Friday, December 30, 2011

Back to work! 12/29/11

Hello again!  So after I emailed you all on Christmas, my day ended quite well. We had another devotional by Stephen Allen - he is head of ALL missionary affairs for the entire church. WOW. A brilliant man. He talked to us about experiences of missionaries here in the MTC and out in the field, things and feelings we will experience, and how to overcome them. It was great. He's a funny guy too :) Oh! And I forgot to tell you, but on Christmas eve, we also had a little skit of the birth of The Savior, sang fun Christmas songs, stuff like that. They even let us sing Jingle Bells!!!!!! Only non-hymn we've sang while I've been here (besides Come thou Fount of course). Haha. They also gave us this fun little missionary-version of 12 days of Christmas.

"For the 12 days of Christmas, a missionary needs:

1 copy of the Book of Mormon

2 Heavy bags

3 Meals a day

4 referral cards

5 golden contacts

6 bowls of ice cream

7 sessions planning

8 teachers teaching

9 sisters singing

10 prayers for blessings

11 Elders preaching

12 Apostles speaking"

Fun right?

So my Christmas day ended pretty great. Thanks again for all the gifts - the quote book, the family pics., the dunford donuts (my room loved them). And all the letters from friends!! I got a ton a few days before Christmas! That was just wonderful :) Getting mail is like Christmas every day. I hope all my friends are still doing well. I love them. Which reminds me! Great news about Brenton going to Mexico!! Spanish.... I'm telling ya, it's quickly becoming the language of choice. Me, Parker, Brenton. (I'm still crossin my fingers for you, Matt and Spence).

So since Christmas ended, we've gotten right back on track here at the MTC. Learning, learning, and more learning. Class, class, and more class. Elder Paskett and I have had some REALLY awesome lessons with Brother Toone, learning how to ask better questions and things like that. Our district also had an AWESOME lesson with Brother Warburton a few days ago about how to teach by The Spirit and change your lesson plan according to both the needs of the investigator and to the promptings of The Spirit. It was way spiritual, and just further proved the power of The Spirit.

And of course, Preach My Gospel is the best. I learn something from it every day. I highlight and mark it, just like my scriptures. It's divine literature from the first presidency! EVERYONE! Read Preach My Gospel. It's the best.

I've also been learning a lot from my patriarchal blessing this week. It's so amazing. It inspires me and gives me guidance. Thanks so much for sending it to me :)

On Tuesday, we heard from Elder William Walker. He's head over ALL temple work for the WHOLE church. Daaaang. He works very closely with Pres. Monson, and he oversees all temple constuction, planning, and stuff like that. His talk was just perfect for me. He talked about the 10 things to be a successful missionary, and had scriptures to accompany every one! It was great. I LOVE hearing from these amazing people here. It'll be one definate con to leaving the MTC. Ha.

Ok so to answer a few questions - no mom, you don't need to send me another journal or anything. I'm planning on buying a ton here at the MTC before I leave so they'll all match. Ha. Just a little ocd tendency :) Second, great news about my watch!! Thank you SO much dad. You are the best. Also Mom, I saw Erik Ratchapong here :) He is so amazing. Really. He's going to Australia and he's so ready. I love that guy. When we saw each other we gave each other a big hug :) How great it is when you and your friends are involved in The Lord's work together. Oh and I also saw Elder Tanner LeBaron! He's goin to New York south, NY - spanish speaking. (Again.... spanish. The best.)

Well guys, I hope you're all doing well and you'll hear from me again in a week. As Elder Bednar says: Keep being "good boys" and "good girls" and The Lord and His Spirit will be with us. I love you!!!!

-Elder Clarke

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12/25/11 Merry Christmas!!!!

"And God bless us, every one."

As we watched "A Christmas Carol" last night, this quote from Tiny Tim touched my heart.

Today is Chistmas. The past couple of days, I have learned and watched for myself as God has poured out His love on us here at this time of year. It has been such an amazing past two days.

