Friday, August 31, 2012

Week 7 in the MTC

Howdy do!

     Wheew. It's weird to think how close I am to leaving! I got my travel plans with my flight schedule last night. We leave Monday morning Sept 10 at 9:45am from the SLC airport. We have a little layover in LA, and then we don't land in Santiago until 7am the next day...haha. Then one last flight to Conce, where we're schedule to arrive at 9:35am. I'm so excited to finally get down there and start the real work! I've loved being at the MTC, but I think I've learned all I can learn here and it's time to move on--meaning I'll get to Chile and realize I can't actually understand or speak Spanish and have no idea how to find or teach...haha but "asi es la vida!" We're allowed to call home while we're waiting at the airport, and I'd like to. It would probably be easiest to do that during my three hour layover in LA (10:46am-1:25pm). Let me know (via Dear Elder) when would work best for you, Mum and family!

     Thanks again all of you who have written Elder Gordon. It has been so great! A few random thoughts that I'm going to compile into one paragraph: I think the MTC does a great job preparing us to serve missions in foreign countries--I didn't think it were possible for me to get so tired of hamburgers... So I'll be ok in Chile for a while without my American food! Secondly, I'm curious of the whereabouts of a few of my letters. Alissa/Twinner, I replied to your Dear Elder about two weeks ago, but I'm not sure if it didn't reach you or if you've just been super busy with school (which would be understandable). Just let me know so I don't feel guilty making you think I never wrote you back! Also, Mum, did you pass along my letter to Kassi a few weeks ago? I don't have her address. That's so exciting she got called to Italy!!! On Tuesday I was talking with my companions about how we all want to learn Italian after our missions--we were cleaning one of the Italian classrooms and I could actually already understand most of what we read! So that would be super awesome!

Quick funny story of the week: we bumped into my companion's girlfriend at the temple on Sunday. Soooooo crazy! I don't have time to explain the details, but it was quite the adventure. And of course he's been ridiculously trunky all week ever since....ha.

     Ok, I have so many uplifting thoughts I'd like to share, but I feel impressed to share just one in particular so I can expound upon it for a bit. Yesterday all of us in my district were feeling pretty discouraged with ourselves and feeling like our Spanish and teaching skills were getting worse and we didn't want to be here anymore and we missed our friends and families. Big time. Our incredible teacher, Brother Derek Adams, threw out his lesson plan and instead took the time to listen and respond. We read in 2 Nephi 4, Nephi's lament. Despite Nephi being an absolute stud--let alone now the prophet--he expressed how he thought he was such a wretched and worthless man. What???

     Here's the thing: We often get so caught up in humbling ourselves and trying so hard to recognize our faults so we can repent and be better, that we forget we are a child of God. That phrase is overused and looses meaning nowadays, but think about it. You belong to God. He created you. The scriptures say countless times that only good can come from God (Moroni 7:16). You're not as bad as you think. The closer we get to Christ, the more Satan wants to bring us back. The easiest way for him to do so is to drag us down by our own thoughts of inadequecy. Those thoughts come from Satan. He whispers them to you and make you think you are no good, that you can't do it, that you'll never succeed, you've sinned too much, etc. You can choose to listen to those thoughts from the devil, or you can put your trust in God and His love for us (2 Ne 4:34).

     Only good can come from God, and only bad can come from the Satan. We forget that those are the only options--we are either being like Satan or being like our Heavenly Father. Being like "man" isn't a third option. I want you to understand that it's ok to recognize that you aren't doing as well as you should be. But here's the kicker: "I need to do better" and "I suck" are two completely different thoughts that we often confuse to be the same. The first motivates you to improve and is thus of God; the latter is detramental and is of the devil. If you pay attention closely, the "I'm a horrible person" thoughts usually follow after the "I'm not very good at this, I should be doing better" thoughts. Satan's easiest tactic is to drag you down by confusing those two thoughts together. President Spencer W. Kimball said that these thoughts must be cast out the same as you would with a sexually impure thought. They will mentally, emotionally, and spiritually destroy you.

     Be of good cheer. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have offered their help and protection against Satan and his attacks. They want you to be happy. They want you to succeed. They are so pleased with you, even if you think they shouldn't have any reason to be. You already made the right choice to follow Christ when you chose to come to this earth and receive a mortal body. You are doing great! We all make mistakes, and Heavenly Father wants you to recognize those mistakes AND THEN try to be better, and He has promised that He will help you. Christ has promised that He will never abandon us. Even when we abandon Him.
Christ loves you. Have a wonderful week :)

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

MTC Week 6

Mis Amados!

     Sing this with me: "It's the most wonderful time of the week! We read and write letters and go to the temple and catch up on sleep! It's the most wonderful time, it's the most wonderful time, yes it's the most wonderful time of the weeeeeeeeekkkk!!!" Haha I lied though--I've yet to have ever taken a nap on P-Day. There's just so much to get done!

