Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011 - Start here

Another week gone by. I've been gone for almost a month now, which just feels weird. The weeks are beginning to all feel exactly the same so I apologize if I mention something that was actually part of last week and you've already heard about it. It's so difficult to remember everything when it all runs together so quickly. First things first, how is everybody?

Really exciting news about mom's book!!! I hope all goes great with it. I hope you book signings go well and it doesn't prove to be five hours of awkwardness. How is everyone holding up? Glad to hear Savannah's team played well. That brings mom and dad's coaching record to .500. Not too shabby. Why are the Jazz horrible? What is their record and where do they stand in the west?

Anyway, I guess the biggest news this week is I was called to be district leader. Should be fun, I'm the man with the mailbox code. The group of missionaries in our zone that came in before us are all leaving this week or next Monday. It's sad to see them go but I'm very excited to be the senior group, I can't wait for the next group to come in. It also means that Taiwan is that much closer which is super exciting.

Anyway, the 3 missionaries going to France leave this week and the rest are gone next. I'm going to miss one of the zone leaders a lot in particular. He is such a great guy and we've become pretty good friends. He is 6'7"and his brother (who is the other zone leader) is 6'4". They are older, they have both finished graduate school and are going to France. They both speak French, Spanish, English and now Chinese, and currently live in Dubai. Pretty cool. Anyway, he knows I studied architecture and am into it so he shows me pictures of all the amazing Dubai buildings. Last night he pulled me aside when we were in the residence halls and gave me a gift, a notebook that has the Burj al Dubai on it. It was really nice, and I'm going to miss him a lot. Ask grandpa and grandma if they had Chinese speakers in their mission. We have a LOT of people in our zone going to Canada to serve. Three are going to specifically the Toronto West mission. Was that their mission?

The older Taibei missionaries received their travel plans which is really cool, considering ours will likely be identical. We will fly to LAX, and from there it is a direct flight to Taibei, which is really nice.

Also CJ Pilling left today for Switzerland. He got a pic with me before he left but I didn't have my camera, I'll see if I can get him to email it to me once he gets over there.

We found out the next group that comes in for Mandarin will only have 16 missionaries. Our zone is going to feel small.

Mom, you asked to know more about him. Elder VanDenBerghe is from Holliday Utah, He went to Olympus High School, and worked at Myers Chicken for 4 years, He is an expert on cooking chicken and sometimes at meal time he will give us 15 minute lessons on how to properly fry chicken, and where the MTC kitchen went wrong. He wants to be a paleantologist and/or own a fried chicken fast food restaurant when he grows up, but not a KFC, because he hates KFC. This loathing for KFC is a feeling I share with him, and has strengthened our companionship. This week we determined he is more of a Dwight Shrute than a Napoleon Dynamite, but he possesses qualities of both. In our rooms there are wardrobes where we hang our suits and shirts etc. The point is they are not big at all. Just big enough for someone to curl into a ball and sit with their knees to their chest. I told my companion I would buy him a hot pocket if he slept in there all night with the door shut. He lasted 45 minutes. A solid performance if you ask me. When we were learning about repentance our teacher challenged us to pick something we could change to become better and do it this week as a personal goal. I said I'd quit smoking, but my real goal was just being more focused and making sure I was out of bed by 6:30 no matter what, not 6:33 or 6:34. Elder VandenBerghe's goal was to not think about dinosaurs for a whole week. He has struggled mightily with this task, and has continued to make multiple dinosaur drawings each day. I encouraged him to draw Joseph Smith riding a dinosaur, so I think that will be the next masterpiece of his. In our zone there is an Elder Langi. He is Tongan and serving in Tonga. He is the first Mandarin speaking Tonga bound missionary anyone in the MTC has ever heard of. He is HUGE and he is struggling with the language. I hope he can get it (he is Elder Brown from Grandpa and Grandma's ward’s companion). My companion frequently asks Elder Langi in Chinese if he eats people, Elder Langi doesn't understand what is being asked so He replies yes. When we contact random people in the MTC in Chinese my companion always ends the contact by saying, "goodbye, you are extremely ugly." It's pretty funny speaking Chinese in at a place where no else speaks it.

Anyway, the language is coming along better than I could have ever expected. Tell the Spirit I say thanks. This week will be our last week teaching in English, then it's all Chinese from there. It's going to help us teach more simply. That's the bright side of things I guess. The spirit that can be felt at the MTC is quite amazing. I love it, On paper this place shouldn't be fun at all. Living 3 months of your life on a city block, with subpar food, dressed formally, and spending 13+ hours a day in a class room learning Chinese. But in actuality I love it here. I've grown so much spiritually since I've been here and I feel like life in general has been put into such a clearer perspective. I understand God's plan for me better than ever before and I've felt my Savior’s love stronger than I ever have before. I'm doing great but I miss everyone like crazy. Thanks for all your love, support, and prayers.
Love Elder White

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some Pictures from the MTC

My MTC nametag.

