Sunday, July 27, 2014

Letter to Dad - 24 July, 2014

Dad!! I love getting all of your emails, and really everyone else's too. Those are some intense experiences! You know, the parallel that you drew from those stories is so true. The spirit is definitely our most powerful tool. I have a cool experience that I would like to share: In our training we have TONS of opportunities to teach. Most of the time we teach each other and take turns pretending to be the investigator. And that is where the miracle happens. Even though it is practice, the Lord blesses us with the same spirit that He would give to our investigators. I had the opportunity to teach Elder Cook about prayer and to invite him to pray for the first time. As he did, even though it was just a roleplay, the spirit was so strong. It was absolutely incredible. I think that the Lord gives us those opportunities so that we can understand what the investigator is feeling, or at least needs to feel (it talks about that in preach my gospel). The spirit is the same. The Lord blesses us with that spirit to grow and learn.

My district is great. Funny story, I forgot to include this in my email to mom and the family, but I am the shortest lived district leader ever. I got fired this last Sunday. ;) I only lasted a week and two days!! However, the reason is because me and Elder Nagano (my companion) are the new Zone leaders! haha the Lord truly works in mysterious ways. I think that it is amazing and such a testimony builder that the Lord fulfills His promises.

My companion is awesome! We are so different in many ways, but we always agree on the gospel, which is good. We know that we need to teach in unity, and so we prepare to be powerful missionaries together. He loves to breakdance, which honestly is a bad thing because we aren't supposed to dance, but I'm not sure how to tell him that I think it would be better if he wouldn't. So I am kind of waiting for the spirit to direct me. Plus, it isn't a huge problem, and he doesn't do it too often, I just wish that he could follow the rules more closely. My district is so amazing. We have grown so close and one thing that we like to do is take about thirty minutes and allow people to share their life story. It has been such a testimony building experience and truly unifying in my district.

That is so cool that you got to go to Boston!! Did you take a lot of pictures? About that, make sure that the family knows I am sorry I haven't sent any pictures, but I won't be able to send any until I leave for Japan because we don't have iPads yet, and my SD card reader connects to iPads! haha

We get to go to the temple once a week on P-Day. Our allotted time is at 3:05 I believe, but this week we weren't able to go because . . . .Happy Pioneer Day!!! haha I hope that everything is going incredible at home. I will tell you more specifically about my Sunday schedule soon, but I actually have to go now. I love you so much, Dad! Thank you for your scriptures too, it is always something I need to hear. I love you!!

Love, Elder Livingston

Letter to Mom - 24 July, 2014

Thank you so much for the update! Tell Britta, Jenna, and Kaitlyn that I am sorry I haven't responded to their letter yet, I am working on it. :) And I am so glad to hear that things are going so well at home! Wow! Dad is so amazing. That organ is a beast, but if anyone could do it it would definitely be him! I have learned so much from you, Dad, and you are an amazing example to me. All of you are. :)

Holy cow is the MTC a challenge! First of all, the food here is about as good as cardboard. Filling, but not exactly satisfactory. haha Let's just say that I come from a very spoiled house and they don't exactly make coconut kurma here. ;) Thank you for teaching me the need for good, healthy eating and the blessing that it brings. I definitely am trying to eat healthier and it helps a lot. Also, I don't know how this works, but I am getting more sleep than ever and I am often more tired than ever! It is incredible that sitting in the same class room for around 9 hours a day (about) can make you so tired. I think it is probably a combination of the fact that learning a language is so mentally straining, and the fact that the spirit is so strong. When Ammon in the Book of Mormon felt the spirit super strongly it made him exhausted. I'm going to say that I know a part of what he felt! haha

The language is so challenging. Holy cow. I can't even express how hard it is. But it is so good, and you get so excited when you achieve small little things. For example, yesterday I started to read the Book of Mormon all the way through in Japanese. I understood the entire first sentence! haha after that it kind of went downhill . . .but at least I understood that! All in all the progress is truly miraculous and I know that the Lord is blessing everyone in my district, in fact everyone here!, with the gift of tongues to be able to learn the languages far faster than should be "possible" by worldly standards. It is really amazing.