     First off, thank you soooo much to all of you generous people for taking time to write Elder Gordon. He received so many letters! He was actually kind of weirded out that my relatives were writing him so much... haha but I thank you for your kindness. It really meant a lot to me, to him, and to Elder White (to whom I was able to give his respective letters more than once a week). Thanks!

     My Spanish word of the week is [drumrollllllll] "toldilla" (poopdeck). I think it might also mean "feces," but we use it in the sense of "Nature calls; to the poopdeck!" (A la toldilla!) ;P Another way we entertain ourselves is by whistling the Hunger Games tune that the mockingjays sing. Just whistle it once, and you'll hear it spread throughout the entire cafeteria or down the wall or whathaveyou. It's actually pretty stinking awesome!!!

     To my dearest SPAC teammates: I miss you! Big time! I hope all is well and that you are ready to get back to living in the RB this coming semester! Katrina Pearson, I bumped into your friend Shaelin Moon. She and I taught each other a lesson and chatted and found out we have mutual friends! I hope you and Tanner are doing great as you prepare for your baby's arrival this December! Question to the masses: Does anyone know when Garrett reports to the MTC? If you know, send me a Dear Elder (MTC mailbox #215). Gracias!

     I have two requests and a question for you, Mum. 1) Would you please send me the lyrics to "We Long for Home"? I can only remember a few lines here and there and I would reeeaaalllyyy like to be able to remember the full song you used to sing me to sleep with :) 2) Could you please also send me the Duncan's address? I have a story I'd really like to be able to share with them. Thanks! 3) Should I send home the DearElders I've received, or are they trash because you get a copy emailed to you? There's a few that I keep to review, but my pile is getting rather big (which I am extremely grateful for) and I don't think I want to lug around a stack of paper for the next two years... Advice?

     To end with an uplifting thought, I want you to listen to the song, "Behold the Wounds in Jesus' Hands." We sang it in the MTC choir this past week. Absolutely phenomenal song--the music and the lyrics inclusive. My favorite line is probably the lyric, "Christ from wood and nails built mansions for us all." What a powerful thought. As Christ was nailed to the wood of the cross, he was building mansions for us in the kingdom of heaven. Through Christ and His Atonement, we can repent, be cleansed of our sin, be aided through our trials, be resurrected and perfected through Him, and live with our families and with Heavenly Father for all eternity. I am so grateful that my Savior cares about me enough to have suffered so much for me so that I need not suffer, but instead have eternal life. It's up to you whether you accept the key to the mansion he built for you.

     May the Lord bless you as you continue to "try a little harder to be a little better" each day (President Gordon B. Hinckley). Heavenly Father sure loves you, and He's waiting for you to ask for His help so that He can bless you and strengthen you. He wants you to be happy. He wants you to succeed. And He is eager to help you. I know that He will answer your prayers in the way that He knows is best for you. Onward and upward my friends! Have a wonderful week.

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Week 5 MTC

Family and friends!

First, to answer a few questions: Dad, that's great you found a coupon for some watches, I would love both! I've been relying on the alarms of my companions, but I need my own soon. Both please! Thanks! As far as how they decide who goes to which MTC, I have no idea. I know that the MTC in Chile is for natives only, so that's why I'm in Provo. But three of the missionaries in my district spent three weeks here and then are now spending another six weeks in the MTC in Guatemala (where they will serve their missions). Other than that tidbit of info, I'm not sure how it all works.

That's great about your diets! Sounds like it's going very well. Dad, I told my district about the opening paragraph of your talk and they were laughing sooooo hard! I've yet to be able to read the rest because we are so limited on time with computers, but would you please send it to me in a Dear Elder so I can read it? Thanks! The kids' rooms look great--so huge and clean! Thanks for sending the pictures, Mum. Looks like everyone is having a lot of fun!

Dearest Benny whom I greatly admire and respect: watch the hands -__-

Some updates on my whereabouts: I've been called as the new District Leader, my two companions are the new Zone Leaders, and the other two missionaries in my district are the first ever Portal Instructors (a program to measure our progress as we learn the Gospel and language). So we are a very busy district! Starting on Monday we'll be the oldest district in our zone, and it will stay like that until we leave on September 10th! It's fun feeling a little bit older and wiser--or at least more experienced--than the incoming missionaries. They look up to us a surprising amount, which is humbling because I know I'm no better than any of them. We just got here a few weeks earlier. The sister missionaries are always so great, and I love talking to them and imagining what Brittany is up to. I'm sooooo glad she's serving a mission. Except if I didn't know any better, I'd like most of the girls here were only 14-18 years old...ha. Random note: my carpal tunnel has gotten significantly worse considering we do so much writing and studying. Bleh. Good thing I brought a lot of advil...ha. Oh, and I'm no longer sick! Thanks everyone for the encouraging words, prayers, and offers of sending me medicine! haha but I am doing better, so thanks.

