Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 29, 2014 - In which the reality of departure hits

Dear family,

Last Wednesday the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States came to visit our class! He was visiting in Utah for some reason and so the Governor's office set up the visit to the MTC. The MTC is probably one of the only (if not the only) non-university location in the United States that teaches Czech, so the ambassador apparently had an interest in coming to meet us! Though I didn't mention it before, we had been preparing for the visit for about a month. We pretended that they interrupted a grammar lesson (even though it was P-day...) and so our teacher showed them the Board Display on the TV, we introduced ourselves in Czech, we asked some questions (in English, thankfully), took a picture, and then they left. Though they're not in the picture, the MTC President and a Seventy and a whole host of people were also in our tiny (and unusually tidy) classroom. It was an exciting visit, and it was fun to meet real Czech people! It's too bad I couldn't understand them....

The visit went really well, though. The ambassador actually spoke to some of the new missionaries at their first devotional (I'm not sure how that happened) and he said how impressed he was with us. Also the consul general (who's in charge of visas) told President Nally (the MTC President) that he wants Mormon missionaries in his country and now he'll be a champion for granting visas to Mormon missionaries coming in to the Czech Republic! This is great because apparently the stereotype of Mormons in the Czech Republic is that we're crazy religious Americans who come and steal Czechs away into their communes in the countryside. We might be a little crazy, but the ambassador and consul general seemed to like us a lot. The ambassador even asked us if it was okay if he could post his picture with us on his Facebook! :)

On Monday we taught our second-to-last lesson with Pavel. We taught him the law of tithing. This seems like it'll be the most difficult thing for him to accept, but if he accepts it seems like he'll make his baptismal date! (Which we set as the day after we leave.) Our last lesson with him is on Friday. On Monday we also had our last lesson with Adela. We hadn't taught her in a while because Sister White (who plays Adela) was in Las Vegas half of last week to play in a BYU Rugby tournament. We had a great lesson, though! It's so fun to see her go from being just academically interested in the gospel to see her applying it and have her see that it's blessing her life. We all hope that we can meet the real Pavel and Adela that our teachers taught.

Last night Elder Martino of the Second Quorom of the Seventy and his wife spoke to us. Elder Martino gave a great practical training on working with members in our areas. He talked to us about quite a lot (all of which was valuable), but he told us at the end about receiving referrals from members. Instead of simply asking "Do you have any referrals for us?" Elder Martino told us that we should, for example, teach about the Plan of Salvation and then ask members if they can think of people who have recently lost a loved one, had a birth in the family, moved into the neighborhood, or going through other life changes or difficulties that we could be introduced (not referred) to. When the missionaries ask you about referrals, try thinking who you could introduce them to in that way!

We're quickly preparing to depart! On Friday we received our travel plans. I'm travel leader (my group is the eight missionaries traveling to the Czech/Slovak Mission). We report to the travel office at 4:30 am Monday morning, and we (eventually) land in Prague at 2 pm on Tuesday, which will be 6 am Tuesday morning here in Provo. Including getting our luggage and traveling to the mission home we have about 27 hours of travel time. When we get to the mission home, we still have a full day of things to do! The second day I have to visit the foreign police to do visa stuff, I meet with my mission president, I meet my companion, then I travel to my area! You'll be emailed some photos by the mission home when I arrive and when I meet my companion, but you won't hear from me until my next P-day on February 10th (or February 8th if my first area is in Prague).

We're also realizing how very little we'll understand in the Czech Republic. We did a listening activity in class the other day where we listened to the first minute of a conference talk. We listened to it almost ten times and we could only pick out random words; we didn't actually understand much. The first few months will be very hard, but I know I have heavenly help with the language.

I'm so excited to get out to the field! I'm excited to serve people and share the Spirit with them. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church, and I'm so happy to be a missionary. I really feel the love of the Savior as a missionary.

I love you all!

Elder Boyce
L to R; Elder Huffaker, Elder Nelson, the Ambassador's wife, Ambassador Petr Gandalovic, Elder Boyce, Elder prohaska and the Czech Consul General
The Ambassador and wife viewing our classroom

Note: Daniel flies from Salt Lake to Dallas, Dallas to London Heathrow and then Heathrow to Prauge. We get to talk to him for about 30-40 minutes during his Dallas layover---we can't wait!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014 - In which learning accelerates

Dear family,

We've had an excellent week! A lot is happening here in the MTC.

Last Wednesday we got three new missionaries in the zone, all headed to the Adriatic North Mission. The two sisters are learning Croatian, and the one Elder is learning Slovene. A second elder was supposed to come also, but he broke his foot the morning he was supposed to come! Though it was hard adjustment for them, they're doing better now.

