I'm glad to hear that you made it home safely, I figured that since I hadn't heard anything you did. I'm sure that the days that you were driving seemed long, but some of the days here at the MTC seem pretty long too. That first half day I think has probably been the hardest and longest, just because I didn't know anyone and you were constantly going. After you left, we were snaked through various buildings to get various paperwork and things like key and ID card. Speaking of which, when I was getting my ID card, who should I meet, but Elder Morris' mom volunteering at the MTC! She said that he had been home for less than a week at that point, but that she would make sure to tell him that I said hi. And that was just the first of a bunch of coincidences that I think are pretty cool. After all the paperwork was done, we stopped by my room for about 3 seconds, long enough for me to claim any bed I wanted, being the first one in the room. After that I was taken by my host to my classroom, which we spend more time in than our dorm room. I wasn't the first one to arrive, but the others were already starting their online training. Eventually everybody finished that and I got to meet my two teachers, and the rest of the class, which comprises my district.
My district has 10 missionaries in it, 8 elders and 2 sisters. The two sisters and 4 of us elders are going to Riverside California. The other four elders are going to Ventura, California(coincidence #2), where Janet's grandson is going. So make sure to let her know that he should look out for Elders Elliot, Levis, Wilson, and Bronson. He'd be lucky to have any one of them as a companion, they're all great people. As for my companion, his name is Elder Jewkes, and is from Hyde Park, Utah(coincidence #3). I never realized how small of a town Hyde Park was though, because you always talked about going there to visit your cousins, Mom. The other missionaries in my district are Sister Bradshaw and Sister Pitman, who actually served two transfers in Idaho already as a test run, and Elder Mayo("like the spread" as he's started introducing himself) and Elder Smith. Though one day in the cafeteria Elder Smith unknowingly sat in some mustard, so we affectionately call them Elder Mayo and Elder Mustard. Elder Mayo is our district leader by the way. I've gotten to know all of my district so well, it would take the rest of my time to tell you all about them, but this is the basics. It's going to be really sad when half of them leave for another mission.
The rest of that day was taken up with firesides, meals, and meeting our personal branch presidencies, who are in charge of our zone. We are in zone 42, specifically district 42B. One of our zone leaders, named Elder Younger said that branch 42 is the best and least humble ward in the whole MTC. In our branch there are 2 other districts who showed up the same time of us, and one district that had a one week head start on us. All told we have missionaries going to San Diego, Anchorage(Alaska), Boise, Riverside, Ventura, and Perth(Australia). We have two elders from New Zealand, and two elders who have been members less than two years (14 and 23 months). They're all great people and I love being around them. My Branch President's name is President Judd, and he used to be a religion teacher at BYU, and also served as a mission president in Ghana, where Logan served(coincidence #4).
My roommates are not in my district, but are in my zone, and they are also going to Riverside. There are 6 elders to a room. And just to confuse you a little more, I'll let you know what I know about people going to Riverside. There are 24 missionaries showing up on Jul 14. 19 of them are coming from the Provo MTC, at least 4 of which are sisters. 12 of them are in my zone, and I have met 3 others. Maybe you can have Shauntel try and draw you a venn diagram of all the relationships between people I know.
Anyway, hopefully all those details didn't bore you, I just love all the people here. As for what a regular day looks like, those first few days were all over the place. No one knew how to do personal or companion study yet so it was super hectic, but now everything has settled down. A normal day we wake up at 6:25(so that we can shower first), and then we get ready for the day. Breakfast is at 7:15, and then we have to be in our classroom by 7:45. We do a half an hour of planning for the day before an hour of personal study, followed by an hour of companion study, and an additional hour to study whatever you want. So it is 1130 in the morning and we've spend roughly 3 and a half hours in a classroom. We get 45 minutes for lunch, and then report back to the classroom for a 3 hour block of instruction from MTC teachers. We have two, Brother Hendrickson and Sister Pack, and they are both super awesome return missionaries that know a lot. During this class time we go through preach my gospel, watch videos, and of course, do a lot of mock teaching which we call roleplay or RP. It is actually a lot of fun, and for my friends at college, I've probably roleplayed as you at least once. During these classes we also have a time to teach our teachers in a separate room as companionships as if they were actual progressing investigators. At first I thought that was going to be super hard, but when you are teaching a lesson and trying to get to know someone, you forget about being at the MTC. After that 3 hour class period we have an hour of gym time and some time to clean up before dinner.