Now time for some fun Spanish words/phrases/jokes! After telling another misionary where I was headed, he said, "Serving in Chile is messy, but it's not as bad as serving in Greece!" The incredible lameness of the play on words made me laugh so hard haha. Serving in Turkey could be fun though... ;P I have two favorite words this week. 1) "Armario," meaning "closet." I just picture a group of friends getting ready to go to the movies and one of them yells, "Hold up a second, I need to go grab my jacket from the armory!" My other (probably all-time favorite) word is "frigadero," meaning "kitchen-sink." It's five times better when you say it with a super Gringo accent. Mum and Dad, next time your children aren't doing their dishes, tell them to get their tushy to the frigadero!!!
Another phrase I find hilarious is when we are talking about the generally accepted idea of what Hell is like. People talk about the "llamas de fuego" (flames). But you might be thinking, "Wait a minute, I thought 'llama' was the weird-looking animal." You are correct! I picture a bunch of llamas on fire running around and spitting in peoples faces in Hell. Not sure if that's quite how it is down there, but it's quite the funny mental image!I want to share a quick spiritual thought that I discovered for myself (believe it or not). In 1 Kings 17 we read the story of the woman who gave up her last morsel of bread to feed the prophet, knowing that she and her son would then die of starvation. However, because of her sacrifice, the Lord blessed her and made it so that she never again ran out of food. How does this story apply to us? That God works miracles? Sure, of course. But let's take it a step further: The woman's pot of oil represents our soul. The prophet represents Christ (literally and figuratively). When we put Christ and His desires before our own wants and needs, He will bless us so that we never experience spiritual death. At times, it is a major sacrifice and a major leap of faith. We don't always know the outcome--in fact, sometimes we embrace ourselves for the worst. But if we put the Lord first in all things, He will work miracles within and for us. I invite each of you to consider your own actions and desires, and decide for yourself if how you spend your time and energy is helping you come closer to Christ and be a better person, or if you are putting yourself first and seeking solely for entertainment. Christ wants us to have fun and enjoy our time here, but that can't be our only focus. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Such a simple request. Are you showing your love for your Savior?

Three last things. Look up the talk by Mitch Davis about his lightning strike. Absolutely amazing story. Secondly, I've realized that while I've been asking for a power converter, I'm not even sure if I need one. Mum or Dad, will you please look up what the power differences are so that I'll know exactly what I need to buy? Do I need a converter, transformer, or both? Lastly, I'm presenting you all an opportunity to put Christ first and take a few minutes to do an act of service. One of the missionaries in my district rarely receives letters, and his companion refuses to accept his until the other receives letters too. I have a big stack of letters to give him, but he's making me wait to give him the letters until his companion, Elder Gordon, receives letters too. Please show some charity and send a quick Dear Elder to Elder Gordon in MTC mailbox #215 so that he can feel appreciated as well as so his companion, Elder White, can read his stack of letters. Gracias!

May the Lord bless you for your kindness! He sure loves you. Have a wonderful week!

Much love,

Elder Long

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MTC Week 4

Buenos dias a todos!

Where do I even start? This week has probably been the most trying so far. But I've been working harder than ever to concentrate on "counting my blessings" rather than think about the negative, and it's been an amazing uplifter during struggling times. I absolutely urge you to count your blessings often. And I don't just mean tell yourself, "Gee, I sure am blessed. I can feel better now." I mean actually take the time to sit there and name your blessings by whispering to yourself every blessing you can think of. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes patience. But do it. And you WILL be happier.

To start off with some funnies, I'll teach you some fun spanish. As of right now, one of my favorite words is the word for "toe" in spanish. "El dedo de pie" literally translates to "foot finger" haha. Kind of gross actually. One fun and very common mistake that missionaries make is that of testifying that Jesus Christ suffered for our fish (pecados = sins, pescados = fish). Another pretty funny story my teacher told us is that one of his missionaries a few weeks ago told him, "Cuando Jesucristo estaba en la tierra, hizo muchos miercoles" (milagros = miracles, miercoles = Wednesday). So far I've yet to make those mistakes, however I did accidentaly testify that God occassionally tortures and kills people.... Oops hahaha. My old companion Elder Welker once confused the bajinkies out of our investigator by teaching him that the Law of Chastity means we can't have sex outside of the wedding.... "Boda" does not mean "marriage"... haha. We have fun laughing at the hilarious little mistakes that inevitably come while learning a new language.

Speaking of laughing, Long family you will be amused to know that my laughing attacks have returned. It's been pretty bad. I've been asked to leave class once haha. We've had several times where we couldn't say the opening/closing prayers because everyone was laughing too hard. Laughter is deathly contagious. I think part of why I have such ridiculous laughing attacks is because my brain gets so fried studying for 10 hours every day, so then when something is even just slightly funny, my brain takes the escape and I laugh hysterically for a solid 10 mins. Ay ay ay.

