty days. He also was tempted by the adversary to inappropriately use His supernal power to satisfy physical desires by commanding that stones be made bread, to gain recognition by casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and to obtain wealth and power and prestige in exchange for falling down and worshiping the tempter (see Matthew 4:1-9). It is interesting to note that the overarching and fundamental challenge to the Savior in each of these three temptations is contained in the taunting statement, "If thou be the Son of God." Satan's strategy, in essence, was to dare the Son of God to improperly demonstrate His God-given powers, to sacrifice meekness and modesty, and, thereby, betray who He was. Thus, Satan attempted repeatedly to attack Jesus' understanding of who He was and of His relationship with His Father. Jesus was victorious in meeting and overcoming the strategy of Satan.
I suspect the Savior may have been at least partially spent physically after forty days of fasting--and somewhat spiritually drained after His encounter with the adversary. With this background information in mind, please turn with me now to Matthew 4, and together we will read verse 11: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."
This verse in the King James version of the New Testament clearly indicates that angels came and ministered to the Savior after the devil had departed. And, undoubtedly, Jesus would have benefitted from and been blessed by such a heavenly ministration in a time of physical and spiritual need.
However, the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 4:11 provides a remarkable insight into the character of Christ. Please note the important differences in verse 11 between the King James version and the Joseph Smith Translation: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him (John)."
Interestingly, the additions found in the JST completely change our understanding of this event. Angels did not come and minister to the Savior; rather, the Savior, in His own state of spiritual, mental, and physical distress, sent angels to minister to John. Brothers and sisters, it is important for us to recognize that Jesus in the midst of His own challenge recognized and appropriately responded to John--who was experiencing a similar but lesser challenge than that of the Savior's. Thus, the character of Christ is manifested as He reached outward and ministered to one who was suffering--even as He himself was experiencing anguish and torment.
In the upper room on the night of the last supper, the very night during which He would experience the greatest suffering that ever took place in all of the worlds created by Him, Christ spoke about the Comforter and peace:
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:25-27)
Once again the fundamental character of Christ is revealed magnificently in this tender incident. Recognizing that He himself was about to intensely and personally experience the absence of both comfort and peace, and in a moment when His heart was perhaps troubled and afraid, the Master reached outward and offered to others the very blessings that could and would have strengthened Him.
In the great intercessory prayer, offered immediately before Jesus went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron to the Garden of Gethsemane, the Master prayed for His disciples and for all:
. . . which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me . . .
. . . that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:20, 21, 23, 26)
I find myself repeatedly asking the following questions as I ponder this and other events that took place so close to the Savior's suffering in the garden and His betrayal: How could He pray for the well-being and unity of others immediately before His own anguish? What enabled Him to seek comfort and peace for those whose need was so much less than His? As the fallen nature of the world He created pressed in upon Him, how could He focus so totally and so exclusively upon the conditions and concerns of others? How was the Master able to reach outward when a lesser being would have turned inward? The statement I quoted earlier from Elder Maxwell provides the answer to each of these powerful questions:
Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement. Without Jesus' sublime character there could have been no sublime atonement! His character is such that He "[suffered] temptations of every kind" (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations "no heed" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:22). ("O How Great the Plan of Our God," message delivered to CES religious educators in February of 1995, p. 5)
Jesus, who suffered the most, has the most compassion for all of us who suffer so much less. Indeed, the depth of suffering and compassion is intimately linked to the depth of love felt by the ministering one. Consider the scene as Jesus emerged from His awful suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Having just sweat great drops of blood from every pore as part of the infinite and eternal Atonement, the Redeemer encountered a multitude:
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew unto Jesus to kiss him.
But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. (Luke 22:47-50)
Given the magnitude and intensity of Jesus' agony, it perhaps would have been understandable if He had not noticed and attended to the guard's severed ear. But the Savior's character activated a compassion that was perfect. Note His response to the guard as described in verse 51: "And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him (Luke 22:51).