Gym time is super great, and probably one of the best parts of the day. They have fields outside and the weather has been great so we've gone there every single day almost. Elder Jewkes actually took 8th in State in the 4A division for Discus in track and field, so we get along just fine. There are two things that the people from the frisbee team would probably be interested to know though. One, the MTC only has Wham-O brand frisbees. I can't wait until I get the package in riverside with my Discraft disc. Also, they have Spikeball here! I really regret not learning how to play, but I've messed around with it a little. It makes me wonder though, which came first, Mormons playing spikeball at the MTC, or all the Mormons playing spikeball at ultimate tournaments? The world may never know. . .
Anyway, then we have dinner, and after dinner we might have some study time or teach a lesson to a member, as if we had just had a dinner appointment or were visiting a less-active member. Following that we have a 3 hour block of class time with one of our teachers. So by the end of the day we will have spend a minimum of 10 hours in a tiny classroom. Which does drive us all a little crazy, but it also allows us to get closer to everybody. I feel as close to my district as I do to some of my friends from college. By the time I leave I'll have spent as much time with them in a small room as I did with my English Project Group in Adams Tower Basement working on BorenQuest.
I'm sure you're curious about the food so I'll let you know. It is decent, and there is as much as you want, but my days at the OU caf have conditioned to get one plate a meal and drink water or milk only. I also have convinced myself that I don't really need desert because it couldn't possibly live up to anything you cook Mom. It makes me laugh every time I see people eating ice cream and 3 glasses of soda for breakfast. I refuse to gain weight on my mission, and so far it's going well, but more about that later. The cafeteria seems to be the place when you run into people you see the most but I never did get to see Sister Bastian. I'm sure she's left by now, if she was even still here when I arrived.
Our stay at the MTC has been pretty interesting though, seeing as how we had both a fast sunday, and the 4th of July while we were here. The 4th of July was absolutely amazing. It was like a normal busy day, but we had a special fireside that night as an entire MTC in the gym. The speaker was actually my Branch President, and he spoke about the history of religious freedom and how the US was prepared specifically for the bringing about of the Restoration of the gospel, and how the scriptures prophesied of it so long ago. They also had a parade of nations with flags from every country with missionaries coming from or going there carrying the flag. And of course we sang patriotic hymns, which reminds me of one of my favorite things about the MTC. I love when we have devotionals with all the missionaries and to hear them sing the hymns is so encouraging and uplifting and awe-inspiring to me, to hear the voices of nearly 9000 elders, sisters, and leaders singing and praising God. Anyway, after the devotional we were allowed to go stand outside in one of the parking lots and watch some of the fireworks, the view wasn't the greatest there, but I did get some pictures with some of my district. The view was actually better from our dorm so we continued to watch them when we got back.
Curfew wasn't reinforced very heavily though so we were up an extra hour maybe, and I could feel it the next morning. Fast Sunday was good though, and some people had some really interesting and inspiring stories and testimonies. I wish I had time and room to share all of them with you.
A few other things that happened to me in the MTC. The first night, I lost my nametag somewhere, but I was told that someone would find it. Later that night, I heard my name over the intercom to pick up a hall phone and call the front desk. I do so, and who do I find on the other end of the line, but Rachel Hawkley(coincidence #5). She apparently works here and had to let me know that my badge was at the front desk and I could pick it up in the morning, but it took me by such surprise. It was nice to hear a familiar person though.
And speaking of familiar people, remember how you said there was another missionary from our stake who arrived the same day? Well I thought I'd recognized someone, so I finally stopped him and asked, and I was right. His name is Elder Bruce, from Choctaw ward. He is serving in Sendai(?), Japan, and lives like two doors down from me. I can't believe it took me a whole week to figure it out.
