The D-word


Part I: Segfault

Last Friday, we were ecstatic to find that we had in-field orientation. In-field orientation is basically a gigantic all-day meeting, the purpose of which is to prepare soon-departing missionaries for the mission field. It serves to get everyone excited for the field and ready to find and teach people and work with members. Fortunately, it’s not as sleep-inducing as most nine-hour meetings, since the hosts are chosen for their ability to keep everyone involved. There are plenty of object lessons, activities, and demonstrations designed to keep everyone’s brain activity above the delta frequency band. I was quite enjoying myself, and was very excited to get into the field and start teaching real people.

Me and Elder Heaps sitting by the fountain at the Provo Temple. If only we’d sat on the left side of the bench, the composition would be so much better…

Then, everything came to a screeching halt.

Following the first half of in-field and lunch, we Taipei missionaries were sitting in the "working with members" section of in-field along with about 100 other soon-departing missionaries when the host made an announcement. He said that everyone going to Taipei should report to the travel office, and that our next opportunity to do so would be at 5:00 PM, in almost five hours. There was no way any of us could stand to wait that long to find out what the news was, so luckily, two other elders from our zone slipped out and ran to the travel office.

Some of our zone outside of our classroom building.

When they returned, I knew something was wrong, because they were practically ashen-faced. A minute later, one turned toward me and Elder Heaps and loudly whispered toward our table the dreaded words: "Our visas haven’t come. We’re not leaving on Friday." In the minutes to follow, many crumpled pieces of paper flew through the air between different tables in the meeting hall. I watched some of the other Taipei elders’ faces fall as they smoothed out the torn scraps and read the words written on them.

The second the meeting ground to a halt, twenty-nine agitated missionaries leapt to their feet and ran out the door. We walked anxiously to the travel office, where we were told exactly what the early messengers had said: yes, our visas had not yet come; no, we would not be leaving on Friday; no, the travel office was not willing to give any further information or answer any questions. We all left feeling quite frustrated. The rest of in-field orientation was torture.

In-field finally concluded at 6:15, and we trudged downheartedly back to our last class with Brother Walter (Wu Laoshi). Both of our old teachers were reassigned, and we had to say goodbye to them. Sister Tanner’s last class with us was on Thursday. It was hard to bid our teachers farewell after spending six hours every day with them for almost all of our time in the MTC. We took some group pictures. Our teachers gave us their emails and Facebook accounts for after our missions. Elder Heaps and I realized we had yet to write our weekly letters to the branch president, so we ran off and rushed through them really fast. When we returned, Wu Laoshi was gone.

Last picture with Tan Laoshi (Thursday).

​Last picture with Wu Laoshi (Friday).

​25A Elders with Elder Christensen from The District (documentary).

Part II: The Oath of Methuselah

In our Tuesday devotional, Elder Martino told us to "put names with our goals." I’m fairly sure he meant to associate our goals and numbers with the people we are teaching, but I decided to take it a different way as well. We set a lot of goals as missionaries. In order to better remember my goals, I have begun to assign each a biblical name I concoct myself. Hence, my "effective time use" goal became the Oath of Methuselah. My "Chinese grammar use" goal became Absalom’s Ebenezer. When I asked Wu Laoshi how to say "Oath of Methuselah" in Chinese, he confusedly replied: "I don’t know. I never had to teach investigators about that."

On Thursday morning, Elders Heaps, Jensen, and Vaughn completely trashed our room. Notice that my own name was not mentioned in that list. I’m innocent, I swear. (Don’t worry; our room has since been restored to its pristine condition, and no property was damaged). Essentially, the events transpired as such: Elders Jensen and Heaps hid Elder Vaughn’s chair under the sheets. Elder Vaughn didn’t even notice it until after gym that morning. When he did, he reclaimed his chair and then threw Elder Heaps’ mattress off of his bed in retaliation. Elders Jensen and I walked in and saw the mattress lying askew between two upper bunks. Elder Heaps walked in, but didn’t notice at first. When he did, he and Elder Jensen retaliated by pulling the two mattresses off of Elder Vaughn’s bunk and hurling them to the floor. Elder Heaps then hid in the closet. Although the MTC is all well and good, I’m fairly sure it is slowly driving us all insane.

The aftermath.

Part III: Three Integrals

Elder Martino in the Tuesday devotional referenced an oft-quoted saying of President Monson: "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates." I decided to look at this statement mathematically.

Rate of improvement is the first derivative of success, or performance. The rate of improvement accelerates as we measure and report performance. This means that the second derivative of the rate of improvement is some positive constant k. So, if S(t) is the differentiable function of success versus time, S^I(t) is rate of improvement versus time, and S^III(t) is the acceleration of the rate of improvement versus time, equal to k. If we integrate thrice, we get that S(t) is equal to k/6 x^3 + c_1/2 x^2 + c_2x + c_3. k is the initial value of acceleration of rate of improvement, c1 is the initial value of change over time of rate of improvement, c_2 is the initial value of rate of improvement, and c_3 is the initial value of performance. The point being, even if these constants are quite close to or even equal to zero, our performance will still increase very quickly as we assign a positive value to k by measuring and reporting performance.

This is my journal lying on top of my notebook.

Part IV: Hope

All that we can do now is wait for our visas to come. I’m fairly confident we won’t have to wait long, because Taiwan is generally punctual but last-minute with its visas. I would hazard a guess that our visas are delayed because the time when they would usually be completed and sent coincided with Labor Day weekend, but I have no idea.

Some missionaries I have talked to said that they know of times when the travel office has told missionaries that they are delayed, only to have their visas arrive within a few days and leave on schedule. Others have said that sometimes missionaries will be given less than an hour’s notice to prepare to leave at an unexpected time. Still others have heard of missionaries waiting two or three extra weeks at the MTC. We must watch therefore, for we know neither the day nor the hour wherein our visas will arrive and we will depart.

That’s all I know right now. Brethren, adieu.


One thought on “The D-word

  1. Ilene Andersen says:

    Dear Elder Elliott,

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog during your time at the MTC. I’m looking forward to your weekly reports once you arrive in the mission field–after those elusive visas arrive. Your math explanation about Pres. Monsen’s quote was interesting. I’ll just say I will take your word for your research. Math was never a strong point–especially anything beyond algebra and it’s been a lot of years since I have used that.

    Hoping that you will be on your way soon. I know you are eager to be in your field of labor. Take care and may the Lord’s choicest blessings be with you.

    Looking forward to your next installment,

    Ilene Andersen (Wasatch Ward)

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