Thursday, February 28, 2013

Eternal Families, Scripture Study, and the power of investigators

Well can you believe it's day #30 of being on a mission already? I can't. And as of tomorrow we'll be in our departure month! I'm still so pumped to get reassigned somewhere. Also, I got the package this week! Thank you so much for all of the things I asked for! (especially all those pictures, which are tacked to my bulletin board above my desk now)

I never thought I would miss wearing long sleeve shirts so much, but something about wearing a suit with short sleeves on is unsatisfying.

Well just another fantastic week at the MTC. I just got back from doing sealings with my district. What an amazing opportunity to be sealed for TIME AND ALL ETERNITY! Wow. Can you even wrap your head around the concept of being with your best friend for eternity? I observed the happiest couple today during our sealing session (reminded me a lot of Jim & Roxy Beardall, but with an extra 70 years) and I just got thinking about how blessed we are to have such an amazing opportunity. Eternal families are so wonderful, and provide the perfect eternal learning environment! Of course eternal families are divine, but just take a minute, right now, in silence, to think about being with the individual members of your family for the next 20 years...50 years...100 yeas... 10,000 years... Go.

What an incredible blessing. I hope you really did take a minute of silence. If you didn't, this is your final prompting. (this includes all those who are reading this in groups of families, friends, quorums, etc.)

One thing that has been engraved in my mind this week is the power of the Spirit through silence. When all there is inside your head is your thoughts and the spirit, amazing things happen.

I've decided that before I get engaged, but while I'm holding back from popping the question, I'm going to read the BoM all the way through and study about the Endowment, Sealing Power, Marriage, Families, Relationships, and Parenting examples of the Savior. I've learned that studying the gospel aligns priorities to enable making the right decisions for the right reasons.

I realized that I haven't talked much about the investigators we have been teaching here at the MTC. Just a refresher from Elder Joseph Hicken: these are my teachers acting as an investigator they taught on their mission. Our first week or two we taught "Hermano Gabe O.", the father of an active member family who was never baptized or interested. After we set him up with a baptism date, we recieved two new 'referalls' and started teaching "Hermana Cristi B." and "Hermano Marco A.".  Both were members of unwed families (which are incredibly common in Suramerica) but both are "golden investigators" (which are also incredibly common) as was Hermano A. I think drinking from a fire hose might be a more common phrase among missionaries and investigators, but Hermano A. and Hermana B. are both more akin to filling a swimming pool in one of those sponge races we always played at youth conference. So willing and ready to change, while we can barely study enough to effectively teach everything they want to know!

Well I think there are a bunch of missionaries here from BYU as of yesterday, but I haven't been fortunate enough to run in to them yet. (since today is p-day and their first normal day...)

Our biggest problem as a district right now is going to bed after the lights get turned off. All of us have a love and respect for each other that translates into curiousity, which in turn leads to some late nights. (haha, the idea of a late night is so skewed on a mission. Don't worry, we aren't staying up until 5am.)

I've been sharing so many scriptures for so many different reasons with so many different people that it's hard to keep track, so if I've already expressed my love for Alma 17:2-3, you're in for a refresher. If you want to know how to make a missionary happy, study Alma 17:2-3. What an incredible reunion! If you have a missionary you want to be happy, just share with them about your scripture study, fasting, and prayer, and the resulting spirit of prophesy, revelation, and knowlege. And thanks to our new high tech system, you can even write them down and pay a small fee (stamp) to have it delivered right to them! How blessed are we! Just think of how elated Dan Jones would have been to receive a letter that had been written days, not months before (Dan Jones was an early missionary for the Church in Wales)!

The Lord is certainly hastening his work. Relief Society at the MTC now fills the entire gym. (Which also has stadium risers as of a few years ago now) The choir is limited acceptance, and getting close to half and half.

Well, Russel M Ballard spoke to us on Tuesday. That was pretty darn cool. Is there any way to watch (live or recorded) MTC devotionals in the real world? If so, they're great.

I want to emphasize the amazing blessing the Centennial Ward could be if we, the members of it, utilized it. We have an amazing opportunity to have the best ward in the church (with all due humility) however in my missionary opinion, we lack a very crucial part of the church what seems like every week! This crucial element of church, specifically sacrament meeting, is investigators! We don't have nearly enough people coming to church with us to see the wonderful blessing we quite possibly might be taking advantage of! Now I know this was a concern of dear Bishop Miller's, and with the power of that wonderful man, missionary work very well could be flourishing after me being away for only a month, but I want to emphasize the importance of not taking the blessing of our ward for granted. Bring friends to church! Especially fast and testimony meeting! It is your greatest and most wonderful tool for casually sharing the happy spirit that you have as part time missionaries and members of the Centennial Ward!