So guess what? We had this devotional by T. C. Christensen on Sunday!! It was so amazing. He is the guy that directed movies like 17 miracles and Ephraim's Rescue. It was such a good devotional and it really accented the fact that when we are worthy and pure and we wash ourselves clean we can work miracles with the power that the Lord will bless us with. I know that is true. Heavenly Father wants to bless you guys and everyone so much, He just needs us to trust him and really become the righteous servants that He needs in life. As we strive to do what He wants He lifts us up far beyond our potential. That is one thing that I have learned here so much. Through the Lord, truly everything is possible. I have the loved the experience of being overwhelmed, which seems paradoxical, but it definitely isn't. When we are given trials that are too hard for us (as we truly will and do) we have to turn to the Lord. That is really what they want us to experience here at the MTC. And boy does it work!! I have never prayed so hard, or trusted so much in my entire life. And I have received more blessings than I could ever deserve because of it.

Thank you all so much for being the most amazing family. And mom, I especially want to thank you and dad for the amazing examples that you are. You two have changed my life forever and ever and I am eternally grateful that I am going to be able to live with you forever in the Celestial Kingdom, along with all of our families. This gospel is true. I know it. I love you all more than I could express, and I know that the Lord will take care of you while I am gone. I can not wait to hear all of your stories and to share all of mine too. I love you to infinity and beyond!!!

Love, Elder Livingston

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Letter to Dad - 17 July, 2014

I know that I already sent a long email to mom, but I wanted to personally thank you for what you sent to me, Dad. :) I love what you said about covenants and being a covenant keeper. That was a great reminder to me, and I think that was exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you for following your feelings and listening to the revelation that made you send that. Dad, I love you. I never realized just how much I loved you and our entire family until this trip to the MTC. But I really do love you all, so so much!! I love you, Dad!!

Love, Elder Livingston

A note from the Dad.... I don't think this is an actual letter.  More of a very loving Post-it Note to Dad.  Haha!!

Letter to Mom - 17 July, 2014

How do I write just one email to the woman that has changed my life forever? Mom, I love you. I miss you more than I could say. This week has been really good and really hard at the same time. The spirit is amazing here and is so strong. There is no way that I could survive here if I did not have the spirit. For example . . .day two? We teach an investigator completely in Japanese. And he only responds in Japanese. Thank heavens for my companion Elder Nagano!! He is part Japanese and lived in Tokyo for 5 years so he can understand quite a bit. He is such a cool guy, and I'm glad that I have someone who can push me to excel. We got to hear this amazing devotional on charity the other day. It was SO good!! The speaker was Richard Heaton and he was amazing. He helped me realize that I really need to have more charity in order to be an effective missionary. So I am working on that. :) I love the things that we learn here and the spirit that we feel!! I challenge you all to strive to live worthy constantly of the Holy Ghost, as I will be striving to do the same thing! 

I will admit that this week has also been very hard. It is such a cultural shock and it was really really hard to not hear from anyone for an entire week. I'm beginning to see why letters in the mail are so loved by missionaries! I would love some if you guys have time to send them. It would do me a lot of good to hear from you in the middle of the week. Mom, you are such an example to me. You are so amazing and your strength is such an example to me. You are such a beautiful woman inside and out and I am the luckiest guy in the universe to have you as my mom!! Um . . .I think that I may have left my rain coat at home. We need to check that, and I'll double check here but as I was unpacking I didn't see it. haha :)  I am learning to focus more and more every day. Needless to say, the power of prayer is absolutely incredible, and I never realized how divine it really is. I am doing great though, so don't worry about me. :) 

Ammon and Audrey's house looks so nice!! ahh, I wish that I could have been there to help. In case I don't have enough time to write them back individually as well, please let them know that I am quite envious of the game room! ;) haha How is it this week with only Britta at home? Is that pretty insane? I hope that you are still doing okay! Mom, don't forget how much I love you. You are the most amazing person, and I don't know how I got so blessed!! Also, I want dad to know that his example of a worthy priesthood holder is so amazing, and that I love him so so much. I could not ask for a better father. I love everyone at home! I just don't know how to express it all.

As far as a schedule here, it is basically: Wake up and work out for an hour, have breakfast, then study your guts out for 3-4 hours, then have lunch, then study your guts out for 3-4 hours, then eat dinner, then study your guts out for 3-4 hours!! haha ;) also, we always teach an investigator as one of the study sessions, and then just do whatever we feel like we need to study. Also, on P-day if I spread out my time on my email I may actually be able to respond to another email!!

Mom, as a closing note I love you all. You guys are so incredible and I don't think I actually realized how much I love you until I came out here. It is hard to be away, but I know that I am doing what is right and that I will be strengthened through the Lord. :) I love you mom!

