elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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First Week in the MTC

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Hey! So today (Wednesday) is my P-day in the MTC, just so you know. Anyway, I’m having a great time. I’ll just go day by day. Just know that all my journal entries (which I’m looking at to write these) were written after 10:30, with a flashlight, so they might be a little hurried.

Wednesday: They pretty much just whisked us away, had us fill out a form on the computer, and sent us to the classroom, where I was dismayed to find that they speak 100% Deutsch. Then later that night we had a class where they brought something like 50 missionaries together and had us watch as an actor playing some investigator talking to some missionaries. Then we had to raise our hands and say something to them to answer their specific needs.

There was Sarah May, a southern woman who was a strong Christian but doesn’t go to church anymore because her father abused her as a child, and she doesn’t get why that had to happen. Then she kept marrying abusive husbands because it messed her up psychologically. So she was saying that she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong, but she was messed up and dirty, and so Heavenly Father wouldn’t answer her prayers.

The next was this intellectual guy who lost his 6 yr old son in a car accident, and although he believed in God because of all the amazing things he had seen, hated Him and couldn’t see how he could possibly care and let that happen.

The last one was this talkative Jewish woman from New Jersey whose father was in the Holocaust. Her main challenge was seeing why she needed the Gospel, and she was really good at leading people off track. The actors were actually really talented. This one poor Elder was trying really hard, but just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. He said “Sarah May, I think Christ is awesome” and Sarah May tore into him for his non-reverent language. And then he talked to the Jewish woman for a solid 10 minutes about chocolate and Australia, while the rest of us sat and watched and judged.

Something really cool that I learned that day was how to explain the Godhead. One of the investigators said it after someone talked to them about it. She said “So it’s like God is a coach, Christ is the quarterback, and the Holy Ghost is the wide receiver?” Wow. Best explanation I’ve ever heard.

Everyone in my room had a hard time falling asleep. It took me about an hour of staring at the back of my eyelids.

Thursday: I got called to be district leader.

Friday: Hard day, felt like I was doing bad at German. My teacher isn’t super friendly, so we don’t know how we are doing.

Saturday: Started noticing my District’s flaws.

Sunday: Started wanting to kill my people in my District.

But then, we had what may have been the most Spiritual few hours of my life. Janice Kapp Perry spoke (she wrote A Child’s Prayer, I Belong to the Church, the EFY medley, etc.). It was extremely laid back. She told a story about how she met her husband. They are 75ish now. They were in the same clarinet class. Before she had to perform her final test, he nudged her and said “You know, those lips look like they were made for better things than the clarinet.” Then this old man just leaps out of his seat, RUNS to the podium, and kisses her right on the mouth in front of 1000′s of missionaries. Everyone went nuts. There was lots of singing, and afterwards, I dragged my companion down to her to shake her hand. I told her that her songs are where my testimony started, and I think it meant a lot to her. After that, we all stayed and watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. It was just wave after wave of the Spirit. Everyone was crying.

Monday: My companion and I had to teach an investigator. (We had to teach him every day). They changed the times on us, so we had to basically just pray for help. Plus we don’t speak German well. It was our best lesson yet, as we taught by the Spirit.

Tuesday: The next day, however, we didn’t prepare enough, and it was awful. The Lord won’t help you unless you put the time in first. Also on Tuesday, I sang in the choir at a devotional where D. Todd Christoffersen spoke, and Bednar, Nelson, Oaks, Ballard, and Anderson were on the stand. Interestingly, while it was awesome, it was not nearly as spiritual as Sunday. And that’s not just me that seemed to feel that, but everyone.

All this week, the new Mission Presidents were here, and so were all the Apostles and the Prophet. We saw Dieter F. Uchtdorf once in his car, and I was able to shake the hand of Gifford Nielson and a Berlin Mission President from 10 years ago.

So….My district is just awesome.

I’m district leader (AKA mail carrier). I check the mail twice a day. My companion is Elder L. He graduated 3 weeks ago. He’s quiet, but nice. He has the least amount of German experience, so he’s really struggling. That means that I basically talk the entire time to our investigator, Horst. And I’m not good either. My companion is just a little afraid, I think. Elder A. and P. are the Zone leaders. They are my favorite people here, completely different than me, but super fun to talk with. We all went to BYU, and Elder A. lived 2 floors below me. He’s incredibly nice, and is just one of those super loyal people. Plus he laughs at my jokes. Elder P. appears a little austere, and I was worried that we wouldn’t get along, but after talking to him more, we are actually a lot alike. We have a ton of fun together. All three of them (Elder L. too) are going to Frankfurt. The other companionship in my room and District is Elder P2. and Elder B. Elder P2 left the MTC early a year ago because of stuff. He’s having a hard time with homesickness and anxiety. He is so excited to serve a mission though. He just wants to get to Berlin. He’s also one of my closest friends, and we have a hard time going to bed on time because we have so much fun cracking jokes. Elder B. is the one I’m struggling with the most. He just graduated from high school, really nice, maybe just a little arrogant, and corrects everyone all the time about anything ever.

“I wish I could fly.”

“We CAN fly!”

“I meant using my arms, Elder, not in a freaking plane!”

That conversation happened this morning.

He’s just fine, but I may have threatened him that . . . never mind. Maybe leave this part out of the blog post. 🙂

German is going well, I think, but the hardest part is knowing when a word is similar to the English one. Half the time I just add an -en to the end, speak in an approximation of a German accent, and hope for the best.

(MOOSEN! I SAW A FLOCKSEN OF MOOSEN IN THE WOODDISENEN! THEY WAS EATENEN IN THE WOODSENINENEN!)