To young men and women, whether you have decided to be a full time missionary or remain a part time missionary: Love Preach my Gospel. Love it with your whole soul! If you're going to be a full time missionary you don't have any time in the MTC to get to know it, so you better be best friends well before you receive your letter from the Prophet. If you've decided a part time missionary job is best for you, then you have even less time to memorize the principals, doctrines, and methods within Preach my Gospel, because you are already on your part time mission! No MTC for you! Study up! If you think you know everything you need to know, you have got a lot to learn, so study up!

To all those who skipped over the last paragraph because it started with "to the young men and women", Noah lived to be over 700. Go back and read it. You're young in the Lord's eyes.

I love all of you, and my only hope is to bring to your attention the grand potential with which you have been endowed. You have chosen through coming to Earth to take your opportunities into your own hands. "Don't wait for a special occasion. Every day of your life is a special occasion!" -President Monson

Thanks for all of the wonderful support! Pictures later today hopefully!

Elder Hicken

p.s. Shout out to Bianca McDown and family: Elder Lehman is awesome and I'm so happy for the whole lot of you on a daily basis. May God bless that we can meet someday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Study the Atonement, Love the Temple, and Feast upon the Scriptures


Hopefully this letter will be a little longer, more informational than the previous ones. Life can get pretty hectic in the MTC when it comes to computer time. Especially for District Leaders.

First, I'll respond to all of the letters Mom has sent me.
  • I don't know if I ever told you, but I didn't get anything that Kerri put up on the blog that you might have sent via called2serve. Maybe because of that page limit you mentioned. I would love to see the picture that Sister McKinnon produced. Sounds sweet! Also, I would love to get a reader's digest paragraph for each of my cousins. And maybe what people in the family are up to? 
  •  Sierra! You are so awesome! Thank you so much for writing to me, and especially to my companion, Elder Bradley. He loved your letter. Just so you know, I'm not being naughty...=P It's crazy that someone is always going to be gone from the family for a whole month! I've never noticed that MTC sounds like Empty Sea before, but my friend Elder Lehman thinks it's really funny. 
  • Random: Two of the Hermanas in my zone are going to the LA visitors center! Hermanas Phillips and Howell. Just in case you go to the temple G&G!
  • Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to take pictures in the cafeteria, so I can't get a picture of eating. And because I spent most of my time in the dishroom and not in the actual cafeteria, I'm not really sure if it's fuller. Though yesterday I heard we got 1200 new missionaries, and today the lines were HUGE (luckily after we got our food).
  • That story about Lily and I getting married is awesome. If anybody has ever seen the beginning of Fireproof, I aspire to that, so this is a little taste.
  • As for choir, we went the first week, but we have class during the rehersal on tuesday, up until the devotional itself, which means we can't ever sing in the actual one. Though we got our teacher to let us out early last week so we could at least do it once. I think the most inspiring 'meeting' so far has been President Bednar's MTC address from Christmas 2002(?) called Character of Christ. It's a must see. Again and again. All the missionaries rant and rave about it whenever it's showing on Sunday nights (read it here).
  • All four of us in our district are going to Peru, though Elder Lehman is going to Cuzco instead of Lima Central like the rest of us.
Elder Hicken, Elder Bradley, and Elder McKell all headed to Lima...with Elder Lehman pointing to Cuzco
Where I will be for the next two years!
Peru Lima, Central Mission, HERE I COME! (In a few weeks)
Elder Lehman pointing to his mission: Cuzco, Peru
    • The rumor about the bunks is half correct. We moved another bunk bed into every room in our building last week, and most of the other buildings are following suit. All the Hermanas are already 6 in a room. 
    • I'll try and get a portrait picture, if I can manage to remember when I'm not in Pday clothes!
    • The Elders that looked like they were going to Bolivia are the two who are going to Colombia.
    • That drawer is everything we keep of the treats that are given to us 4 elders. We get more than we can eat, so things go bad before we finish them. 
    • I got that Valentine chain! It's hanging up in our classroom, so I'll try and get a picture of that too.
    • I haven't gotten that letter with the $10 and picture of the girls, so I hope it's not lost or anything.
    • I ran past G'ma Gunn's house on Tuesday! But I actually just realized I live in the building right across the fence from it. Yay!
    • ZRT = zone resource teacher. We have an AM teacher, a PM teacher, and the zone has two ZRTs that just go around and help whoever needs help with anything. We don't ever have those group meetings though. As for Hermano Hardy, he doesn't know anyone in Chicago, so no luck. Sorry, Pop.
    Thanks for all those letters! It's nice to know what's going on at home! 
    Now for what's going on here!

