First of all, thank you for the presents. I love all the ties and the sweaters, especially the sweaters. How I love being warm. I can’t wait to use the ipod [nano, loaded with Church music, the only kind he can use, and with speakers, since missionaries cannot use headphones] and get the [digital] picture frame up. So many thanks, I hope that you all are enjoying my present. I also hope that last night was a delight and that you were all able to enjoy each others company. I luckily did not feel too lonely; it was a good Christmas Eve. Last night was good, we had a short nativity presentation and then watched the Christmas Carol. It was super good. I have of course never watched it with the view of a missionary nor taken the time to really look at it as any thing more than a good story. I took about a page of notes from it in my small notebook that I keep for impressions and notes from devotionals. It was a good experience. The residence hall was a good experience too. We all got together and sang christmas carols and then a couple of us hung around and read the account of the nativity in the Book of Luke. Although we read it in Spanish, so good! Also, this morning I finished reading the New Testament, which I started wednesday. That was a really good experience because I hadn’t read it in a while, and it is a really incredible book and account of the savior. Also last night, one of the Elders has a large paper christmas tree taped to his closet door. So we all put our presents in front of it and then opened them together this morning. So that was all very good, and I feel it has been easiest to mantain the spirit of Christmas here. This morning, we unwrapped the presents together and sang a couple songs and then got ready and went to breakfast. Then, we watched “Music and the Spoken Word,” [Mormon Tabernacle Choir weekly broadcast] with everyone and then had sacrament meeting with a General Authority. Which just happened to be Elder [David A.] Bednar. So if you can, just pass the message along to Brother [Michael] Bednar [Elder Bednar’s son who is in our ward, which is the name for an LDS congregation] to pass along to his Father, that I absolutely loved what he said and the most important part being, it left me with a large desire to change. He spoke about the character of Christ. Focusing on our need to forget ourselves, and turn outwards and towards others. To forget the natural man and to get over ourselves! He, as always, did not mince words; and it was a really great message for Christmas morning. So I will just try and share a couple of the key points and then my personal thoughts, and then I will have to go. In Matthew 4, where Christ has fasted for forty days and has been tempted by the devil, in vs 11 it talks about angels being round about him. However in the Joseph Smith translation [Joseph Smith reviewed the translation of the Bible and provide some alternative wording. We use the King James Version of the Bible, but any changes Joseph made are shown in footnotes], it says that He sent ministering angels to John and that they were all around John. [Jesus] turned outward in a moment where he himself had just been tried and tested. The other example that Elder Bednar used that really worked for me was about after the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Christ has walked out of his suffering, he has been betrayed by one apostle and then three of them have fallen asleep when he needed them. Much more then that he had just suffered for the sins, pains and failings of all of humanity for all of time, and yet he takes the time to heal the ear of a gaurd who is there to take him away and to his death. The constant focus outward and away from himself. He encouraged us to seek after this. I of course felt impelled to put more effort into it, to improve, to turn outwards and not inwards and to be less worried about myself and my needs. I hope that I can remember that throughout my mission and work on it. I desire to be more like that. Sometimes, I am just not one hundred percent sure how.
As for the rest of today, we have some time to just sit and think, called free time. We have some time to go walk up and around the temple, to get fresh air. Then we get to watch a tabernacle choir rerun. Then we have dinner, a fireside, and then some other Christmas movie. Then tomorrow it will be back to the normal work of bieng a missionary. I am excited! I think the most important thing I want to say though, is, I love you all. Keep the spirit of Christmas year round; keep the happiness and the peace that it brings and that same giving spirt.