Last night we watched "A Christmas Carol". Under normal circumstances (If I were at home), I wouldn't have been particularly excited to watch this movie. But as our Christmas Eve night went on, that undeniable spirit of Christmas came into that big MTC room, and I felt the Love of Christ witness to me that no matter where we are - with or without family - that this is the time to remember Christ and the LOVE that He has for us. He was born into the world for us, lived a perfect life as an example for us to follow, and died and suffered for us. All because of the LOVE he has for his brothers and sisters - all of us. My moment of realization was a great one, and hard to explain. But I felt the LOVE of Christ all around me. It filled my soul as the night came to a close. What a great experience. My favorite Christmas Eve, bar none. (Sorry familia)

That night, we had a mini residence-devotional with our zone with Brother Monson. He's in our branch presidency - the prophet's nephew. He's an incredible man. He knows the scriptures better than anyone I've ever met! And he always has The Spirit with him. A true servant of our Savior. A great little devotional :)

Following Hno. Monson's sermon, our whole district piled into one room to sleepover! It was so fun. And so special! I will say though, that I thought about all of you a lot, and the fun you must've had at Grandpa's - opening pajamas and what not. I thought about you a lot while I laid in bed :) I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas eve :)

I awoke this morning at 6:30, and turned on the lights immediately! I woke my whole district up :) We all took turns opening presents - one by one - just like at home :) It was the greatest!!!!! Thank you so much everyone!! The presents were all wonderful. Thank you Krissy for EVERYTHING, family for EVERYTHING, Gma and Gpa for the chocolates and money, Garners for the 1st Aid kit, Dave for the tie!! (I'm wearing it right now), and anything/everything else I didn't mention. I just got so much. I'm just way too blessed. Thanks so much - really :)

At 7:45, I then proceeded to go help prepare sacrament with a fellow zone member - Elder Vanderpool. We prepared it for 2120 people!!! Biggest sacrament meeting you will EVER see. It was probly theeee coolest thing.

Before sacrament meeting, we got to watch the MoTab and Temple Square Orchestra perform (Broadcast). It was sweet. I thought of Grandma :) and at the end, they sang The Messiah!! Then I thought of Dad :) It was a good tone - setter for the day :)

In sacrament meeting, we had the privelage to hear from............... Guess who? David A. Bednar!!!! One of my favorites. His talk was absolutely amazing. The Spirit that the apostles carry with them is unreal. I know his message was inspired. He spoke of the character of Christ, and what made Him who and what He was. It was so doctrinely sound, and just filled the room with The Spirit once again. I love how present The Spirit always is here. He also encouraged us to become truly converted, and turn outward instead of inward. So inspiring. Man. If you were there, you'd know what I was talking about!

After the meeting, we went on a quick walk to the temple, came back and had lunch (turkey and potatoes - fantastic), and had district meeting. We read Luke 2.

Well, I would write more, but my time is up on the computer! 2100+ missionaries have gotta use these computers today! The past few days have been truly truly wonderful. Just always remember that our biggest and best Christmas gift of all is our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the opportunity we have because of Him to return to God's presence and live eternally forever as families.

I love you all so so so so so so much and I hope you've had a wonderful day!!!! I'll write again on preparation day.


- Elder Clarke

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12/22/11 Feliz Navidad!

Navidad es en TRES dias!! I'm so excited! Gracias everyone for all the letters, candy, chocolates, and christmas cards. I feel an outpouring of love :) I have loved this Christmas season and I hope you're all enjoying it just as much as me! No snow...... but it's all good :) As you probably know, I won't be allowed to call home on Christmas because of the 2000+ missionaries here, but I'll be able to call from the airport next month! I'm looking forward to that already :)
I have had an AWESOME week this week. I started my new years resolution early by writing in my journal every SINGLE day - I need to make sure I keep track of all this great stuff that's happening. I finally finished transferring over my old scripture markings from my old scriptures this week, so I'll be sending those home with Sis. Belliston in the near future. I'm also really starting to love PMG (Preach My Gospel). I wish I had studied it more before I got here. I know every missionary says that, but it's for real. It's the best tool us missionaries have. I would strongly encourage that all my buddies preparing for missions (Dave this includes you too) study Preach My Gospel right now.