As individually impressive as is each of the preceding events, I believe it is the consistency of the Lord's character across multiple episodes that is ultimately the most instructive and inspiring. In addition to the incidents we have thus far reviewed, recall how the Savior, while suffering such agony on the cross, instructed the Apostle John about caring for Jesus' mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). Consider how, as the Lord was taken to Calvary and the awful agony of the crucifixion was commenced, He pleaded with the Father in behalf of the soldiers to ". . . forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Remember also that in the midst of excruciating spiritual and physical pain, the Savior offered hope and reassurance to one of the thieves on the cross, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Throughout His mortal ministry, and especially during the events leading up to and including the atoning sacrifice, the Savior of the world turned outward--when the natural man or woman in any of us would have been self-centered and focused inward.
Developing a Christlike Character
We can in mortality seek to be blessed with and develop essential elements of a Christlike character. Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts associated with the capacity to reach outward and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination. Rather, we are dependent upon and in need of "the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8). But "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30) and "in [the] process of time" (Moses 7:21), we are enabled to reach outward when the natural tendency is for us to turn inward.
It is interesting to me that one of the central elements of the word character is created by the letters A, C, and T. As we already have seen in the examples of Christ's character from the New Testament, the nature and consistency of how one acts reveals in a powerful way his or her true character. In the case of Christ, he is described as one ". . . who went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). Let me now briefly share with you two memorable experiences from my service as a stake president that highlight the relationship between our actions and a Christlike character.
Early one summer morning I was showering. My wife called to me in the middle of my shower and indicated that I was needed immediately on the telephone. (This was before the day of cell and cordless phones). I quickly put on my robe and hurried to the phone. I next heard the voice of a dear sister and friend informing me of a tragic automobile accident that had just occurred in a remote area involving three teenage young women from our stake. Our friend indicated one of the young women had already been pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and that the two other young women were badly injured and presently were being transported to the regional medical center in Fayetteville. She further reported that the identity of the deceased young woman was not yet known. There was urgency in her voice, but there was no panic or excessive alarm. She then asked if I could go to the hospital, meet the ambulance when it arrived, and assist in identifying the young women. I answered that I would leave immediately.
During the course of our telephone conversation and as I listened to both the information being conveyed and the voice of our friend, I gradually became aware of two important things. First, this friend's daughter was one of the young women involved in the accident. Our friend lived approximately 35 miles from the hospital and therefore needed the assistance of someone who lived closer to the city. Second, I detected that the mother simultaneously was using two telephone handsets--with one in each hand pressed to each of her ears. I became aware that as she was talking with me, she was also talking with a nurse at a small rural hospital who had initially attended to the three accident victims. Our friend was receiving updated information about the condition of the young women in the very moment she was informing me about the accident and requesting my help. I then heard one of the most remarkable things I have ever heard in my life.
I faintly heard the nurse telling this faithful mother and friend that the young woman pronounced dead at the scene of the accident had been positively identified as her daughter. I could not believe what I was hearing. I was listening to this good woman in the very moment that she learned of the death of her precious daughter. Without hesitation, and with a calm and most deliberate voice, our friend next said, "President Bednar, we must get in contact with the two other mothers. We must let them know as much as we can about the condition of their daughters and that they will soon be in the hospital in Fayetteville." There was no self-pity; there was no self-absorption; there was no turning inward. The Christlike character of this devoted woman was manifested in her immediate and almost instinctive turning outward to attend to the needs of other suffering mothers. It was a moment and a lesson that I have never forgotten. In a moment of ultimate grief, this dear friend reached outward when I likely would have turned inward.
I then drove to the hospital with a concern in my heart for the well-being of the two other beautiful young women who had been involved in the accident. Little did I realize that the lessons I would learn about Christlike character--lessons taught by seemingly ordinary disciples--were just beginning.
