News from the MTC and a Prophecy Fulfilled from Elder Oaks

I just went to a mom’s renewal retreat  this weekend but will have to post about that later so I can get caught up on something I have been wanting to share for a while.

Whew, I survived another Sunday evening fireside at some relatives’ home, a few weeks ago, without anybody asking me if I was pregnant. I always brace myself whenever I go for a in inquiry into the status of my womb. It seems like for awhile there every time I would go (they hold these family firesides there every three months) at least one person would ask me if I was pregnant. OK, so that reminds me of a funny story and for once I while go off an a tangent. If you want the “news from the MTC” that inspired this post skip the next two paragraphs down.

There I was, sitting in church, fulfilling my calling as Primary teacher, sitting with my class of cute kids, listening to the interlude music, when one of my friends swooped into the Primary room before Sharing Time started and whispered in my ear. “I have got to talk to you! I feel like I am supposed to have another baby!” I told her we couldn’t talk right now but that I would call her. I thought, “What? Do I wear my Michelle Duggar-ness on my sleeve? Why would this friend of mine come confide in me such personal news in the middle of Primary?!” I guess my Michelle Duggarness was vibing out to her. I do believe in women having as many babies as they can, without birth control, as a tree flows through the seasons naturally and bears fruit regularly, with a HUGE caveat, AS LONG as they have the strong root system (supportive husbands, strong character, firm belief in God and reliance on Christ) and fertile soils (mother-friendly environments) to support their free-flowing fertility, which translates to lots of babies. My soil right now is not very mother-friendly because of various things I won’t get into so I am not free-flowing in the childbearing area. Translation, I am not pregnant. But I would like to be, as soon I can work some things out. I also believe you can strengthen your root system and fertilize your soil so that you have the strength and mental, physical, and financial health to have as many babies as God wants you to have.

OK, so back to my fireside with the relatives. I wish I were more of an intense personality and could answer with gritted teeth, NO!, in such an offended way, that they would be scared to ever ask me again and would feel sorry too. But that just doesn’t come very natural to me. It takes one of my children to seriously try my patience for me to reply with gritted teeth to show that I have been offended.

Anyway, we had this awesome couple come speak to us, who ironically, I know from my growing up years. They still live in my hometown of Highland Utah, the greatest place on earth! I had not seen them in over 25 years! They lived in my ward and the husband was in the bishopric. Now he is one of the branch presidents at the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

So here is some of the news from the MTC. For the sake of privacy, I will call this couple Pres. and Sister H. They are presidents over one of the Brazilian-speaking branches. I might have some of the numbers a little off as I was madly keeping notes on an envelope I found in my purse, from my missionary son’s recent letter. So forgive me if I got some of these numbers wrong.

The new lower ages for missionaries to serve in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not an announcement, but a revelation from the Lord. Elder Bednar emphasized this when he came to speak at the MTC shortly after the General Conference revelation. The Lord is hastening his work of gathering Israel so he needs a bigger force out there to gather. It is so exciting to be a part of this time in the history of the world!

The number of young people willing to serve has increased by leaps and bounds. At the time of the revelation, there were about 58K missionaries. Now there are about 64K and by the end of summer it’s projected that there will be 100K. The MTC was built for a capacity of 4800 and 6800 missionaries are expected to be in Provo by July. So the Church has secured the use of Raintree Apartments in Provo to handle the overflow. The Church has 15 MTCs in the world. The MTC currently has 70 branches and that will increase to 100 to handle the overflow as well. A husband and wife serve as branch president and branch president’s wife for each branch. They get to know each missionary when they first arrive at the MTC. The missionary writes to the branch president every week to check in so to speak and then the branch president prayerfully responds to each of these missionaries. Pres. and Sister H. currently have 90 missionaries in their branch and 46 are sisters.

Did you catch that? Yes, 46 are sisters so that’s over half! I had heard on my missionary moms’ email list that for one of the weeks in April for the first time in history more sisters were dropped off at the MTC than elders. Pres. and Sister H. confirmed it was true. They said that the ratio at the MTC was 1 to 1. I am so excited about this. Sister missionaries have a glow about them that the elders don’t have, it comes from their sweet and beautiful, modest femininity.

Sister H. recalled a quote from Pres. Kimball:

Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.

Sister H. said that this quote will partly be fulfilled because of this HUGE influx of sister missionaries. I felt the Spirit telling me that this is true. I am so excited to see this growth!