So earlier this week our room bid farwell to one of our roomates heading to South Africa - Elder Fahina. He hasn't gotten his visa yet so he'll serve temporarily in Las Vegas, Nevada. We got up with him at 4:30am and walked him out to the bus... It got me sooo excited to leave!!! I just can't wait to get to Panama. I know I'll probly struggle with the language when I get there, but I just wanna learn and grow out there. (Plus, now that he's gone, I have a bottom bunk! Score.)

Another cool thing happening this week was receiving that advice in letters from RM's. Thank you so much for that. Shout out to Andy Cottrell this week especially - his letter gave me EXACTLY what I needed. The Lord is so aware of our needs and out of all the things Andy could've advised me on, it was exactly the right thing. I got to see him this week too! He teaches on the third floor in my building, so it was great to catch up with him and thank him.

It's great to hear that Tyler Kitchen is home and is doing awesome! I loved his letter as well and I'm so glad he had a good mission. I look forward to hearing about Ryan's mission call soon.

So you've probably gotten the picture of my ear by now. When I went to the doctor again last week, they informed me that they actually DID diagnose the problem correctly the first time - I have an ear infection. Problem is, the infection is so abnormally gigantic that it has covered my entire ear canal and that is why I can't hear anything. The doc told me this kind of thing usually takes 3 months to get rid of - but since I'm leaving in 1 month, he upped my dosage big time, and I have another appointment in a few weeks. .....If it hasn't cleared up by then, the only other option at that point would be for them to do a minor surgery and stick a tube in my ear before I go to Panama. Yikes..... haha.

I received a priesthood blessing from Elder Paskett on Sunday, and it was a really special experience. He told me it was his first blessing. After the blessing though, I knew I'd be ok. The priesthood is the literal power of God. It can work miracles - it is simply all according to my faith. My ear will be fine - don't worry too much about that :)

I hope you allll have an AMAZING Christmas. It's a wonderful time of year to reflect on our Savior and everything He's done for us. As we remember his birth, take time to reflect on all the blessings you've received because of Him. The least we can do to show our thanks is follow him, keep his commandments, and help others come unto Him.

Love you all!

-Elder Clarke

P.S....... Please watch "It's a Wonderful Life" for me. Please! It's the BEST movie.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12/15/11 Hola everyone!

Tis the Christmas season, no? Although there's no nieve (snow)..... it's beginning to feel like Christmas.
On Tuesday night, we had the most wonderful devotional by Elaine S. Dalton - the YW Gen. President! She talked to us all about spiritual Christmas gifts and focusing on The Savior this holiday season. It was wonderful. It really got me into the Christmas spirit. ... Speaking of Christmas, I am LOVING these "Doce dias de Navidad". I open my gift first thing every morning!! And all my roomates are so jealous. Thank you so much family :) Seriously. Especially for the V8 Fusion...... It was a hit among my roomates. Ha :)

So I have now offically joined the missionary choir here. I'm still a tenor :) We sing at all the Tuesday night devotionals and it's so great! It helps you feel The Spirit better throughout the day.

Oh! Speaking of singing, last Sunday night the BYU Men's Chorus came and put on a concert for us. It was phenomonal! Did you know they are the biggest university all-men's choir in the nation?? They were sooo good. It was fun. They even sang one of my chamber Christmas songs from last year - "Fum Fum Fum". And shout out to Mr. Seth Bott - he is a great singer.