On Friday we met with Pavel again. He's having kind of a hard time. As an update on him and his girlfriend: that ship has sunk. They're not together anymore. On Monday we also taught him the Word of Wisdom and invited him to live it. we're not sure how that's gone, but it seemed like it would be a struggle for him. His new faith really seems to be being tried. We've done our best to figure out exactly how he feels about the Book of Mormon and the rest of our message, and he seems to believe it and believe that the Lord will help him, but it's still hard for him.

We've been meeting with another investigator that I haven't written home about much; Adela. She's starting to do so well! We're moving very slowly, but she has great application questions (which are our favorite kind as missionaries) about why the Gospel is important, how she can come closer to Heavenly Father through prayer, and more, and it's so fun to teach her. The Spirit is present very strongly when we teach her. She's so eager to learn.

On Sunday Sister Sheri Dew came and spoke to us for our evening devotional. She's such a powerful speaker! She spoke to us about how we need to authorize the Spirit to teach us. She told us a funny story about how shortly before she was realized from the General Relief Society Presidency all of the General Authorities and General Officers of the Church were given ID cards that they were asked to carry around with them all the time. She carried it around, but she never really needed to use it (because by then all of the security people knew who she was) and never found out what it really did. Until, of course, her last day as the General Relief Society President.

That day she had to come to Temple Square really early, and the entrance to the access tunnels under Temple Square hadn't been opened yet. She buzzed the security intercom, and the security guard recognized her, but asked her for her to wave her ID card next to the intercom. A little skeptical, she waved it there, and the massive doors started opening! When the security guard heard how surprised she was, he asked if she knew what the card did. After Sister Dew explained that she did not, the security guard said that her card could open almost every closed door in the tunnel system, as she was a General Officer and had almost the highest access there was.

She related to us how she was completely taken aback. She said that there were doors down in the access tunnels that she had always wondered about, but never knew that she could get into. The security guard told her, rather bursting her bubble, that since it was her last day as General Relief Society President, her access would end at midnight that night.

The point of this story was that she related her access to the gift of the Holy Ghost. As members, we have been granted with a priceless gift, that we may receive personal revelation. The scriptures (especially D&C) are full of promises that we may know the mysteries of God and His kingdom, if we take the step to knock. Sister Dew invited us to learn the language of revelation, of which the scriptures are the guide.

I've thought quite a lot about this, and had noticed these promises before in D&C. During the devotional on Tuesday (which was by Gerald Causse of the Presiding Bishopbric) I really tried to focus on my feelings and what the Spirit had to say. It was such a spiritually strong meeting! I received so many blessings during that meeting.

I hope that if you're reading this, that you take the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with the Holy Ghost. The Gospel is truly a gospel of "Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you." The Lord desires to bless us so much! I've read this in another talk, but Joseph Smith said that his biggest frustration with the Saints was that they wouldn't receive the blessings in store for them, because they wouldn't ask for them. The Lord desires a spiritually powerful people, and He'll make us that if we try.

I love you all so much. I have some more to say, but I'm out of time.

If you're not a member of the LDS Church, frankly I don't know if this letter will make any sense to you. I promise we're not weird! Just learn a little more about us. :)


Starší Boyce

Just a fun picture of Daniel's name tag in front of the Provo Temple
Finally all together; Elder Boyce, Elder Billings and Elder Giles!  They are all good friends from Camarillo however, Elder Billings moved away right before high school.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 15, 2014 - In which Elder Bednar comes again

Dear family,

This week has been so amazing! Or at least this week since Saturday. Thursday and Friday I was pretty sick and had to miss a few teaching appointments and classes. On Thursday I received a "stay healthy" kit from Leslie (who is awesome). Thanks so much, Leslie! Being sick was no good, but I'm much better now.

I've been doing a lot of learning this week! I feel like I'm beginning to understand faith. On Monday we met with Pavel again. Friday my companions invited him to live the law of chastity, and we followed up with him on Monday. When he told his girlfriend that he wanted to live that commandment, we should just say that it didn't go well. She thinks that he is cheating on her! It's very hard to see because he wants so badly to have a new life but his girlfriend and family (to a smaller but still very significant degree) are turning on him. He's continuing to meet with us and preparing to be baptized, though. It's so inspiring to see such faith, despite the fact that it's a training exercise because our Pavel is based on one of our teacher's investigators and this basically happened to a real person. Our teachers say that the new converts in the Czech Republic and Slovakia experience this sort of hardship and ostracism, more than we would think. It's very sobering to see the hardships that the investigators have and to see that they still press forward.