Here’s a cute story one of my shirt-tail relatives shared at the fireside. Her name is Jackie. Jackie said that about 20 years ago, when her oldest daughter was at a violin recital, Elder Oaks was there as well to see hisdaughter perform. (It must have been the now famous Jenny Oaks Baker). Jackie got the chance of a lifetime and was seated right next to him. She was thrilled and pondered quickly, “What have I ever wanted to ask an apostle?” So she asked him, “Elder Oaks, why doesn’t the Church lower the age for sister missionaries to serve missions. I know so many who are able and mature and willing to go before age 21.” He replied (can you just hear him say this in his ponderous, thoughtful, judge-like way, “Missionary work is a priesthood responsibility. If we let the sisters go sooner, they will overrun us.” She gleefully said that that was happening now and was happy to share that she had recently written to him to remind him of their conversation and that he was prophetic.

Sister H. told some amazing stories of some sister missionaries. She had a set of pages stapled together that showed all the pictures of the missionaries in the branch that she is “mother” to. She shared with us the story that one of the sisters in her branch was a super athlete, a runner. She had a dream of running in the Boston Marathon. She had trained and trained and applied to the Marathon people and got accepted. But as the date approached she felt that she should not delay going on a mission and should do that instead. She prayed about it and got a confirmation that it was God’s will for her to skip the marathon. So she was in the MTC instead of at the marathon when the bombings happened. That was a clear answer to her as to why she was not to delay her mission. Sometimes we don’t get to see why God says no to some of her dreams, but in her case, she did and she is so grateful.

Sister H. said that many of the missionaries there don’t have family support. They come as relatively new converts themselves from families who are mad that they joined the Church . She said that one sister came from the Ukraine. Her parents did not want her to come on a mission. They hid her suitcase and her passport. She had to find them after much searching and she left in the middle of the night, alone, without any hugs or good-byes so she could serve the Lord and answer His call to her. She doesn’t know what will happen to her after her mission in regards to her family. What faith! It makes my problems seem so petty and small. Her story of courage and faith and love of God brings tears to my eyes. Another sister came from Cambodia with no family support. She had to work and save for a long time to pay for her whole mission.

Sister H. also said that Elder Holland is the missionaries’ favorite apostle, and they absolutely love the devotional speeches he gives. She said that Elder Holland talks straight with them and tells them to be faithful, during their mission, and all the years after. She said that we shouldn’t say the phrase “going on a mission” because that sounds like going on a vacation, like “going to Disneyland,” as if you are going somewhere to relax and have fun. She suggested we say “serving on a mission.” She said too many kids come from the Wasatch Front to the MTC as spoiled, entitled kids not ready to work. She is from the Wasatch Front herself with sons who have served so she can say that.

Pres. and Sister H. said that they had a meeting with some of the apostles a year or so ago with all of the new mission presidents and their wives. One thing they heard was that the #1 thing families should teach children to prepare for a mission is how to work. #2 is to teach kids to be saving for their missions, and #3 was that dads should have monthly meetings with their children to interview them (I call them “parent mentor meetings”) to keep tabs on their children’s spirituality and moral purity. Pres. H. said too many slip through the cracks and aren’t honest with their bishops and stake presidents during the interview process and then problems come out when they are in the MTC or out in the mission field and have to be sent home. Elder Evans, who is the General Authority over the Missionary Department, said that we need missionaries with a higher level of obedience.

Brazil has 27 missions. It will get 7 more in July. 16 new mission presidents for Brazil have been called and will start in July. All of these new mission presidents are native Brazilians. That is so cool! A new MTC will be in Mexico City.

Here’s a cute story one of my shirt-tail relatives shared at the fireside. Her name is Jackie. Jackie said that about 20 years ago, when her oldest daughter was at a violin recital, Elder Oaks was there as well to see her daughter perform. (It must have been Jenny Oaks Baker). She got the chance of a lifetime and was seated right next to him. She was thrilled and pondered quickly, “What have I ever wanted to ask an apostle?” So she asked him, “Elder Oaks, why doesn’t the Church lower the age for sister missionaries to serve missions. I know so many who are able and mature and willing to go before age 21.” He replied, “Missionary work is a priesthood responsibility. If we let the sisters go sooner, they will overrun us.” She gleefully said that that was happening now and was happy to share that she had recently written to him to remind him of their conversation and that he was prophetic.

I am so happy about this missionary growth! I have a son on a mission and hope to have all my children, both the boys and the girls serve. I also want to do missionary work here at home! May we all be good friends and neighbors and share the great news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s love with all of his children. This restored gospel is our only hope!

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