Our room. The Elders in our district.

My companion with and without earmuffs. Just because he looks so different with them on.

I drew a picture of Godzilla, then called it T-Rex because it makes my comp mad. I hung it above his desk.

1 Nephi 3:7 in Chinese.

Picture we got my comp to draw for a sister from Texas.

Picture my companion drew for a sister.

All Taipei bound missionaries in the zone.

Picture of our District Elders with a substitute for my companion because he always wanders off.

Mandarin Zone!!

Comp and I with our Zone leaders--some of my favorite guys ever.


Picture with sisters we hope join our district when their elders leave.

Our district with an Elder in our zone. I don't know why.

Mormon bling.

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24, 2011

Mom, Email me Monday morning with any questions you have and would like me to answer.

Ni hao family and friend,

Another week in the books here at the MTC. My friend who came in the same day as me and is going English speaking is headed out tomorrow... I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit jealous of that. But I'm also super excited to be going to Taiwan. It is still hard to fathom that in late March or early April, I will be stepping off a plane onto an island in far east Asia.

Where to begin? Every day is beginning to run together now. I have no concept of time anymore. One Elder in our zone put it best when he said "it's like one long day and we just take naps at night." Well said Elder Hansen. Well said. I'm beginning to really love my teachers and I'm so glad I have the teachers I do and I'm in the district I am in. I'd never have thought Chinese would come as quickly as it is, but the very second I start to feel good about learning something, I'm in someway reminded about how far I have to go. I memorize the purpose or the 1st vision and I don't even have time to feel proud about it, because we're immediately thrown another assignment.

I've repeatedly found myself wishing I would have taken Chinese in high school more seriously. Or even really gone to class senior year for that matter. Although Saturday my high school Chinese came in handy. We go each week to a teaching center where we teach investigators and our teachers watch us on hidden cameras and then critique us. At the start of this activity we have a task we have to do in Chinese. This week was tracting and trying to set up an appointment, and then we would go back and teach that appointment in Chinese. We got the coolest old Asian man. He was so funny. He was in a full suit and tie, and then had slippers on. It was great. When we were tracting he invited us in and offered us beer. Luckily the word for beer was one of the half dozen I retained from my high school Chinese studies, so I was able to decline, and overall the Chinese tracting went well.

My companion and I teach and work so well together. I can tell the rest of our district is getting annoyed because we're progressing so fast with the Chinese and the teaching, yet we have the most fun and kid around and joke the most. There is a sister who is quite grumpy and thinks that the gospel can't be fun. I have a hard time picturing Jesus as a grumpy man personally, and in our Tuesday night devotional Elder Gong (who served in Taiwan!!!) spoke on being of good cheer. The message we have is something so amazing. We have to be happy about sharing it. Thankfully I got a lot of counsel before coming out here about finding a balance between working hard and having fun. I'm also thankful for a companion whose outlook is similar to mine. Our whole motto is that we can be having fun while working hard, you can do both simultaneously, and I think that drives some of our district crazy. They work on contacting by locking themselves in our class room and studying vocab all day. My companion and I go walk around the MTC and contact random people. If we mess up, it's in Chinese so the people we are contacting won't even know. The MTC is about making mistakes and as long as we're learning and progressing from those mistakes, that's all that matters.

I have learned a few other things since being here on my contacting strategies.... first of all, I'm not allowed to take advantage of the favorable currency exchange rate and bribe people to be baptized. I'm also not allowed to say that I know Yao Ming and that if you meet with us we will bring Yao Ming. I've also been counseled against telling people I'm Jason Kidd so that they will want to meet with me, and they tell me I can't say "I'm Buddha reincarnated and have come back to tell you I was wrong." So I guess I'll have to come up with new ways to get people to meet with me.

My companion is crazy, wacky, words cannot describe, but I love it because we teach so well together, and because if I'm going to be here 12 weeks, he'll keep things fresh. One thing that isn't fresh is his diet. I'll break it down for you. Everyday he starts off with a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch and chocolate milk for breakfast, for lunch 2 bowls of cinnamon toast crunch and chocolate milk, and for dinner, 2-3 bowls of cinnamon toast crunch and chocolate milk. Then every night he gets a hot pocket from the vending machine. He's about 6 feet tall and 130 pounds soaking wet. We have this game in our room. We have a foam apple, and whoever wakes up with the apple in their bed loses and has to bus everybody's trays at breakfast the next morning. My companion claims to be really sneaky. 2 nights ago we caught him crawling on the tops of the wardrobes, and last night he was really sneaky, he took 30 minutes to slowly crawling across the 12 foot room and put it in an Elder's bed. It was one of the sneakiest things I've ever seen.