This is something that Elder Bednar talked about last night, also. You may remember that on Christmas Day when he was here we had a question and answer session, and last night he answered more of the questions from Christmas (we've now had about fifteen of about one thousand questions answered).

He focused on faith a fair amount. He told us how faith is acting on belief, even when there is fear (and often especially when there is fear). For example, teachers and missionaries are promised in the scriptures that our mouths will be filled when we open them, but we must open them before they are filled. Often in the culture of the Church, we feel that we must feel power before we act. That, Elder Bednar said, is exactly what we're not supposed to do. The scriptures also say that we receive a witness after the trial of our faith.

Essentially, faith is walking into the dark, but finding that the Lord will illuminate it.

Elder Bednar taught us that we must not be paralyzed by fear, we must press forward. When the children of Israel had to cross the Jordan River at the end of their wanderings, they were promised by the Lord that they would cross over on dry ground. However, the Lord chose to wait to part it until they had begun to walk into the river and got their feet wet, until they had shown their faith.

These sort of thoughts about faith had been percolating in my brain for a while, and they became more concrete at the very beginning of my mission (thanks, Brent), but it was such a blessing to hear it from Elder Bednar last night. He has a powerful way of teaching clearly and with the Spirit that I find inspiring.

Yesterday during the devotional the choir also sang a beautiful arrangement of "Nearer, My God, To Thee" that had amazing harmonies. At the climax of the song it was so fun to see all the heads turn when we split from unison into five-part harmony. It was so powerful. I'll remember that moment for a long time.

This has been such a strengthening week! I hope that I am able to share some of the spirit of what I feel with you all through my letters.

I love you! I love the Gospel!

Starší Boyce
Daniel with Elder Joseph Billings, a good friend Daniel grew up with in Camarillo until high school when Joseph moved to Provo, UT. 

Sister Westover (another former Camarillo friend who is serving in the Boston, MA mission) , Daniel and 
Elder Pitt (who was needed to make the picture legal !).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 8, 2014 - In which the Temple reopens and missionary work is amazing!

Dear family,

This morning I got to go to the Temple again! Since Thanksgiving the Provo Temple has been closed, but it reopened Monday and so we got to go again. It was so nice to be able to worship there because you leave with so much strength. I think you don't realize how many blessings the Temple brings until you don't have access to one!

I've learned a lot since Friday! Specifically I've realized more about the missionary that I want to become. Up until now, my long-term goals weren't very specific. I mostly depended on the description of a successful missionary from Preach My Gospel on page 8 or so, but on Friday night I had a powerful experience in our last class with Brother Machado. The goals that I set were still very similar to the description in PMG, (devoted, service-minded, focused, etc.) but it was so powerful to have a feeling of who I wanted to be instead just pages in a book (never to knock PMG, of course). It was also powerful to have a witness from the Holy Ghost that I can become the missionary that I want to be.

On Sunday I officially became Zone Leader with Elder Nelson. I'm excited for my opportunity to be able to serve the missionaries in my Zone! Someone sent me an email asking more about what that means. Before when I was District Leader I was responsible for the five missionaries in my district, but my zone (at least in the MTC) is the same thing as my branch. So I work directly with the Branch Presidency to serve the missionaries in my zone. In a very real sense it's my primary responsibility to be as Christlike and uplifting to everyone in my zone as possible. I also do a bit of logistical stuff, but the first bit is more important.

Two days ago on Monday we taught Pavel again. It was such an amazing lesson! We were trying to find out more about why exactly he wanted to prepare to be baptized, and he told us that he wanted a new life! IT WAS SO EXCITING! Before he said this I hadn't realized consciously that I had been worrying about this, but I realized that for my entire stay here in the MTC (and quite a bit before, also), I had been worried that the people I'd meet would be interested in the gospel academically, but when it came to it they wouldn't be ready to change. But Pavel's saying that made me realize that there are people out there who are ready for the gospel and there are people ready to make a new life! It also was more encouragement for me to be the missionary that I need to be. I love teaching so much.

Last night for our Tuesday Evening Devotional the Presiding Bishop of the Church, Bishop Stevenson, and his wife came and spoke to us. Sister Stevenson told us an amazing story from when they were the mission presidency in the Japan Nagoya Mission. I don't have time to relate it at all, but it was a powerful story about loving those you meet unconditionally and seeing their potential. It was so uplifting.

I wish I had time to say more about how the MTC and being a missionary is changing me, but I hope you all can see that from my letters. I love being a missionary! I love the MTC! I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church on this earth. I know because it blesses me every day of my life. It's sometimes hard to move forward, but the Atonement gives me strength to do that. It gives my life meaning, both now and it will into eternity. I'm so grateful for the Temple. It's truly the House of the Lord. I'm so glad for the gospel.