I arrived at the hospital and proceeded to the emergency room. After properly establishing who I was and my relationship to the victims, I was invited into two different treatment areas to identify the injured young women. It was obvious that their respective wounds were serious and life threatening. And the lovely countenances and physical features of these young women had been badly marred. Within a relatively short period of time, the two remaining young women died. All three of these virtuous, lovely, and engaging young women--who seemed to have so much of life in front of them--suddenly had gone home to their Eternal Father. My attention and the attention of the respective families now shifted to funeral arrangements and logistics.
A day or so later, in the midst of program planning and detail arranging for the three funerals, I received a phone call from the Relief Society president of my home ward. Her daughter had been one of the victims in the accident, and she and I had talked several times about her desires for the funeral program. This faithful woman was a single mother rearing her only child--her teenage daughter. I was especially close to this woman and her daughter having served as both their bishop and stake president. After reviewing and finalizing several details for the funeral of her daughter, this good sister said to me, "President, I am sure it was difficult for you to see my daughter in the emergency room the other day. She was severely injured and disfigured. As you know, we will have a closed casket at the funeral. I have just returned from the funeral home, and they have helped my daughter to look so lovely again. I was just wondering . . . why don't we arrange a time when we can meet at the mortuary and you can have one last look at her before she is buried. Then your final memories of my daughter will not be the images you saw in the emergency room the other day." I listened and marveled at the compassion and thoughtfulness this sister had for me. Her only daughter had just been tragically killed, but she was concerned about the potentially troublesome memories I might have given my experience in the emergency room. In this good woman I detected no self-pity and no turning inward. Sorrow, certainly. Sadness, absolutely. Nevertheless, she reached outward when many or perhaps most of us would have turned inward with sorrow and grief.
Let me describe one final episode related to these three tragic deaths. On the day of her daughter's funeral, this Relief Society president from my home ward received a phone call from an irritated sister in our ward. The complaining sister had a cold and did not feel well, and she basically chewed out the Relief Society president for not being thoughtful or compassionate enough to arrange for meals to be delivered to her home. Just hours before the funeral of her only child, this remarkable Relief Society president prepared and delivered a meal to the murmuring sister.
We appropriately and rightly speak with reverence and awe of young men who sacrificed their lives to rescue stranded handcart pioneers and of other mighty men and women who repeatedly gave their all to establish the Church in the early days of the Restoration. I speak with equal reverence and awe of these two women--women of faith and character and conversion--who taught me so much and instinctively reached outward when most of us would have turned inward. Oh how I appreciate their quiet and powerful examples.
I noted earlier in my remarks that the letters A, C, and T form a central component in the word character. Also noteworthy is the similarity between the words character and charity--as both words contain the letters C, H, A, and R. Etymologically there is no relationship between these two words. Nevertheless, I believe there are several conceptual connections that are important for us to consider and ponder.
Let me suggest that you and I must be praying and yearning and striving and working to cultivate a Christlike character if we hope to receive the spiritual gift of charity--the pure love of Christ. Charity is not a trait or characteristic we acquire exclusively through our own purposive persistence and determination. Indeed we must honor our covenants and live worthily and do all that we can do to qualify for the gift; but ultimately the gift of charity possesses us--we do not posses it (see Moroni 7:47). The Lord determines if and when we receive all spiritual gifts, but we must do all in our power to desire and yearn and invite and qualify for such gifts. As we increasingly act in a manner congruent with the character of Christ, then perhaps we are indicating to heaven in a most powerful manner our desire for the supernal spiritual gift of charity. And clearly we are being blessed with this marvelous gift as we increasingly reach outward when the natural man or woman in us would typically turn inward.
I conclude now by returning to where I began--the statement by Elder Maxwell in that special training session last September: "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." It was the Prophet Joseph Smith who stated that "it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). The New Testament is a rich resource for learning about and increasing our appreciation for the character and life and example of the Savior. My prayer for each of us is that through our study of this sacred volume of scripture we will more fully come unto Him; more completely become like Him; and more fervently worship, reverence, and adore Him.
As a witness, I declare my witness. I know and testify and witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. I know that He lives. And I testify that His character made possible for us the opportunities for both immortality and eternal life. May we reach outward when the natural tendency for us is to turn inward, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.