Something I find entertaining about the MTC is that due to our complete lack of music, a whistled tune spreads like wildfire. You won't get halfway through a melody before people on the other side of the enourmous hallway are whistling or humming or singing along with you. But if music spreads like wildfire, I'm sure you can guess what else does: sickness. As soon as one person gets even the slightest sore throat or cough or stuffy nose, the entire rest of the district and maybe even zone will be sick before the end of the week. So that's been super fun for our district the past two weeks... Bleh.

Speaking of our district, we only have five people now. That's half the size of every other district in our building. Three of our district's missionaries left last Monday to go to the Guatemalan MTC, including my companion. So I've been in a trio with Elder Brady Tengberg and Elder Kyle Watt. Trios are usually pretty frowned upon because they are so much more difficult than the standard two-person companionship, but we're making it work. The good news is that I love these guys to death. They are great. So far they've only accidentally forgotten me and left me once. Luckily, a male MTC employee was able to escort me to find them... haha. Our teacher actually gave us a pretty big compliment too: the fist time we taught as a trio, our teacher confessed that he thought it would be a train wreck, but we did surprisingly well. Even better than some companionships he's had in the past. I reeaaaalllly hope I get to work with these Elders again in the mission field when we get to Chile!

Let it be thus known that I, Elder Tanner Jack Long, have heretofor made history. Let it sound about throughout all caverns, castles, and caves, through all countries, cities, and towns, that I have reached an all time high of weight. I have NEVER broken more than 156 lbs, and even then the next day I was back to 152 and later that week 154. I just always fluctuate several pounds around 150. When I entered the MTC, I weighed 152 lbs. I weighed myself on Tuesday and after three weeks at the MTC doing nothing but eating and studying, I weigh 159 lbs. Sheesh. If it's not already bad enough that I'll come home bald, now I'll be fat too! Voy a regresar un panson calvo! I wouldn't mind weighing 160 lbs if it were muscle, but "santa vaca!" Bleh. So I'm on a diet with you, Mum and Dad. But it's so tough to try to decide whether I want to try to enjoy this food before I'm in Chile with who-knows-what to eat, or if I should restrict myself. No fun! I'm so impressed that Cooper never ate any sweets while at the MTC!!!

Mum, keep an eye out for an Elder Tanner, who left on Monday to serve in the Las Vegas Southwest Spanish speaking mission with President Black. I told him to look for you if he ever helps with an ESL class at the Flamingo ward stake center, but it's a big city. If you find him, invite them over for dinner! He's an awesome kid.

We've yet to have any apostles speak to us at our bi-weekly firesides, but that's because July is their "vacation" month. Lame! So we're reeeeaaallllyyyyy hoping that we'll get one soon!
Thanks for sending those memory cards, Mum! You da best! I'm glad Lacey got my letter--even if someone else's eyes seem to have fell upon it before she read it... haha :P Who is "Dirty Harry??" A pet?? I'm sorry to hear about Joy. She's been a wonderful dog and I'll miss her dearly. But it will be good that she'll finally be out of pain.

I hope you are all reading your scriptures DAILY and NAMING your blessings often. You will be happier by doing such simple tasks. For you LDS members, attend the temple often. Don't take it for granted that you have one within a short drive of where you live. Invite friends/family to church. Just be friendly and serve others. One interesting thing I've learned about missionary work is that it is soooo much more important to have a good relationship and actually befriend others rather than just try to teach them all you know about the Gospel. Stephen Mendenhall told some great stories about that on his mission. Just do your best to help others be happy. Don't be hesitant to give someone a compliment, whether they be a friend or a stranger. You don't know what's going on in their life or in their head and how much they might need a simple friendly smile. Yes, sometimes it will be awkward. Most simply put, missionary work is "spirit-filled awkwardness" as one of my teachers put it. Get over it. Just do it!

Much love to you all!

Elder Tanner Long :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

MTC pictures!

MTC District

Elder Tanner Long!

Fun MTC Pictures of Tanner!

Week 3 in the MTC

Dearly beloved,

     Another week down! It feels like I've been here for about a month and a half, but it's only been three weeks! Ha, so crazy. The MTC is a really weird part of a mission--I don't feel like I'm on a mission and I don't feel like I'm in Provo. I feel like I'm at a weird secluded boarding school in the mountains where we just study the scriptures and a foreign language and then try to teach what we've learned to strangers. Sometimes I forget that I'll actually be going to Chile after this rather than just finishing my studies and going home for winter break...