Love, Elder Livingston

Letters dated 9 July and 12 July, 2014

Well look at that…

You’ve got mail. ;-)  Haha.  How can I sum up today?  It has been so crazy!! We get here, drop our bags off, and go straight to class where they speak nothing but Japanese!!  It is so daunting when you consider how much you don’t know.  I am eternally grateful for the 3 years of Japanese I did take.  Guys (and gals), I love you so much.  I really do.  I want you to know I could never have asked for a better family.  And you know what?  We have it so good.  Despite all of the sickness in our family, we are so lucky.  We had this activity where we watched some sister missionaries begin teaching investigators (members who actually have a conversion story or know someone close that they portray) and then we (a room of about 50 or so elders and sisters) ask them questions and talk to them, trying to bring them closer to Christ.  The love that filled my heart while trying to help them personally was more immense that I knew possible.  We taught this one man named Christian, and he had a son pass away 1 ½ years earlier.  His wife was 34 weeks pregnant.  As he explained his bitterness towards God, I couldn’t help but want to teach him all about Christ, and help him recognize god is there for him.  The gospel is true.  Live it every day.  I love you all, and hope you are doing well!  I apologize that this is so brief, but I have to go to bed.  I’ll be in touch again soon!

Love, Elder Livingston

P.S. My P-Day is on Thursday starting next Thursday.

P.P.S.  I totally have a pull-up bar!

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So, I don’t have stamps yet, so I’m adding more.  Today is the 12th and I want to share with you all the power of callings.  As district leader I’m supposed to interview each senior companion about how things are going.  I thought I wouldn’t be given much credit as an authority and the interviews would be awkward and short since I’m so young, but as soon as I asked how the Elders were, they opened up in a way I never would’ve imagined!! I loved being able to try and counsel with them and I hope what I said even helped.  But never back down from a calling and know that the Lord will make you the perfect tool. . . if you let him. ;-)

What are you guys up to?  Who won the World Cup???!!  I’m dying to know! (Even though the game is tomorrow).  How is your health holding up?  Oh! How was moving Ammon and Audrey?  Are they all settled in?  How does it look? J  I would love to know about anything and everything!!  I love you all SOO much!  Don’t forget about Jenna’s present in a week! ;-)  And make sure you know I love you with my whole heart!  I really do.  Stay safe, play hard, and don’t waste a second with negative thoughts or feelings.  Love ya!

Love, Elder Livingston 

Friday, July 11, 2014

July 10 : First Contact!

I'm here!!!

Hey all!! How are you guys?? Ahh, it is so incredible here. I can't even explain it. Also, I couldn't remember everyone's email address, so please forward this to everyone. The past two days, well, day and a half have been completely overwhelming in the most spiritually uplifting way possible!! How does that happen? That's basically the MTC in a nutshell for you. The very first day they start speaking Japanese, and the teachers don't speak any English. My companion is Elder Nagano, and he is super cool. He is actually Japanese but grew up in the states, so he doesn't know that much more Japanese than the rest of us. Also, it's day two, and I am the district leader!! :) haha I am so excited to be able to serve in this position, and I just hope that I can fulfill all that the Lord needs me too. I'm sorry that this letter probably won't be that long, but our actual email time is on Thursdays starting next Thursday, so they told us to just write a little, "I'm here and I'm alive . . .barely" email. haha I love you all so much. I just hope you know that I know the gospel is true. It was so fun to meet with our branch presidency today! They are amazing men, and they are definitely called of God. It was fun to hear everyone's testimony, but I think the most amazing part for me was when I got to have an interview with Brother Willes (who is actually the nephew of Gordon B. Hinckley!!) I could feel the love of God from him so so so much from the very first time that I met him, and as I told him that I knew the gospel was true I felt it. The best part though was that he asked how I was doing, and I said I was great . . .and it was true. :) I have felt it so so so much, and I know that I will be okay and be able to serve so so well as I strive for obedience and righteousness. Thank you for being the most amazing family ever. I love you all SOOOO much, and I will reply to your other emails and talk to you in greater length later.

Ai shite imasu!!

Elder Livingston
Livingston choro

July 9th : The Drop-Off

A final meal with the family at our favorite Thai restaurant Simply Thai.  The food was excellent, of course, and our host was so kind.

When we told her he was going to the MTC today she said they would get a special treat for him.  She brought us two free orders of Mango Sticky Rice and the Coconut Ice Cream for the celebration.

Coconut Ice Cream

We barely finished with enough time to drive to the MTC.  As we approached the check-in location a missionary asked if we had an elder or sister and he placed a color-coded post-it on the front window of the car.  We were directed to a location alongside the curb and then…

Some quick hugs and he was off!!  The tears flowed freely on the drive back to American Fork.  The feeling was surreal.  A mixture of grief and excitement.