Thursday, September 29, 2005

Letter from September 29 continued

(I accidentally sent that before I was ready, so let me finish now).

Before I came here, everybody told me that I'd be really annoyed with the other elders because they're all 19-20 years old and immature. Thus far I've found that to be untrue. As stated in my setting-apart blessing, I've been blessed with "the maturity and understanding to be able to understand the other missionaries who come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of maturity . . . the perception to see the good in them . . ." At this point, I'm more concerned that the other missionaries will have the perception to see the good in me . . . and maybe the courage to help me improve.

Ah, well' until next week: A la prochain!

Elder Jensen

Letter dated September 26, 2005

Dear World,

The districts just ahead of us are going to leave tomorrow, which means we'll be the "oldest" French-speaking missionaries at the MTC (I think; at least in our branch). That means there are just a few more weeks before I leave for France! Crazy.

When I'm learning French, I feel like I'm not learning much, but when I take a step back and realize that I understood an entire Sacrament meeting talk, or that I just explained God's Plan of Salvation, entirely in French, I can't help but be amazed at how quickly I've learned as much as I have.

I've finished reading the Pearl of Great Price, and I'll probably start reading the Doctrine & Covenants soon. I'm also trying to memorize a bunch of scripture locations; that's proving to be more difficult than anything else I do here.

I'm also having some difficulty getting along with my mission companion. We never exactly "clicked," but up until now, we've gotten along alright. We're opposites in just about every way. We're from opposite sides of the globe; I'm a computer geek, while he's always been very sporty; I've got a build that you might call "wiry," whereas he's got the pecs of Arnold Schwarzenegger; I'm cheery and full of smiles, while he's more . . . I think "surly" is the word, but I don't have a dictionary . . .; I constantly feel the need to be doing something constructive, and he sometimes just wants to chill; our communication styles are totally different. In short, the only thing we both have in common is our mission call. Considering all that, it's really nothing shor of miracuous that we've been able to get along with each other as constant compaions for over a month! But last night he told me that I'm really starting to bug hi. That's not so bad, in an of itself, but he then refused to say anymore. FYI Girls: guys hate it when you pull this, "If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you" stunt. It's ridiculous. So I was really surprised when my tough guy companion suddenly clammed up and wouldn't talk bluntly about what I was doing to get on his nerves. I asked him about it again today, and he still wouldn't talk about it. (He said, "You're clueless!" I said, "Yeah, I am. You've probably noticed by now that I'm clueless about a lot of things. I'd appreciate it if you'd be patient enough to help me know wha tI'm doing wrong.") "Don't worry; we're only here for three more weeks," he said. I replied, "Three weeks is a long time at the MTC: besides, if something bugs you, it''ll probably bug my next companion too." He agreed that it probably will. "So you're not doing anybody any favors," I said, "by not telling me."

"I don't have to do anyone any favors," he said. I told him yes, he does--he's a missionary; if he didn't come here to serve others then why is he here? He still hasn't answered.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Letter dated September 19, 2005

Dear World,
It's hard for me to remember what I've written in letters previously, so please forgive me if I repeat myself or forget to mention something. (Mary, thanks for the letter. Keep in touch!)

I got sick for a few days about a week ago, but I'm healthy again now. I'm starting to get tired of the food here at the MTC, but I still have a ways to go before I'm ready for France. The schedule here is pretty unrelenting. Other than about an hour of gym, a few days a week (I'm learning to love volleyball!), we're always either in class, eating, sleeping, studying,, or going to Church meetings, firesides, or devotionals.

Most of my district joined the choir, and it's been nice to be able to sing now and then. It also ensures that we'll have choice seats reserved for Tuesday devotionals. Last week Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke. Nobody is allowed to tell us who's coming to talk each week until they start seating people, but we've heard rumors that the Prophet is in town; how cool would it be if he came to speak at the MTC devotional?! Pretty cool.