     Last Friday night we had our first TRC (Teaching Resource Center) appointment, meaning we went to a specific building and met with someone "from the outside world" that had volunteered to be taught by missionaries. What's unique about that experience is that they don't roll-play or pretend to be an investigator. They are just themselves. Elder Welker and I met with an RM (returned missionary) who is currently a student at BYU. Since we knew this wouldn't be the first time he had heard the gospel, Elder Welker and I decided to just ask him what the biggest worry in his life was. He seemed rather taken back by the question, which I was secretly glad about. After some deep thinking, he told us that he doesn't know what he should study at BYU and he's really worried about dating and finding a wife with whom to share eternity. My first thought was to turn to the scripture that describes faith as not being a perfect knowledge. I bore testimony to him that we don't need to know exactly how everything is going to work out because we can have faith that Heavenly Father is watching over us and will place us where He knows is best for us. It was a nice message, but that's not my point. What's so powerful about this experience for me was that I was completely guided by the Spirit. My Spanish was flawless and fluent. My thoughts weren't my own. The words I spoke weren't from knowledge that I had. In fact, his worry was a huge concern of my own. I'm pretty sure I learned more from that meeting than our "investigator" did, because one of my own life questions was answered. I knew that I was directed by the Holy Ghost to know what to say to answer my own question. What a wonderful blessing it was that night.

     As far as fun/funny things that happened this week, I bumped into the boy that played the young Joseph Smith in the movies of the First Vision. Turns out he arrived this past Wednesday as a new missionary! I didn't know he was my age! He dyed his hair red though haha. I kicked myself for not taking a picture with him, but hopefully I'll run into him again and will have my camera with me!!!
I have a request for Tyler: my teacher Brother Derek Adams is super into Scrillex and Dead Mouse and all that silly stuff, and he actually creates his own music too. So forward this to Tyler so he can look up the names "Karma Deeds" and "An Armed Desk" (both are just scrambles of the letters in his name) on the internet site Grooveshark. Let me know if he's any good!

     Thats great to hear that Lacey had such a great time in Washington! One of the elders in my district is from Spokane. I'm very proud of Lacey for standing up for her beliefs. I remember having that exact experience when I was on the bus home from Nevada Boys' State. Except when I was the only one to stand up and ask the adult to change the movie, he cussed me out and told me to sit down. Soo.....yay for Lacey and Steph haha.
It sounds like Dad and Ben had a great time at scout camp! I'm glad they got to have such great bonding time. Some of my fondest memories are going on camp-outs with Dad. Wonderful times. And now he knows not to wrestle with sharp metal!!!

     Mum, on the sticky-note I wrote down the log in information for my blog and Facebook account. It's not my account. It's something along the lines of or something. It says what to do on the piece of paper that I left for you and Lacey on my laptop. If all else fails, send a message via Facebook to Lynnette Yorgason. She's the blog-wizard that set it all up for me in the first place. Thanks!
I have some bad news. As I was walking to class, my wrist bumped into a metal banister and shattered the glass of my watch. I would very much appreciate it if you could send me another cheap one ASAP! The store here hasn't and won't have watches in stalk for another forever. Preas and franks! I would also still like to get Dad's international power transformer--unless you just recommend me buying one here at the MTC. It's just that they're really pricey. Dad, could you also please send me a copy of my line of authority. I thought I put my copy in the envelope with my patriarchal blessing, but I guess not. Thanks!

I've learned sooooooo many wonderful thoughts that I want to share with you, but my time is at an end so I'll have to choose one. During our Tuesday devotional from Brother Rex D. Pinegar, he told the story of a weekly email he received from one of the missionaries while he was a mission president. The letter said, "Dear President, could you please send me a list of the important rules? My companion tells me that we only need to obey the important ones. But until you send me that list, I intend to live them all." What great faith and obedience from a young man. I think his applies so much more to just mission rules, though. Re-read the message but replace the word "rules" with the word "commandments" and replace the word "President" with the word "Lord." There are no commandments that are more important than others. We must strive to obey them all. We cannot let ourselves pick and choose which of God's commandments we will choose to obey, which we will loosely obey, and which we will ignore. God's commandments and mission rules are not set in place to restrict us and control us. Commandments, rules, and laws are given to us to help us be happy. By obeying ALL of Heavenly Father's commandments, we can keep ourselves free of sexual sin, drug addiction, trouble with the law, and have better relationships with our families and friends. It's so simple. We can choose to be obedient and be happy, or we can choose to rationalize our favorite sins and be miserable. God has said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." It's just up to you to decide whether He's worth it to you, because you are certainly worth it to Him.

Take care, everyone! I'd love to hear from you! Please write me often! Have a wonderful week! The Savior loves you and wants you to be happy.

Much love,

Elder Long :)

End of week 2 in the MTC

Dearest friends and family,

     Well I've survived another month here--oh wait, it's only been two weeks. It feels like I've been here for soooo long! After the first four days it felt like I had been here for three weeks...ha. People keep telling me it will start to go by faster, so "a ver" (we'll see)!

