Elder Eli wraps up his MTC experience today. This is his letter from this morning:
Second week in the MTC flew by. Honestly, last Monday to this Monday was so much faster than my first Wednesday to my first Sunday. I think more and more I’m beginning to understand relativity. Thanks, Einstein!
Having such good experiences and loving it all. If anyone reading this happens to be preparing for a mission (good on ya!), then let me just give you a small taste of the temporal side: In the MTC, your “biology” goes all out of whack. Could be the food, could be the stress, could be the change (probably the food).
On the spiritual side, all I’ve got is some advice and a story: If you think you know enough, you’re wrong. If you think what you want matters, you’re wrong. If you think a testimony is all you need, you’re wrong. You always have room to learn, so don’t come in thinking you’re a missionary. You’ve been thinking about yourself all your life, it’s not about you anymore, it’s about helping others come unto Christ.
If you’ve got a testimony, awesome, but if you don’t know how to work, you are in for one of the hardest times of your life.
You will be tested physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You simply cannot do it alone. You learn to rely on Christ because you have no other choice. I’m comfortable with people, so I used that as a crutch in interactions with investigators. I had an inferior knowledge of the scriptures, and sometimes I thought I had an inferior testimony.
I thought things were going well, but then my teacher, Brother Anderson, talked to my companion and me before we taught our investigator. He basically said if we weren’t being obedient or if we weren’t worthy of the Spirit’s companionship then we were wasting our time. That hit me like a ton of bricks.
For the next few hours, I was in a daze. I was seriously starting to doubt my worth and my capability. It wasn’t just what I thought, though. In all seriousness a dark cloud came over me. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t interact, I was paralyzed. There was panic, fear, and pain like I have never felt. I don’t want to even come close to comparing, but I thought of Alma the Younger and of Joseph Smith. I was going through torture.
It felt like everything that was taught after my teacher mentioned that dealt with the same subject: Was I being obedient and living worthily to have the Spirit teach through me? I was remembering all of my past mistakes and I had no idea where to turn. I was ashamed to call myself a missionary. I can honestly say that, spiritually, I have never been so low.
Brother Anderson invited us to pray and ask for revelation about what we should do for ourselves. I said the most desperate prayer, asking what to do, but mostly asking for forgiveness. I couldn’t think of anything, but we moved on to the next activity.
We do a lot of role-playing here, so Brother Anderson paired us up with someone else in the class and said we were going to teach them as themselves, meaning that someone would be teaching me as Eli Webb (instead of as Rupert Von Hildenbrine, my “investigator” of choice). I was paired with Sister Dougherty, a Canadian sister whom I probably knew the least out of the whole district.
We were told to pray and ask for inspiration about what to teach. I was still in turmoil, but I prayed because I didn’t want to compromise her experience. I didn’t think I really got anything, but the Atonement is what I settled on. As I was preparing, I thought I was just going to be feeding her crap. I really hoped that what she taught wouldn’t be relevant or really apply to me, because then I would feel less bad about what I taught her. We’ve all heard lots about the Atonement, right?
So she came over, we started with a prayer, and she offered to teach first. She taught about enduring to the end, and it totally applied to me. Definitely inspired. This almost made me feel worse because not only was I feeling awful, but now I had to teach her about something she probably didn’t want to hear.
So I got into it. It felt non-cohesive and sloppy. I talked a lot about the love that was required from both Christ and Heavenly Father for the Atonement to happen. It was a perspective I had never seen, so I thought that was kind of cool. But really it felt like I was sort of rambling. I was on the verge of tears from sadness and pain, because I felt incapable of having the Spirit teach through me.
I said “amen” and she sat there for a second, then said, “You know, as I was preparing my lesson I was praying that you would teach me about the Atonement.” And she started to cry. My family can attest to the fact that I have never ever come close to crying, including about anything related to the gospel. I broke down.
It was the most profound spiritual experience I have ever had. The love and comfort and forgiveness I felt was overwhelming. My prayer was answered in such a personal, perfect way. I was praying because I thought that the Spirit couldn’t teach through me, and Heavenly Father answered my prayer by having it do just that. I’ve felt the Spirit before, no doubt, but I felt it more powerfully, physically and uniquely than I ever have. Right after she (and I) started crying, it honestly felt like hot, torrential water was flowing through my head and chest, literally washing away the dark cloud. I could feel it swirling and swishing, filling every crack and corner of my soul, pushing the darkness out of my chest and ears, extending to my fingers and toes, cleansing my insides and filling me with light. I’m crying as I’m writing this because I’m remembering the feeling.
I’ve always known that God lives. I’ve always known that Christ was our Savior. I’ve never doubted. Until that night, I’d never needed an experience like that. But at this point, nothing can stop me from spreading the gospel. If my plane crashed on the way to Canada, I would will myself to live and preach to the survivors. If I were kidnapped and tortured, I would testify of Jesus Christ to my kidnappers and they would know it was true. If a polar bear were standing between me and the next house with a possible convert, I would knock on the door wearing a polar bear pelt.
God lives, he loves us, and he wants us to return to him. Prayer is real. The Church is true. Sorry for the long email. I love you all, and I love hearing from you. Please write.
Letters are welcomed at:
ELDER ELIJAH WEBB
CANADA EDMONTON MISSION
8925 51st AVE STE 305
EDMONTON, AB T6E 5J3