Last meal and first days in the MTC

On Wednesday, my family ate our last meal at In-n-Out Burger.  I ate a cheeseburger with grilled onions:


At 12:45 PM, my family dropped me off at the MTC.  Immediately, my host whisked me through a streamlined and efficient process of initialization.  I was equipped with my badges, missionary books, schedule, and an envelope containing important information and my key card.

First, I went to a computer lab and watched an orientation on the gym rules.  Then, I headed to my classroom.

As soon as I walked into the classroom, my teacher started speaking Chinese to me–just as I had expected.  At first, I was completely confused, but I quickly picked up and was able to kind of converse.  I learned the words “companion”, “missionary”, “mission”, and the like.  I saw my companion’s name on the desk next to mine.  When he walked in, I greeted him: “Ni shi wo de tongban!” (you are my companion!)  I was excited to meet him.  His name is Elder Heaps, and he’s a great elder.  His Chinese is better than mine, but we can still hold a good conversation together.

As my district filed in, I began to learn about everyone.  I’m part of District A, which is unique in that all but two of us are going to Taipei and in that we’re the only district in our Chinese zone with sisters.  Our district has three elder companionships and two sister companionships.​

Here’s a picture of all of the elders in my district:


Top row, left to right: Elder Heaps, me, Elder Robinson.
Bottom row, left to right: Elder Vaughn, Elder Jensen, and Elder Wheeler.

I was going to upload a big picture of all the elders and sisters, but I exceeded the file size limit.

I can’t run any compression utilities on the MTC computers, so I can only send one picture per email for now.  Sorry about that.

I really love our district.  I know I’m biased, but I definitely think it’s the best district in the whole MTC.  Everyone here is very smart and competent, and we all have skills and interests that complement each other.  Let me tell you a bit about each elder and sister in our district.  First of all, Elder Heaps, my companion.

Of all the people I’ve known, Elder Heaps reminds me most of a kid named Matthias who I knew in elementary school and a bit in high school.  He’s really with-it and has a great sense of humor.  He’s excellent at making friends and conversation, and I feel like I can learn a lot from him.  We get along really well, and I’m having a very enjoyable time learning from him.  I want to learn how to be more outgoing, and Elder Heaps and Elder Jensen have agreed to help me in this respect.

Elder Robinson: our district leader.  He’s a great leader because he gets along with everyone.  He’s always friendly and open, and tells us great stories about his mischievous high-school exploits.  He’s never had much experience with Chinese before, but he’s learning ridiculously fast.  He already knows as much Chinese as I did after a year of Chinese in high school.  He is always writing down and practicing his vocab.

Elder Vaughn: the only elder not from Utah.  He’s from Knoxville, and once again, we really get along well.  He’s really smart and also took a ridiculous number of AP classes in his high school, and we had a lot of fun reviewing L’Hopital’s rule and finding solids of rotation about the y-axis over dinner.

Elder Jensen: a very athletic and well-rounded elder from St. George.  He thinks very deeply about everything, and I think he’s a very interesting person to talk to.  During some of our free time, we both tried to prove why the Coriolis effect (how cyclones/water going down a drain rotate in a different direction in the north and south hemispheres) happens, and with a pretty simple free-body diagram I think we got it mostly figured out.

Elder Wheeler: an elder coming back from three years at West Point.  He has a military sense of discipline, makes his bed extremely well, and tells great stories about boot camp.  One time, he had to do jumping jacks and push-ups in a cabin filled with irritative poison gas without a mask.  Compared to that, the MTC seems like a world-class hotel.

Anyway, my Chinese has improved a huge amount in the few days I’ve been here.  Already, my district is saying all of our prayers and singing our hymns in Chinese.  Elder Heaps and I have taught an “investigator” (acting) twice in Chinese, and she accepted a Book of Mormon and agreed to give the closing prayer last time.  We talk Chinese whenever we can to each other.

The food is good, but it wreaks havoc on everyone’s digestive system.  I’m getting plenty of exercise, and having a great time despite the extremely structured nature of time in the MTC.

A few quick funny experiences: on our first day, the MTC president asked everyone from certain countries to stand up.  When he said “Taiwan”, my companion stood up.  Seeing him stand up, my whole district and I stood up.  The president looked confused to see so many white kids, all sitting in the same place, all “from Taiwan.”

When Elder Robinson and Elder Wheeler went to teach their first lesson in Chinese, she asked them where they were from.  Elder Wheeler said, “California.”  Elder Robinson blurted out: “Jesus Christ is the son of God!”  They laughed themselves to tears as they bumbled through the entire lesson.

We all asked each other our ACT scores.  When the elders heard mine, they were fairly surprised.  Now, they always call me “San shi liu zhanglao” (Elder 36).
That’s all for now.  I’m doing well and having a great time.  Bye!

4 thoughts on “Last meal and first days in the MTC

  1. Marianne Jones says:

    So glad there are other Elders who already know Chinese so you can practice a lot! I loved the MTC, such a strong spirit of God there directing His work!

  2. Zebra [or your Aunt Catherine --- whichever] says:

    Hi David

    I write you from a small town called Sain Bel near Lyon in southeastern France. After ~ 2 weeks here, we travel to the Mediterranean for a week. Nice reporting/efficient use of your limited computer time. Critically lovely is your sense that you have found a tribe in your district. Maybe you could just take a single pix of the sisters for uploading. Good luck w/ the digestive system havoc — I wasn’t much of a fan of the MTC dining program when I was there gazillions of missionaries ago.


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