I’m pretty sure that the MTC is designed to break you. To say there are a lot rules here is the understatement of THIS DISPENSATION. Someone counted (a high up person) and there are 230 rules here.

Also, probably about 160 of those are contradictory.

I know like, 6 total.

Basically every 15 minutes or so, someone walks in and tells us we are breaking a rule.
Okay, thank you. We’ll get right on that.

It can feel incredibly disorganized too. They want us to be 10 minutes early to everything except lunch, to which you should show after they stop serving food. Also, you can’t leave a class until 5 minutes after the next class starts, so I guess I just need to have more faith and time travel. I guess it’s the only way.

Seriously though, it is physically impossible to succeed, which I think they do on purpose so that you pray for help or go into a coma, whatever comes first.
It’s like, “Laundry is broken this week.” “You will get in trouble for having dirty clothes, so wash them in the sink.” “Also, you can’t wash clothes in the sink.”

That being said, I love it here, and my testimony grows each day. I love the Gospel, and I know that Christ lives. I know that Joseph Smith restored this Church as a prophet of God. I love you guys.

 

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Farewell Talk: Gratitude

[The following is from the talk given by Elder Greaves before leaving home for the MTC]

Thomas S. Monson talked about how the feeding of the 5000 during the Sermon on the Mount is an example of gratitude. We know that Christ was journeying in the wilderness for three days, and a crowd had followed him. And it’s not like they could look up His itinerary online or anything, so this was probably a pretty impromptu trip for many of them, and several families didn’t have anything to eat. The Lord had mercy, and wanted to feed them. He asked how much food they had, and the answer was 7 loaves and a few fishes. The Apostles did maybe what we would do, presented with these facts. They said that there was no way they could feed all those people, and immediately noted that they didn’t have enough. President Monson points out that Christ did the opposite. Right away, he expressed gratitude to Heavenly Father for what they did have, and it wasn’t until after this that a miracle was performed, and they had enough plus extra to feed the 5000. He focused and relied on what they did have rather than on the things they didn’t have.

One of my favorite examples from the scriptures is the story of 10 lepers. Christ was traveling somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, and had entered a village, when 10 lepers saw Him, recognized Him, and begged him to heal them. He had mercy on them, and healed them. The 9 left, probably to go see their families or get their health officially passed off by a Priest, both worthy tasks, but the one leper, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and gave thanks to Christ, and worshiped him. Then Christ took him by the hand, lifted him to his feet, and said, “Go thy way, your faith has made thee whole.” This story doesn’t really have details besides that, and we are left to wonder what happens to the 9, how the 1 was different. I don’t think that the 9 were no longer healed. That just doesn’t match up with the merciful attitude of the Lord. I don’t think that the 9 weren’t grateful. I’m just sure that as they ran to see their families, they felt their testimony of Christ strengthened, and they felt extremely grateful. But the last leper, he did something different when he expressed that gratitude. Sometimes we forget that part. I might think privately, ‘that was a real blessing’. But sometimes I forget to pray and say thanks for His help.

And there are a lot of things to be grateful for.

This Gospel is such a gift. There have been times when I really felt unsure about everything, my testimony included. I don’t think this is uncommon, nor do I think that this is wrong. It’s just a natural part of growing up, and beginning to rely more on your testimony than your parents. I hope that any youth or even adult that struggles with that knows that they aren’t doing anything wrong, and that even prophets have felt that, and talked about feeling like they had to pray when in the morning for their testimonies. During those times when I was feeling spiritually low, one thing I always tried to hold on to was that being a part of this gospel makes me happy. And obeying the commandments makes me happy. And praying and scripture study makes me happy. And as long as I remembered that, and kept moving forward, my testimony would always be strengthened eventually.

Something I’ve thought about a lot as I prepare to serve a mission is the Atonement, the single greatest thing anyone has done for anyone else ever. And that’s not even an exaggeration. One of the best illustrations I’ve ever heard of the Atonement was by Deiter F. Uchtdorf, in a talk he gave during this last Priesthood session, so many of you may not have heard it. He describes how we are like toddlers, learning to walk. He said:

“We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents. Now, brethren, compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time.”

The more we think about this allegory, the more illuminating it is. We need someone to pick us up, that’s Christ. Sometimes, it is others around us that Christ directs to help us.

Heavenly Father doesn’t get mad when we make mistakes, he just wants us to grow. In fact, the only thing that offends God is “Those who confess not his hand in all things.”

If we start believing that we have accomplished what we have all on our own, that is the only time when we offend God. If the lepers had thought that it was their own power that had healed them, or if those in the crowd at the sermon on the Mount had disregarded the statement that the Meek shall inherit the Earth and thought it was by their power that there was enough food for everyone, they would have had their blessings taken away until they understood. Without gratitude we can’t be humble, but with gratitude for everything around us, we can become closer to God.

And that relationship between gratitude and humility is so important for missionary work.

John 3:30 is one of my favorite missionary scriptures, and says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I love how much humility this shows, because the people were following John around and honoring him, but he understood that his influence needed to decrease to allow Christ’s to increase. That’s what missionaries need to do as well, decrease their personal interests and desires to allow themselves to be true servants of Christ and bring others to the Gospel.

Also one of my favorite scriptures right now is Helaman 3:35. ”Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” As a missionary, this will be my goal.

I am grateful for the times when Heavenly Father blesses me in little ways, like when I went to the temple to do baptisms with my little brother, and the Baptism Coordinator was a gentlemen who had grown up in Berlin, joined the church there, and sent his daughter on a mission there. It was just a little way that Heavenly Father helped to comfort me and help me feel how much He cares about me.

I know this Church is true, and I’m so grateful and excited for the opportunity to serve the Lord in Germany and help others learn of Christ.