I love you!

Starší Boyce

Friday, January 3, 2014

January 3, 2014 - In which the MTC returns to normalcy

Dear Family,

A lot has happened this week! Nothing super fancy or exciting, but we are keeping very busy!

This week we finally started learning cases in Czech; in case you don't know what a grammatical case is, it's basically a marker on nouns and adjectives that tells you which grammatical function it serves in the sentence. For example, in the sentence, "I gave him a cookie," the word "I" would be in nominative (first) case because it's the subject, the word "gave" wouldn't be cased because it's a verb, the word "him" would be dative case (third) because it's the indirect object, and "a cookie" would be in the accusative case (fourth) because it's the direct object. In Czech each word that is cased has an ending added, and so we have to memorize about a dozen casing patterns. It's pretty difficult to remember all of the casing patterns, but knowing it is super important in Czech because they almost never rely on word order to give things meaning, they just use cases. So because of cases, sentences like "Gave him I a cookie," or "A cookie him I gave," are all grammatically correct. If any of that made perfect sense to you, then you'd probably be ahead of our class. I have a bit of an advantage, though, because when I learned German I learned about the mechanics of the four cases (of seven) that Czech uses most often.

Teaching our investigators is moving ahead! We finally were able to meet with Iván again yesterday. We hadn't seen him since before Christmas! He (and also Brother Machado) was on vacation. We had a great lesson, though, and he's really starting to warm up to the Book of Mormon.

Unfortunately Brother Machado got a new job, though, and so we won't be teaching Iván anymore. Brother Machado has been teaching here for almost three years (he taught one of our teachers, Sister White, when she was in the MTC) and the MTC normally doesn't want the teachers to stay longer than that. So next week when we our schedules are readjusted he won't be teaching us anymore. Tonight is his last time teaching us, but he said he'll come and volunteer at TRC.

Our other investigator, Pavel, has agreed to prepare to be baptized! The date we're shooting for is 4 February. This is the day after we leave, but to be metaphorical we're not even in the MTC with Pavel. We had a fun lesson teaching the Plan of Salvation yesterday, and we next see him Monday. He said he'd "come to church" with us on Sunday, also, which is a big step because we've been working on inviting him to come the whole time we've been teaching him.

Tomorrow we're also going to start teaching each other. We've all made up investigators, and I'm going to be teaching Elder Pitt's "investigator" ( and with no companion, so that'll be exciting). After I teach him, he'll teach me. Doing this is meant to help us understand better what it's like to be an investigator, and I'm pretty excited for it.

Mom forwarded some photos from Christmas along to me! It was fun to see new pictures of people. Speaking of photos, yesterday I got the family photo album that Mom and Leslie made for me from Snapfish. Everyone likes to share photos of family here, so it was fun to finally be able to show some of mine.

I mentioned above that our schedules are going to be readjusted. This is an MTC-wide thing; the MTC leadership wants to change our study times to be more like the field where it's a great big block of personal/companionship/language study. (At the moment it's very scattered.) They've also taken the opportunity (for some reason) to switch our P-day from Friday to Wednesday. So don't expect emails on Friday anymore! :)

I realize that I haven't even mentioned our devotional speakers from last Sunday and Tuesday! Sunday we had one of the MTC District presidents speak (he's like a stake president for our MTC branches). He and his wife gave an interesting talk on recognizing the Spirit and being directed by Him. Tuesday Elder Stanley G. Ellis (of the Seventy) and his wife spoke to us about voluntary repentance in the spirit of the new year. (If you're wondering about how New Year's was for us, that was about all we did. It was business as usual, which felt a lot better than not doing anything.

I forgot to mention this in my last letter, but on last Sunday I was released from being District Leader, which was fairly relieving. It was nice to not have that pressure for a week, but then on Tuesday I was called to be Zone Leader along with Elder Nelson, one of my companions. The current zone leaders are leaving Monday, so I'm going to be Zone Leader for the rest of my stay here. If you're not intimately familiar with missionary leadership, for the sake of the MTC and now it means that I'm responsible for all the missionaries who will are learning Czech, Slovak, Croatian, and Bulgarian (and I would also be responsible for the Polish, Turkish, and Slovene missionaries, also if we had any). It hasn't been announced generally yet, but that's... exciting. I'm pretty nervous.

I'm just about out of time, but I'm glad for my opportunity to be a missionary! I know that the Gospel is true and blesses so many lives, so I'm grateful for my chance to be able to share it full-time for two years.

I love you!

Starší Boyce