    This is my last week as District Leader! They switch halfway through, and this is the end of week 3 for me. Can you believe it's been that long/short. I'm not even sure how time works anymore. Either way, the only two Elders left in the Zone who are older than our District leave on Monday and Tuesday, which means one of the two companionships in our district will be called as zone leader. Yesterday we had 11 new elders move into our zone. One is from Aurora, CO. Went to Grandview HS, going to Mexico.

    I think lots of people come into the MTC next week, verdad? (s/o to you BYU students) If someone could send me who is coming in so I can keep an eye out, that would be great. I see Hermana Zortman and ...Sister (something crazy in Hungarian) Butterfield daily, and Hermana Scaife (sp?) is on my classroom floor. Several other Elders from BYU as well.

    Well on Tuesday at 3pm our classroom was called over the intercom, which never happens, and our two Columbian-headed elders were called to the travel office. (this is after having their visas declined on Friday, after recieving flight plans to leave on Monday morning at 4) Sure enough, their visas came in and they left on a plane to Columbia at 5 Wednesday morning! Crazy, the work is hastening too fast for paperwork to keep up with it.

    I know that might not be a big deal to all of you, since you don't know my District family, but for me it's a huge deal. These 5 guys have become so close to me so fast, it's very hard to part with them.

    Anyone who can't decide about serving a mission, start studying the Atonement with all of your energy of soul. You will not be able to resist the desire to share the amazing effects of a knowlege of the Atonement. As for everyone who has already been on a full time mission, congratulations, you're now a part time missionary--you're not done sharing. If you lack an intense desire to share the gospel, you'd best start studying the Atonement right along with everyone else. If you don't fit in either of those categories, you should study the Atonement. In summary, STUDY THE ATONEMENT! It is so wonderful, so happy, so inspiring, so spectacularly amazing! I know it is because as I study it every day, as I share it every day, as I pray about it every day, my happiness has grown exponentially, my energy has increased in duration, my attention has been refocused, and my desires are being tuned! If you seek happiness, seek a testimony of the Atonement, and the happiness will come with a flood of our Savior's love.

    The Temple is so wonderful. Memorize everything! Feast on the words spoken in the Temple! I can't express how much I love going time and time again. But most importantly, fear to take advantage of the scriptures. Be afraid of falling into the category of people Nephi spoke to in 2 Nephi 32:7! But even more so, fear to hearken unto the evil spirit which teacheth a man not to pray. Which whispers "you're too tired", "try it first and then pray", "see if you can do it on your own". If you're ever thinking of praying, you should be praying. Ye must pray always! (verse 9) The ability to do things without prayer is a vice, and a weakness. It is harder to rely on the spirit, than to do it yourself. I love these words, and I hope they strike you with the same importance they strike me, for "these are the things of my soul".
    And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—Therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5)
    What a powerful, wonderful, inspiring verse. I am sometimes horrified by the world, and this verse has inspired me with strength to wield a sword of truth and virtue as I visit the world.

    I have come to anticipate being reassigned. The last district to leave our zone went all over the US, and it sounds so wonderful! Two missions? Sign me up! I don't care if I'm going to Miami, FL mission (yes, I think that sounds...unfavorable) I want to get reassigned. (Just for a few months. =])

    Well not too many more pictures this week, since it's only been one week and the initial picture taking has settled down a bit. 

    Elder Frehner calling his parents, telling them his travel plans were cancelled for Friday :(
    3 days later, he found out he was leaving after all!
    Trying to take an illegal picture legally.
    Playing the line game with Elder Lehman (someone doodles a line and the other turns it into something).  Look at the doodle between us...this Juabu (accent on the U) was picasso-ed.  (notice the valentine chain!--festive...thanks!)
    A candid photo during our break.
    I leave a note for the MTC dishwashers at every meal!
     As for everyone who is still waiting on letter responses, I don't have any addresses except for return addresses I've ripped off letters, and I've got a stack that grows almost faster than I can respond! But have no fear!

    Estoy muy feliz estar aqui al CCM, y esta tan divertido aprender sobre el Evangelio todavia cada dia. Me encantan las Escrituras, y estoy muy agredecido por mi maestros cuando me ayuda aprender y entender las cosas preciosas en cada vesiculo. Mi testimonio esta progressando y llego a ser un persona mas verdaderamente feliz. ¡Me encata Español y lo tan hablo como posible! Estoy muy agredecido por mis amigos en el Evangelio en mi distrito, mi zona, y los lideros que me guia. Me gusta ensenar. Me gusta compartir. Me gusta testificar. Me gusta este sentido de siempremente felicidad que esta siempre aqui en el CCM. Te amo mucho, y no puedo esperar hasta pueden ver como he cambiar. Especialmente al fin de mi mission, porque si he cambiar este mucho ya en solomente tres semanas, ¡voy a tan cambiar en dos años!