     It still makes me laugh how many dopplegangers I see here at the MTC. It might just be me going crazy, but almost every one of my friends has a look-alike here. Even my Branch President reminds me of Grampsir! It's half-way a sweet, tender mercy because I feel a better bond with people, but at the same time it's just bizarre haha. I'm pretty sure it's all in my head.

     Mum and Lacey, as far as my log in info for my Facebook account and blog, I wrote it all down on a green sticky note that was attached to my laptop before I left. Remember when I sat you down the day before I left and went over it with you? So hopefully that sticky note didn't get whisked away. If so, send me a letter so I know to write it down and send that info again.

     Speaking of letters, I haven't heard from anyone in about a week--which, according to my previous logic, feels like a really long time. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks Mum, Dad, and Trina for the Dear Elders! Getting mail really is one of the highlights of our day that lifts our spirits and keeps us going! This week has been pretty difficult for most of us. The "honeymoon" phase wore off and we've all been struggling to stay as cheery as we should be. We're not even in the field yet and we've realized how hard missionary work is. I've already seen one Elder go home, so don't think that we're just having fun messing around up here...

     Mum, you've mentioned a couple times that you think it would feel like being up at BYU again. I regret to inform you it's not haha. The MTC buildings are so tall and so close that I can't even see the Y on the mountain let alone any BYU anything. I feel like I'm in a completely different place. The MTC is it's own weird community in a protected bubble.

     This week I met a few really fun people! Most specifically, I bumped into a missionary from Finland. I of course told him that my grandmother served there and loved it, as well as that one of my favorite missionaries of all time from Finland served in my home ward. As it turns out, Elder Niemenen is friends with Elder Sokkenen's younger brother!!! Small world! It's kind of funny how similar they all look too haha. I also have talked to several people who are preparing to serve in Japan. I love talking to these missionaries (especially the sisters) because I get to brag about Brittany and feel some sort of strange connection and adoration for the missionaries that will be serving the same people that Brittany is serving. I definitely have a deeper understanding of how Brittany felt when she would describe her admiration for her Japanese teacher, her frustration with the language, and her trial of learning to be patient with a companion. I hope she's doing well!

     I have a few requests for things that I would really appreciate if you (Mum) could send me. Dad mentioned that he had an international power converter set, and I'd really like to not have to buy one here or in Chile for tons of money. They are expensive! I'd also really like a family photo. I have some wallet sized individuals of Lacey and Tyler, but could you please send me a small family photo? Thanks!

     I've been reading the book that Trina--I mean the Boices--gave me before I left entitled "Especially for Mormon Missionaries." I have really enjoyed and found great comfort in many of the poems and stories. At one point, however, I became very confused while reading; the story no longer made any sense. I discovered that the book is missing pages 97-112 haha. It's not that they have been torn out or anything, it's just a misprint. No biggie though, it just made me laugh! Speaking of laughs, I'm especially grateful for the men in my district that make me laugh every day. They have done so much for me in helping me enjoy being here and not get overwhelmed by the immense amount of energy, determination, and perseverance required to be a successful missionary.

     I'm also extremely grateful for my teacher, Brother Derek Adams. Besides being a great teacher, making us laugh, and sharing with us his extremely powerful testimony and incredible conversion story, he has helped us in so many ways. He has an incredible gift of the Spirit to be able to say the exact thing you need to hear. He has a gift to be able to answer the question in your heart rather the question in your mind (read in Moses when Adam asks God how the Atonement works). Brother Adams has taught me sooooo much more about missionary work ASIDE from the actual lessons and teaching aspect. He just gets it. He understands why we're here. He understands what we are capable of. He understands our concerns and worries. He understands us. I wish he could follow me around on my mission so that in times of doubt or frustration I can turn to him for advice and comfort. I guess that's much like how our relationship with the Savior and His Atonement should be like, no? ;)

Well I'm super lucky to have been able to write a really lengthy letter this time. Please write me as often as you get the chance, and I'll write back as often as I'm allowed. Have a great week! Remember to read your scriptures daily. Our branch president's counselor told us about his understanding of why returned missionaries sometimes go inactive--they stop reading the scriptures and therefore stop feeling the power, comfort, and knowledge found within the pages of the Book of Mormon. The Lord loves you, and He wants you to be happy. Why not let Him help us do so?