He also loves to draw dinosaurs and to draw animals mixed together, like Napoleon Dynamite. Wow, now that I mention it he's a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. There is a sister from Texas going to the other Taiwan mission in our zone. We convinced him to draw an armadillo body with a dragon head and give it to her. It was hilarious. I have a picture on my camera. I will send the memory card home soon. We've also convinced him to give other sisters dinosaur pictures. It's incredibly funny. Last night he told me his first ever haircut that wasn't by a flowbee was the one he got right before coming on a mission. Needless to say, I'm thankful for my companion.

Last night I watched the legacy pioneer movie. Thankfully we had a crowd who was all laughing, I guess some of the older Elders said the first time they saw it everyone was trying to take it seriously. Last night even the presiding branch president was busting up. It's so cheesy and the Joseph Smith they cast thinks he's a male model. The week before we got to watch the Joseph Smith movie. Now that is a well cast Joseph Smith. Legacy was exactly what I needed last night after a long week.

I love you all, I'm sorry for those who have written me and haven't got a reply yet. They give us hardly any time to write letters, and I have a lot I've already written, I just haven't sent them off.
Love you all. Can't wait to get to Taiwan.
Love Elder White (bai zhanglao)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'd like to start out the email with a joke I heard this week about my mission. "Missionaries who go English speaking come back masters of the gospel, missionaries who go foreign speaking come back masters of the language, missionaries who go to Taiwan, just come back."

This week flew by so much faster than the first 4 days. That's what everyone said would happen, but I didn't know if I believed them. I'm really beginning to lose all concept of time right now, which is a good thing. Its still tough thinking about just how long I'll be in here for. I saw Marcus Jardine today and he told me he leaves tomorrow. He got here only a week before me!!! That's insane. I also saw Mike Greenwood. He looks like he's doing great. It was so good to see him. I'm proud of him for serving.

It's weird to think that I will see 4 cycles of English speaking Elders come and go in my time here. But I know that I need to use all the time I have to get the language. Its tough, there's no denying that but I know the Lord will provide a way for me to do it so that I can become the instrument in his hands he needs me to be. When I was discouraged one day I stumbled upon 1 Nephi 17:50... and it hit me how much faith Nephi had. The Lord isn't asking me to turn water into earth, he's not even asking me to build a ship and move my family. He's asking to learn a language, a tough one, but other people have done it. I have faith that I can too. I just have to be patient, which isn't my strongest suit, but this is a language that over 1 billion of God's children currently on the earth speak, basically all of which haven't had the opportunity to come in contact with the gospel.

Our branch president spoke yesterday about a small event that took place last week in China that is a sign the Lord is preparing a way for the work to open there in the future. He also suggested we try to obtain a copy of David O Mckay's dedicatory prayer on the land of China regarding mission work. If someone could please send that to me that'd be really, really appreciated.

One of the older Elders gave me some amazing advice this week. He said faith and fear can't coexist, so if I really want to have faith that I can learn the language I have to let go of my fears and get to work.

Now on to some other things.... First of all thank you all so much who have written me. I really love it and appreciate it. Mom in my next letter home I will be sending some other letters to some of my leaders, and family who I either don't have an address for or know you will likely see throughout the week.

I got a letter from Nathan. It was filled with such great advice. I can tell how well he's doing just by reading that letter. I'm excited to get to that point eventually. Also if you could just copy and paste his weekly letters and send them to me through dearelder I'd love that. I miss him, but I know that his decision as well as mine is the right one. I hope that all the other younger cousins will make the same decision because it is great. Also, in our large group meeting, Nate's mission was talked about. They mentioned how in 2009 the whole mission had 24 baptisms. Then they decided to commit to baptism starting the first lesson in 2010, and by July they had over 50 baptisms. That's pretty cool if you also consider the timeline in relation to when Nathan has been there.

Oh yeah, I can't upload pictures here, so I'll have to send you some when I'm in the field. Maybe I'll send the card home at about 6 weeks and you can get all the pics off of it and send it back.