    (I'm very happy to be here in the MTC, and it is very fun to learn about the gospel all day every day.  I love the scriptures, and I am very grateful for my teachers when they help me learn and understand the precious things in each verse.  My testimony is growing and I am becoming a truly happier person.  I love Spanish and I speak it as much as I can!  I am very grateful for my gospel friends in my district,  my zone, and my leaders that guide me.  I like to teach.  I like to share.  I like to testify.  I like this constant feeling of happines that is always here in the MTC.   I love you very much, and I can't wait until you see how I've changed.  Especially at the end of my mission, because if I have changed this much already in only 3 weeks, I will change so much in 2 years!)

    Sorry, real world, but I don't miss you at all! I think I'm going to stay here for the rest of my life. (Literally...missionary, then MTC teacher, then if I don't get some type of calling, I'm just going to work in the dishroom for the rest of my life.--just kidding, the dishroom is tan aburrido.(very boring))
    I hope that's long enough to make up for the last little bit!

    Hasta luego!

    (p.s. Kerri you're the bomb! Thanks for helping an Elder out!)

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Photos of our Favorite Missionary!

    Thank you, Elder Hicken, for sending us some pictures!  It is incredible to see you in the service of the Lord, learning how to spread the gospel and increasing your own testimony among these other missionaries going to serve throughout the world!

    Entering the Missionary Training Center, January 30, 2013
    Uncle Josh helps Talon with his luggage at the Salt Lake City Airport

    The farewell lunch just before dropping Elder Hicken off at the MTC.
    Where?  The Creamery on 9th, of course!
    With Amber, Magdalena, James, Uncle Josh and Aunt Brynn
    What a Missionary!  Armed with righteousness and the power of God.
    I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)

    Elder Hicken being greeted by MTC personnel, with cousin Amber in the car.

    And a farewell video as he hugs Uncle Josh, Aunt Brynn (behind the camera), and cousin Amber.

    and he's off...

     Goodbye, Talon!
    We will miss you but are confident in you and that you are on the Lord's errand!

    Missionaries at the Provo Temple

    The View of the Provo Temple from the MTC

    Missionary Temple Day at the Provo UT Temple
    (Did you find Talon the back row on the right?)

    Elder Hicken Walks on Water?
    The Temple brings about great things, but I didn't think this was one of them...

    Elder Bradley, Elder Hicken, Elder Lehman, Elder Frehner, Elder Staley,  Elder McKell
    Elder Frehner, Elder Staley, Elder McKell, Elder Bradley, Elder Lehman, Elder Hicken
    Elder McKell outside the Provo Temple
    Elder Lehman outside the Provo Temple
    Elder Staley humoring my artistic photography side.
    Turned out pretty well!

    Elder Bradley and I outside the Provo Temple
    The Provo Temple after snow

    Talon's MTC District
    from left to right:
    Elder Talon Hicken, from Colorado
    Elder Zane McKell from Texas
    Elder David Lehman from Minnesota
    Elder Garth Frehner from Utah
    Elder Nick Staley from Utah
    Elder Thomas Bradley from Texas (Talon's MTC companion)

    Elder Staley, Elder Bradley, Elder McKell, Elder Frehner, Elder Hicken

    Ordinary Life in the MTC
    Study Time
     (Check out that VIEW from the window -- sunset and all!!)

    Photo Time
    Thinking Time
    Revelation Time

    Motivation Time
    Sharing the Gospel with All the World

    Devotional Time
    There's nothing wrong with being early to the devotional... beat the crowds!

    Peach Rings: YUM!

    Laundry Tme: YUCK!
    Joseph Smith's Bag:  Full of scriptures and supplies to preach the gospel
    Elder Lehman's Bag: Full of stinky laundry
    I thought we were told to take no thought for the morrow, or withal I shall be clothed (D&C 84:81) mean I have to wash these?

    Take your pick.
    MTC = Missionary Tshirt Corporation

    Running into the only place to shop in the MTC

    This is our junk drawer -- not filled with rubberbnds and pencils, but all the awesome treats that we get as an apartment!  We try to eat it as fast as we can...Thank you all!

    And in some things, I have no idea...
    We'll just need to wait for Elder Hicken to come home and explain...

    But all in all, everything is A-OK!
    Thanks, Elder Staley!