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Week 2 in the MTC

Hello all!
First off, thanks so much to those who have written me either via Dear Elder or a handwritten letter! Aside from all the spiritual feasting, getting mail is one of the highlights of our day! We are allowed to read our mail each night, but we only get to reply on Preparation Day--Friday. So write me as often as you can/want, but be patient with me as I only respond once a week! haha. Mum and Dad, I'm glad you finally made it to Hawaii! I'm sorry it was such a struggle to get there. I'm glad you were able to lounge aroud and unwind though, you both really needed that.
I've absolutely loved it here at the MTC so far. I have learned soooo much in only one week! I told you a bit about our athiest investigator Adan: He has been pretty difficult to work with, but we have seen some crazy miracles with him. I used to kind of snicker at Brittany for acting like the fake investigators we teach were real, but it is so real when you're teaching them. Plus, his "character" was his own real story. It turns out Brother Adams will be our new teacher starting next week! haha so we'll get to hear all kinds of feedback from him. Among the many specifics I learned about teaching and missionary work because of Adan, I think the most important things I learned are as follows: 1) I definitely can't do this without the Lord's help. 2) I don't know enough about the Gospel to be able to fully indoctrinate anyone. It is only through the power of the Holy Ghost that anyone will be converted and learn for themselves that this is Christ's church restored to the earth. I also had a little realization while teaching Adan the Word of Wisdom. He was trying to justify drinking coffee as long as it was decafinated, and I realized something that each of us can apply to our own lives: the Gospel is simple. Heavenly Father has given us commandments and asked us to follow them. It's black and white. We are the ones that create grey areas and try to justify something because it isn't necessarily completely a sin. So I challenge myself and anyone else reading this: rather than trying to justify an action or activity, ask yourself, "Will this help me become more Christ-like and grow closer to my Heavenly Father?"
To answer a few questions:
1) My companion is a very obedient and hardworking Elder, which makes things soooo much easier. We have many mutual interests, so we get along pretty well. However, we have very differing opinions of how to teach, so I've been learning a lot about patience. It's amazing the difference you can feel if you ask in prayer for help to love someone.
2) My district is made up of eight 19 year-old boys like myself. Four of us are headed to Concepcion, one to Santiago, and three to Guatemala (including my companion). I absolutely love this group of young men. We all work hard, get along great, and make each other laugh. Considering we study for over 10 hours per day in the same classroom, we get pretty loopy sometimes. These Elders are great examples for me and I reeeaallly hope I get to be companions with them again in Chile.
3)The cafeteria food isn't as bad as everyone always makes it seem. I actually think it's pretty delicious--but definitely not as good as Mum's cooking. And I don't mean that for brownie points, I'm sincere ;)
4) On Tuesday we heard from a member of the 70 Elder Vaughn Featherstone, and it was great. He's suuuuper old haha. I don't know what other General Authorities we'll get to hear from, but I'm looking forward to it! Last Sunday we had our evening fireside and got to listen to Sister Jenny Oaks Baker (Elder Oaks' daughter). She's a world renowned violinist, and she was phenomenal!!! I truly believe music is one of the most powerful ways to bring the Spirit.
5) I'm still not sleeping very well, so it makes our 16 hour days pretty tiring. And it probably doesn't help that my companion talks in his sleep, but oh well. The work is worth it!
6) They gave us about 10 lbs of another 5 books for Spanish study as soon as we arrived. Woo hoo...haha
I've been so amazed (and grateful) for my level of comprehension in Spanish already. By about the 2nd day here I could already understand just about everything my teacher says (he never speaks English to us because we are the intermediate class). So I can understand everything well, I just have trouble speaking because my vocabulary is not yet large enough to teach the Gospel effectively. But it's a work in progress. I study hard every day to learn more phrases and words pertaining to the Gospel. I love it! :) During personal study we have been asked to read only in English to increase our own knowledge and testimony, but during companionship study and language study I read and speak only in Spanish with my companion. He's doing all right with the language. I don't think he really understands as much as he tries to pretend he does, but that's ok. We're here to learn! I have suuuuch a deeper respect for missionaries learning Asian and Russian languages, though! Holy cow that stuff is crazy! Good thing Brittany is brilliant!!!
The Spirit here is so amazing. It's almost tangible. I love being surrounded by so many wonderful people. I shouldn't say this, but it made me chuckle today: I can't tell if the new sister missionaries that got here on Wednesday are just all really cute, or if my missionary goggles are already taking effect hahaha. But don't worry, I'm focusing on the language and the doctrine, not the girls!!!  :P
I want to just finish with a poem that Elder Holland read (in a video we watched)
"Come to the edge," he said.
No, we'll fall
"Come to the edge," he said.
No, we'll fall.
"Come to the edge."
So we came to the edge.
And he pushed us.
And we flew.
"We do not fly, because we do not go the edge where takeoff is possible" --Elder Holland.
Have a wonderful week! Much love!!!