In other news, the MTC health clinic here mis-diagnosed my ear infection, and it turns out it's a bigger problem with pressure and fluid building up around my eardrum I think... I still can't really hear. Haha. So Elder Paskett and I are going to an ENT specialist tomorrow morning so they can check it out. I get to leave campus!! I haven't ridden in a car for a month!! It will be sweet to see the real world again :)

Also Mom, thanks for forwarding that letter from Elder Walker. He is doing so well and he gave me some words of encouragement pertaining to learning the language better (he's speaking spanish too). While we're talking about missionaries.... I AM SO EXCITED FOR NATHAN!!!!! AH!!! That's the coolest thing ever. I want to talk to him about it. I know he's gonna be so great. Brazil will be super sweet. Lastly in that letter, I want to thank my hot little bro Adam, for the sweetest card ever! I almost cried when I opened it. You are an artist, my man. The Christmas tree looked great! I miss you so much little dude.

I sent some pictures a few days ago, so hopefully you get them soon. I sent like 50 of them, so hopefully that will keep you at bay, mother. Hah :)

Everything is going great here, don't worry about me. I even make my bed every day.

I hope you're all doing well and be safe! I love each and every one of you!

Con amor,

Elder Clarke

P.S..... Ether 12:41 is awesome.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Life is Good! 12/8/11

Hola family!

So remember how I was having a hard time hearing out of my right ear before I left? Well recently my hearing completely went out in my ear.... I couldn't hear hardly anything. So I went to the MTC health clinic here, and it turns out I have an ear infection. Darn :/ I haven't had one of these since I was like 7 yrs old! Ha oh well though, with the help of The Lord, all will be well, and my hearing will come back just fine :)

As for my highlights of the week? There have been plenty. For starters, I saw Derek Paulson last Thursday on my way to the Temple! It was so sweet. He's such a stud. The temple was so good too. Best place on earth, I tell you.

On Friday, we had our first encounter with TRC (teaching resource center). Elder Paskett and I went in and spoke with a young lady named Emma. We spoke to her about faith, acting on faith, and letting her know that God loves all of his children equally (All in spanish of course). She told us she had taken spanish classes for 7 years in hs and college.... and we knew just about as much as she did! With only two weeks under our belt! Just shows you how The Spirit helps us learn at an accelerated pace. It was a wonderful lesson too. The Spirit was there and she told us she felt It. Which was good. If our investigators can just feel The Spirit, we are fullfilling our purpose as missionaries - helping others come unto Christ. We will have TRC at least once a week from now on. I'm looking forward to teaching with real people again :)

That night Friday night, the gym was closed... so some of my district and I went and ran laps around the MTC! It was freezing but it was so fun! I have probly ran and worked out more here than I have in the last year. Haha. Yesterday I was up to 3 miles! Yippee!

Then Sunday came..... and we got to watch the First Presidency Christmas message! It was awesome huh? I hoped you all watched it. It reminded me of when we went as a family a few years ago. What did you think of those awesome bible videos?! I have been on since, and there is tons of them! I am confident they will help many come unto Christ during this Christmas season. If they weren't going to be useful, the First Presidency wouldn't have done it in the first place! They are super sweet :)

On Sunday I also watched an old talk by David A. Bednar about recognizing The Spirit in our life. It was JUST what I needed to hear. I had been fasting that day for answers to those exact questions. It was a testimony builder to me that God listens to our prayers and helps us daily. It was just a wonderful Sunday. (Most of them are, no?)

So Mom, I'm so happy to hear that school is going good! I'm sorry you've been stressed out though - I know how that goes. Good job on your powerpoint though!! Maybe you can save it until I get home and I'll watch it with you :) .... That reminds me, how is the computer going? I'm sure Dad took care of it just fine. He is the man.

....Dad: Grandma told me that you've done a lot of work at their house recently. Way to go. How is your foot coming along? I think about you almost every day.

Tell everyone that I'm thinking of them and that I love them! If they're wondering, I'm just continuing to learn. Right now I'm learning present progressive and future tense in Spanish. It's hard, but it's good for me. I also started reading Jesus The Christ. SUCH a good volume. It's deep stuff, but it's great.

Well, my time in the MTC is now 1/3 over! Still got work to do. I love you all and hope that it snows this week. Ha :P

Hasta luego!

-Elder Clarke

Friday, December 2, 2011


Can you believe how fast time has flown? This week blew by.

