This week was interviews with the mission president, so Elder Garcia and I had to prepare a big training (1 hour and 45 minutes long) to present to the missionaries while President was interviewing them one by one. Elder Garcia is really creative and we came up with some fun things to put in our training, which was all about working well with members. One part was about having spiritual and uplifting conversations with members at dinner appointments (speaking of which, our policy has changed again so now we can have dinner appointments without investigators present, much like the policy when I came out), so we set up a little dinner table, complete with a tablecloth, salt shakers, napkins, plates and cutlery, etc. and had the missionaries do role-plays. The missionaries who played the members asked questions and said things to distract the conversation and talk about the missionaries’ lives at home, and the missionaries had to find ways to keep it on track and help the members share spiritual experiences. It was a lot of fun. We also talked about the importance of making really good Progress Records (the document we use to report our work to stake and ward leaders). Elder Garcia used a big piece of cardboard and a Sharpie to make a gigantic Progress Record that we used as a visual aid. It looked really good. I felt our training went well in general, and it was a great experience to prepare and present it. Good practice for teaching Sunday School or something in my future life.
President Bullock also gave a training at interviews. Among other things, he talked about “mission folklore” stories about dodgy missionaries from the past and all the disobedient things they’d done (there are quite a few stories like this in our mission). He pointed out that most stories like this aren’t even true and that all of them glamorize evil by memorializing disobedience. He read us a great scripture in 1 Timothy 1:4 and challenged us to be the generation to stop the culture of dodgy mission folklore. It was eye-opening to me, because I’d always kind of liked the idea of having mission folklore and repeated it, not really recognizing how the stories made disobedience glamorous. President Bullock’s training made me want not just to stop repeating the stories about disobedient missionaries but start up a new folklore about obedient and successful missionaries, one that glamorizes righteousness instead of evil! There must be just as many good stories as bad ones out there. It makes me think about Orson Scott Card’s essays about art and evil in A Storyteller in Zion – art becomes evil not just by depicting it but by promoting or glamorizing or inviting it.
On a similar note, I was thinking the other day about how a nonmember must view our church services the first time they come. I imagined a humanities researcher attending our services and wondered how they would view the sacrament: probably as a form of art in which all the members of the congregation have a chance to make a statement in a symbolic and beautiful way. My first instinct was that such a perspective completely mislabels the sacrament. Then I realized that while viewing the sacrament as an art form does really miss the deeper spiritual point, the sacrament is beautiful and is meaningful and has all the attributes of great art because of its spiritual significance. It made me think differently about all art. Maybe every piece of great art is great because it has a spiritual significance that we just don’t always grasp. After all, the light of Christ is the source of everything that is good, and we seek after everything that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, not just some of the things that fit those adjectives. Hmm . . . probably not something I need to delve into in my personal study right now. : )
One thing that made interviews especially cool this time around is that two of President Bullock’s sons (here for Christmas) came along. They sat in on our training along with Sister Bullock and Jennifer and made great contributions. Jeff Bullock (who is a returned missionary) in particular knows Preach My Gospel as well as anybody I have ever met and he pretty much put us to shame (in a nice, humble way) during our training by sharing insightful and relevant Preach My Gospel quotes all the way through. After the training we got the special privilege of taking Scott Bullock (who will send in his mission papers in the spring) out to work with us. We’d been really praying for great things to happen while we were out with Scott so that he could have a really faith-building experience, and our prayers were answered! We taught an amazing, Spirit-filled lesson (some of the best teaching I’ve done on my mission, I think) to a less-active sister, and Scott did an amazing job, even reciting Joseph Smith’s own account of his First Vision from memory. Then we had about five minutes to go out and do some finding, so we prayed for guidance right there on the sidewalk and ran down to a part of the street we felt good about to knock on some doors. In about five minutes, we had two appointments set up (one with a less-active sister who happened to live in one of those houses) and two quality gospel conversations, including one that Scott had. The whole experience just made me so excited to be a missionary and do missionary work, and I think Elder Garcia and Scott felt the same way. Scott told us that President Bullock had told him we were a powerful companionship and that we were the best missionaries he’d had the chance to go out with. It turns out we were the only ones President Bullock had him work with in his whole stay in England, which is quite an honor for us. Scott is great, anyway, and he will be an outstanding missionary. Hopefully Uncle Jay gets him. : )
I had a great Christmas by the way. I loved talking to you all on the phone! It sounds like you are all doing great, which brings me a lot of peace of mind. I also had a delicious turkey dinner and a nice evening with Chris Rainbow, our star investigator, watching the Emma Smith movie. It is definitely a chick flick, but I really enjoyed nonetheless. : ) It’s a lot heavier than the Joseph Smith movie we saw in the MTC (kind of its counterpart), though. I’d probably recommend the Joseph Smith movie higher.
I’m so excited about Uncle Jay’s new calling! I feel like telling him, “Welcome to the club!” What is especially great is that he will probably get to meet with President Bullock along with the other European mission presidents about once a year. I talked to a missionary named Elder Ritter in my zone who is from Leipzig, and he was pretty excited to hear about it too.
Sorry, out of time! Love you all!