Elder Long :)

MTC Week 1

First letter:

Mi familia,
I've survived my first day at the MTC, and the President advised is all to write home (which apparently we can only do on Tuesday and P-Days (fridays)). It feels so great to wear my name tag. I've waited 19 years for it! My companion is Elder Taylor Welker - a guy that lived across the sidewalk from me at BYU's Heritage Halls! We had hung out a few times because of mutual friends. Small world! He's a great guy and we should get along pretty well - as a revealed through simultaneously quoting "Nacho Libre". I was surprised how many people I knew up here! Our spanish teacher seems quirky but fun, and he didn't speak a lick of English to us the entire time. The spirit is so strong here! Especially when we sang "Army of Heleman": "We will be the Lord's missionaries to bring the world its truth." Those words had suck a greater impression on me despite the many times I've sung it. Well I need to iron some shirts and do homework. Take care!
Much love,
Elder Long

Second Letter:

If you want/are able to, can you type this up and add it to my blog as Part 2 of my email I sent today. I can't remember if I told you or not, but I'll be in the MTC until September 10th. You can post the address on this envelope for anyone who wants to send a letter rather than use
My district is a lot of fun. We have a red-headed Elder Schmidt who is, in fact, related to the pianist Jon Schmidt. I loooove learning spanish! It's so much fun to be able to understand another language. It will be even better when my vocabulary gets bugger an I can speak my mind better too. One of my teachers pointed out that we aren't here to become great spanish speakers, we're here to learn how to invite others unto Christ.
It's been fun to bump into some people I know here! I've gotten to see Landon Winitana, Corbin Byers, Kirsi Jarvis, Allyssa Elliott, Dallin Carlson, Sunny Lund, and several other friends from BYU. They're doing great and are so excited to serve!
I've been surprised at the high amount of disabled missionaries that are training here! Good for them! It's great to see that if you have the desire, our loving Heavenly Father will help you as He sees fit according to His plan for you. After all, He knows best. Pues tengo que estudiar con mi companero entonces podemos estar listos a ensenara Adan por la tarde.
Much love,
Elder Long
P.S. My spanish still has a ways to go...

Tanner's 1st letter from the MTC

Well, I've survived the first few days at the MTC! Forgive me for any typos in this email, these keyboards are kind of wack haha. It's been a crazy few days! The first day I arrived we got our badges and ID cards and put our luggage in our rooms. It felt sooooo good to finally put my missionary nametag on. I''ve waited 19 years for that. My companion is Elder Taylor Welker--a young man that I actually already knew from BYU! Small world. My district is great. We have eight young men that are hard working, enjoy a good joke, and all seem like great Elders. Our district is an intermediate Spanish class, so all of us have studied a bit of Spanish throughout high school and whatnot. A few of the Elders still really struggle with understanding and speaking, but as do we all. I''ve actually been incredibly pleasantly surprised with how much I could understand already! Our Spanish teacher speaks solely in Spanish the entire time we''re with him. He reminds me of Jake Ortiz, actually! They look so alike! I haven''t been able to get permission to upload and send my pictures yet, but hopefully I can send you some pictures next week. Our P-day will be every Friday, so look for mail for me then.
Thanks so much Mum and Dad for the "Dear Elders!" It was great to receive mail so quickly! Several of my other roommates (my companion and my roommate that looks identical to Harvey Dent in "The Dark Knight") have already received packages left and right! Please post on my FB and blog that people can write me letters super easily and that I'd love to hear from them! My mailbox number is 215.
The food really isn't as bad as everyone always makes it out to be. The chocolate milk is definitely heavenly, so I'm glad that rumor is true. Granted I've only been here three days, so I may or may not get tired of the food. We'll see! Our days our amazingly long and tiring, but they have been good so far. I've heard that once you make it past the first Sunday, things start to move a bit quicker.
We taught our first investigator yesterday. It was a distaster. Ha. We had to teach him in Spanish, and if that wasn't hard enough already, Adan is an athiest that claims to have no reason to believe in God, has horrible family relations, doesn't want to get married or have children, doesn't want to pray, yet is still happy to welcome us in to talk about our Church. He has a degree in philosophy, so that's really the reason he wants to meet with us. We set another appointment for this afternoon, and hopefully it will go better. He's already met with the missionaries many times before and knows all the lessons front and back, so that's what killed us in our last "cita" (appointment). He had soooo many defenses and seemingly solid counter-points againts what we were trying to help him understand. It was so frustrating to have an idea and not be able to express it properly because my Spanish vocabulary is still so small. The good news is that I learned a lot from just that one lesson:
1) I can understand nearly everything being said, but I just can't respond well.
2) Teach the investigator, not the lesson plan.
3) Teamwork is difficult when your companion doesn't understand #2.
4) Missionary work is impossible without the help of the Lord.
Aahh, my time is already at and end but I have so much more I want to say! My companion and I really do get along well. We love to quote "Nacho Libre" together. He is very much so my "Elder Calhoun" if you know what I mean. My other roommates are great guys and one of them reminds me of Cooper. I like them a lot. Have a wonderful week, send letters and prayers my way, and don't forget to rely on the Lord for EVERYTHING!
Much love,
Elder Tanner Long :)