In closing, let me just say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true, re-established church of Jesus Christ. The powers of Prophecy and the Priesthood of God have been restored, and the Saints have fulfilled (and continue to fulfill) ancient prophecies from the New and Old Testaments. Our Heavenly Father wants very much to bless the lives of all of His children here on Earth, including you. Please make sure that you do everything that is required of you, so that He can give you all the blessings of Happiness and Peace that come from obeying the commandments of God and being attentive to His spirit.

I say these things, with love, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Jensen

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Letter from September 12, 2005

Dear World,
 I think once you've lived a few weeks at the MTC, there's really not much more to talk about. Everything just repeats itself, mostly, except the content of the lessons. The spirit is really strong here. I just got back from the temple. We weren't able to go there last week because of the construction.

 I also just met a friend (Amelia Hardin) from Swing Club. When I saw her and called her by her first name she didn't respond for a few seconds because everyone here calls her "Sister Hardin." It's weird how nobody around here knows anybody else by first name.

 Well, there's much to do today, so I'll close now. Please keep sending letters regularly (or if you aren't, start). Letters are Chicken Soup for the Missionary's soul. I don't think it's possible to understand how important they are unless you've been a missionary. I think I've mentioned how each day here feels like at least two days; a week between letters feels like an eternity.

 God bless you all. You are in my prayers.

Elder Jensen

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Letter dated August 29, 2005

Dear Everyone,
 This is just a general letter to let you all know how things are going at the MTC. From what I understand, there have been a lot of changes here recently. The infamous "Trees of Life" showers now have dividers in place so that we can shower in relative privacy. "Le bete orange" [the French grammar book used in the MTC, fondly known as "The Orange Beast"] is still exactly the same, except that it is no longer orange.
As pretty much everybody LDS knows by now, they've replaced an enourmous amount of reading material that missionaries used to use, with a single book called Preach my Gospel, which covers just about everything a missionary could ever need to know. They've also arranged our schedule so that we have a few hours of "MDT" or "Missionary Directed Time" almost every day. This is basically study time when we're allowed to choose to study in whatever manner is best for us. For instance, sometimes we go to the referral center (basically a call center) and use "Study Hall" mode, where we mostly just study, but if all of the other operators are busy, additional calls can come in to us so that we can help people get free Books of Mormon, DVDs, and have missionaries come to their houses to share our message with them.
 The teachers here are great! Up to this point, I've had Brother Blackman and Brother Richardson, but starting this week Brother Blackmen will teach a different class and be replaced by Sister Moore (I think). I'm sure she'll be good, but it's hard to imagine anyone being as good as Frere Blackmen. He is so inspired, and he has some great stories, plus he's just a great teacher. He's also handsome and single and in serach of an eternal companion, so if any of you ladies are in search of a French-speaking, temple-worthy, returned missionary, bome to BYU and look him up!

 It's been kind of remarkable to see what a small world it is here, Elder Crnich (pronounced "Sir niche) is practically best friends with Jared Hewlett, the crazy-haired kid that was on Brighton's cheer squad with me. After I graduated, the Hewletts moved to Kamas, where Elder Crnich lived. I also met the daughter of one of my co-workers from GE/OEC. Her name is Sister Barker, and she was a year or two behind me at Brighton. Her dad also was one of my dad's good friends in high school, went to the same mission as Liz's mom (actually remembered her [mom] from his mission), and coincidentally, he also showed up at the temple when I went there for the first time.

 I have now been more than two weeks without dancing, and it's taking a serous effort to ignore the withdrawal symptoms ;)

 The international students get to use email while they're here, but the rest of us have to use snail mail. It's okay; I'm getting better at finding time to write letters, and I'm rediscovering cursive . . . dunno if it's any faster though.
 Also, because my companion has never been to Temple Square [he's from Australia], he and some others from our district will get to take a field trip down there this Friday, but I'll be staying here with the locals.

 Well, I'd best start writing to my families now. (It's hard, because I'm already a slow writer, and I've got two families to write to each week.)

 God Bless!

[For those of you who speak French and are concerned that James does not realize the importance of accents in the French language, let me assure you that his original letter did contain accents. However, this was typed by Liz, who was unable to figure out how to put in French accent marks. Also note that bracketed words/sentences are Liz's insterted commentary and were not in the original letter.] :)