Hi all! This week has been great! Finally starting to get into the groove here and the Mandarin is starting to come slowly but surely. But much much better than when we started last week. I am so glad to hear how the kids are doing please keep me updated with them and tell them all hi for me and that I love em.
So on Tuesday, Elder M Russell Ballard came and talked to us in a devotional. It was great. He gave a great talk and one of his statements really hit me. He said that "Public Opinion is not God; God is God." I really like that because so many people think all their different opinions are right when really the only one that matters is God's.
Also last Sunday I forgot to mention that we got to hear a past MTC devotional from Elder Bednar. It was entitled "The Character of Christ." He had many good points but I would love to mention a few. First is that he pointed out that one of the defining points of Christ's character was to turn outward to others when everyone else would turn inward. For example when he healed the guards ear after he had been betrayed, and on the cross telling John to look after his mother. There are many more but I don't have time to go into detail. Elder Bednar also gave me the wonderful idea of reading a paperback Book Of Mormon and studying it with a specific question in mind and marking it up according to that question and then at the end writing a half page summary about what we had learned on the question. Then doing that over and over until you have bookcase full of 300-400 Book of Mormons all answering different questions. I am doing that now to gain a greater testimony about Joseph Smith and his role as the prophet of God that restored Jesus Christ's gospel from the Bible in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Elder Bednar also stressed us to study the basics of the gospel doctrine because that is what is most important and also that is what we will be teaching. It was really an amazing talk. I am not sure if it is online but if it is, it is well worth watching.
We have two teachers for Mandarin: An Lao Shi (Brother Anderson) and Luo Lao Shi (Sister Luo). Both are amazing and I look up to both but especially Brother Anderson. He is one the most Christ-like people I have ever met and really is an amazing guy. And he is only about 23. Really amazing guy. All the teachers here are amazing people. The MTC is a wonderful place and I love it here. The amount of learning both secularly and spiritually is absolutely unbelievable. Mandarin is coming so fast and we try to speak only Mandarin during the day. As little English as possible. It is even a little weird to write this email in English because I haven't been speaking much of it lately. Only in the dining halls a little.
My companion is awesome. We are both still working out like crazy. He is convinced that he is gonna get huge ASAP. But he is working his tail off. Dad you really got him going from that note you sent me. I think you lit his tail on fire because he has been going pretty hard lately.
Oh quick funny story. So me and my companion as well as we have bonded have a problem with losing each other. One of us will walk off somewhere without telling the other one where we are going and then all of the sudden neither of us have any idea where the other one is. So our District Leader who is one of our four roommates decided to have us walk around tied up for one whole day. Like ten hours of being tied up even to go to the bathroom. I thought he was joking but he was dead serious and so we did it. It turned out to kind of be fun because it brought us a lot of attention from everyone because everyone thought it was hilarious, so it kind of made up for how embarrassing it was. I have a picture of us tied up. I'll send it to you guys.
Another thing was that this week during personal study my companion decided to do pullups on a tree and then decided what the heck and decided to climb to the top. And that was like 85 feet in the air. I could not believe how high he got. I have a picture of that as well. You can barely see him but he's there alright.
One connection I have made here relates to the book "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. If any of you haven't read it before, I would highly recommend you do. It is written by an atheist who became Christian and he really does an amazing job at describing the importance of Christianity. One of the points that I loved that he made that I struggled with for a long time was how religion was so complicated and how that it seems like if God really wanted to establish a gospel on the earth how it was be simple because God would like simple things and religion now seems far too complicated. And for a long time I have always had the same doubt in my mind. BUT he makes the really good point that reality is complicated and God created reality. For example if you look at a plain dinner table it may seem simple but really there is so much going on with Gravity and with all the atoms and subatomic particles and so much that science does not yet understand. Is not reality complicated if we think about it? And so if God created a complicated reality for us why then would God's religion or gospel be not complicated if we looked closely. God created both.
Also, yesterday on Sunday we had Janice Kapp Perry who wrote numerous hymns and primary songs in the songbook speak to us for a devotional. She was awesome. And the songs she wrote we all sung and it was great, the spirit was stronger than ever. Yes Mom this place is like EFY but much better. It's awesome. Super glad to hear that Sawyer got into EFY, he will absolutely love it. So much fun.
One last thing, so this week is all the New Mission presidents week come to and be instructed by the 12 apostles and the prophet before they start their service and the MTC is hosting it and so every single general authority is on the MTC campus right now. It is a cool feeling. There are like lots of security guards around now and many people have seen the prophet and other general authorities around. I haven't been so lucky but the rumor is that the prophet is speaking to us on Tuesday (tomorrow) and for choir we are singing "Praise to the Man" so I think there is a good chance.
I love you all.
-Ping Zhang Lao