My Thanksgiving was amazing. We spent a part of the day doing a service project preparing injury kits for refugees in Sudan. What a great way to spend the day right? The feast was great of course - but no where near as good as home. Oh and guess who came and spoke to us? Russell M. Nelson. Two apostles in one week?! How lucky am I. It was wonderful :) We ended our Thanksgiving evening with a fun little devotional and THEN.... Mom. Guess what. We got to watch 17 Miracles!!!! .....I finally got to see it!!! It was such a amazing movie. I'll admit, I teared up a bit. We have so much to be thankful for. The Lord has given us innumerable amounts of blessings - more than we can even comprehend. We should give thanks for those things each and every day through prayer. And look for all the little blessings He's given you in your life - you'll find a new one around every corner. We are forever indebted to Him. The LEAST we can do is obey him, follow His counsel, and talk to him through prayer daily. He wants us to speak to Him.

Mom, thank you so much for the package! (Loved the butterfly stationary btw) All useful things. It was so nice of you. And don't worry about getting me my patriarchal blessing - Grandpa sent me one :) Thanks Gramps :) Speaking of which..... he told me in his letter that the NBA finally resolved the labor issue?!?! Crazy. I was hoping it'd last at least a year so I wouldn't miss so much. All I can say is watch out for Derrick Favors. He's an animal.

Also, thank you for those perfect little treats you sent me. They were perfect... as always. I'm sad to say though that they didn't make it till district meeting..... my whole room helped me devour them quickly. No worries though - I've started running a mile a day. Haha.

Adam: So good to hear from you. You are STILL the hottest little man around. How is your neck doing? P.S.... I'm glad you won your last bball game!

Scotty: How was the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade? The MTC is awesome. I can't wait till you serve a mission someday. I love you too and hope you're doing good.

Katie: Hope you liked your letter :) I can't believe you're already playing real hymns!!! You girl stud, you. Way to go...... btw spanish is better than german ;)

Dave: Why are so you cool? I will try to send some funny spanish phrases soon. To anwser your question, we have a lot of "Coaching missionary study" classes - that's where we learn how to better teach our investigators. A lot of our classes are spanish though. The teachers here are amazing. You have no idea. Brother Monson is in my branch presidency........ THE PROPHET'S NEPHEW. No big deal, right? He tells us stories about "Uncle Tom" all the time. The fellow missionaries and teachers are incredible. I feel my testimony grow every day. I can't wait for you to come here.

I'm sorry to hear school is still stressful... pray for help. The Lord will help you with anything as long as your desires are good. He's waiting for you to ask Him for help.

Dad: Thank you so much for sending the alarm clock and the many other things I needed. You are the best dad :) I'm glad to hear your foot is healing well too. I didn't know you were a DL in the MTC too! That's so sweet. Following in the footsteps of my awesome dad. You'll be happy to know the Panama flag is hanging in my room now - my fellow Panamanian roomies love it. I also saw the stone in the foyer and thought of you: "Whatever thou art, Act well thy part". It's awesome. Thanks for being such an amazing person. I meant it in my talk - you are my hero.

Just so you all know..... you should probly be aware that I'm becoming a new man quickly.

1) I got a haircut this morning. The hairdresser cut it "as short as legal". I'm practically bald.

2) I love going to bed early!!!! It is so dang great.

3) I'm getting in the Christmas spirit! The lights are on here at the MTC now, and I constantly sing christmas music everywhere I go.

Well I'm headed to the Temple in a bit! I'm sooo excited! This is my first time here - I didn't get to go last week because of Thanksgiving. The Temple is the best place to be. I love you all so much and keep being safe.

-Elder Clarke

P.S..... Mom, I saw Elder Chatterly and Elder Sullivan. Sweet eh? I've seen many others..... i.e. Elder Ross, Elder Flinders, Elder Hemsley, Elder MaCulloch, Elder Miller and many more.

P.P.S...... Where is Brenton Webb going on his mission?!? Did he get his call yet?! I've been dying to know. Let me know, ya?