Another little snafu I had was that we receive ID cards for swiping in to buildings and such. We also receive a magnetic name tag for putting on suit jackets. One day I made the mistake of putting both of them in the same pocket and disabling my ID. Luckily I was able to get it fixed a few days later and it works fine now, but it was sort of funny the first time it didn't work. Over the weekend I felt so sketchy because I had to just walk in to the cafeteria without swiping because my card didn't work and I kept worrying someone would get mad at me for it. I can't help myself for wanting to follow all the rules I guess.
I'm sure I've left some things out, but I hope I've given you enough to read. I do love it here at the MTC. Everybody talks about it being so uplifting and spiritual and they are totally right. Everybody here is on a higher spiritual plane. Sometimes I feel like mine is a Wright Flyer and everybody else has an F-22 or a Boeing 747(I've been waiting to tell that plane pun for days!), but I am growing and learning and catching up. And we all learn in different ways. Last night my roommates were all talking and one of them turned to me and said "Elder Cornaby, you went to college. How do you do laundry?". So much discipline and planning and readiness goes into living on your own I really felt prepared in that aspect, and I didn't have as many problems with homesickness. They're parents certainly aren't helping, some of them get 2 or 3 letters a day from parents and they are sending just as many back. Though now things are slowing down, everyone is adjusting and people aren't as homesick.
The temple is closed for cleaning today so P-day has been really open and relaxing and nice, which has given me some time to rest up and heal. On Sunday I came down with a sore throat, and it kept lingering in various forms even now. Eventually I quit being so stubborn and went to the doctor and he said it's just a cold, but he sent me off campus a whole 3/4 of a block to the BYU pharmacy to get some good decongestants. More importantly, they weighed me at the doctor's office, and I haven't gained a single pound! I'm feeling a lot better now with the medicine, but my face feels like sand paper. None of the rooms seem to have tissues, so I've been using mostly paper towels and saving my tissues for when I'm in a lesson or something.
Being here at the MTC I have learned a few things about myself. I really am a Cornaby. I take charge in lessons, and planning, and scheduling, and where we're going, and what we do for gym, because that's what Cornaby's do. I'm trying to step back. Also, as much as I don't consider myself an Oklahoma person, the people who have a little country accent certainly do put me at ease and remind me of home. Elder Mayo is a cowboy from Mt. Pleasant Utah and he is one of my favorite people here.
Besides teaching our teachers pretending to be someone else, and member volunteers, we also get someone who may or may not be an authentic investigator. We get to meet with them 4 times throughout the course of a the week, we've already met with him 3 times. They have little rooms set up like living rooms you meet with them in and you practice giving them literature and teaching, and fellowshipping skills. It is really cool, but it was so hard at first. But that is when the realization came to me, and this is what prompted the title of the letter. The reason we are here, and the reason we are sharing the message should never be for us, or because we know that it is right. It should be for the person. We should get to know them and care about them and love them like a real person. That might have been intuitive to some people, but for me that was like a huge Aha! moment and that really turned the page for me here at the MTC. I feel like I was a fairly shy and private person, and the number of people excluding family that I would say I knew and loved very closely was small. But after a week here I can't keep track on my fingers and toes anymore, there are so many good people here. It is so hard because we are so busy all the time, but I know that it is a place unlike any other and I will be sad to be leaving in only 4 more days.
Rumor has it that P-day in the mission field is Monday, so it will be like 11 or 12 more days until my next e-mail unfortunately, and my next laundry day so I'm hoping that isn't true. But we'll see. Also, Denise's treats shipped just fine and they taste delicious. Thanks to everyone else who sent letters(Bro Perkes and Sister Former and the Tubbs Clan). It was great to get something, even though I knew that I had plenty of e-mail waiting for me on P-day, physical letters are nice. I hope all my letters find their way back to you as well.
I am going to challenge you to watch "The Character of Christ" if you can find it. It is an MTC devotional from Elder Bednar, and it has a really good message, and more importantly, him doing a Cookie Monster impression. It was so great.
Elder Mayo shared a quote with us that I really liked and I think I'm going to steal as my sign off. Hopefully my next e-mails will be shorter and more focused, and I'll send pictures too hopefully. So I'll talk to everyone later and I love you guys so much.
See you soon,
"Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work" -Gordon B. Hinckley