I'm really beginning to settle in and have a lot of fun here. The food at the MTC isn't good, that's a fact. I know there are multiple schools of thought on the topic, but that's where I stand. My district is 4 elders going to Taibei and 2 sisters. Our districts are small but its a big group of Taibei-bound missionaries. The 4 elders all share a room, and I'm thankful I'm in the district I'm in. I'm becoming quite good friends with Elder Townsend, We get along great. We walk faster than the our companions so we always just yell SPLITS!!! and our companions are like 5-10 steps behind. We love to joke around, especially with my companion Elder Vandenberghe because he's such a character and gets passionate about so many things.... it's too funny. I love that I got him as a companion... Elder Townsend and I have determined that he is a self-proclaimed expert in 4 areas, Politics, Dinosaurs, Breakfast Cereal, and North American Wildlife. I'm sure many more of his areas of expertise will become manifest over the next 11 weeks. We teach well together. We got to go this week twice to the "teaching experience" and practice teach before our weekly "test review teach." We had the most amazing experiences at the "T.E." The second time when I bore my testimony I was in tears and the "investigator" played by a teacher was also in tears, I felt the spirit so strongly. Because of the positive experiences at the "T.E." we were overconfident when teaching a set of older Elders in the zone, and it ended up being a disaster. It was a great lesson in humility as we approached the situation thinking we were such great teachers, only to discover we weren't the teachers at all. The spirit does the teaching and the spirit won't come if we're not humble.

Tuesday I had to get blood drawn for my visa to Taiwan. Having blood drawn and shots don't bother me at all. My companion was freaking out. It was funny. I also had to give a stool sample. That was no fun at all. Veronica asked if I get any stupid songs from home stuck in my head, and unfortunately its all the stupid ones that get stuck in my head all the time, never the good ones. The other day I was going to the mail room and the mail truck parked outside was playing Katy Perry's California Girls. That was stuck in my head for like 3 days straight. I wish the mailman would've had good taste in music. I miss music like crazy because they don't even let us play Motab or anything in the rooms.

I just want to close by mentioning Elder Holland's talk he gave here Tuesday. Amazing, life changing, never felt my Saviors love so much. The man knows how to speak. It changed my life. I've never ever, ever felt the spirit or my Savior's love for me so strongly. The man speaks with power and conviction, and speaks through the spirit. It was so good and so amazing. I know that this is where I'm supposed to be. I know that the Lord has a plan for me, and I hope to fulfill that purpose. I love you all and miss you all so much. Write me and keep me posted. Dad keep up the articles. I love getting them. Keep me updated about the kids lives as well.

Love Elder White

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 10, 2011

Hey Family,

I emailed you, but I feel so pressured and rushed with the clock ticking down, and my long email I sent before getting your letters. IT WAS THE WORST because I tried to leave myself 8 minutes so I could email you again because the 1st email I forgot my journal. So I logged out at 8 minutes and then logged back on just to check to make sure I still had that time and I did, and when I logged out 5 seconds later it told me I'd been charged with a minimum of 5 minutes. So here is some stuff I left out.

I miss music and watching sports the most, besides the family of course. It really does have a prison feel to it here. We get to take a temple walk on Sunday and go to the temple on Mondays (P-day). I FREAKING love those walks. I feel like I'm breathing fresher air. 12 weeks here will be tough. Everyone in the zone says the first week feels like an eternity and then it all flies by. I can only speak for the first week, and it really did feel like forever. I've really wanted to quit (actually, just get switched to some English speaking stateside) but my setting apart is really nice as a reminder of why it'll be important for me to stick it out.

The temple today was great. I understood so much more. Walking back from the temple though, I saw two cute girls in a car. I really miss being able to talk to girls besides the sisters in my district and zone. A sister in my zone and district next to us is from Draper and worked at NLU a couple years before me. So we know all those people mutually. I think that's really rare that at such a small place, there are two Taiwan missionaries . She's going to Taichung along with almost everyone else it seems. We're way outnumbered as Taibei people. I think there are actually more Canada Mandarin speaking than Taibei in our zone.

Apparently there are only 48 missionaries in Taibei and over 200 in Taichung. I don't know the source of that statistic though. I've grown spiritually a lot over 4 days though. It's really cool. I never would have guessed that dedicating all your time and talents to the Lord could be so tiring. I would've killed for 8 hours of sleep back home and now I'm getting 8 hours and feeling more tired than ever.

I loved the bit about Joe, "what would Bruce do?" To answer him, Bruce would have a mustache if he could. I really think the church should allow missionaries to grow mustaches regardless of how trashy some (mine) might look. There is magic in mustaches. Investigators would flock to my mustache.

I miss you all SO MUCH. Please send pictures and lots of little daily updates through We only have twelve weeks of that and then it'll be down to only 1 email a week. So please!

Also, send me some of that tooth whitening toothpaste coffee drinkers and smokers use because my shirts are so darn white I feel like my teeth can't keep up.

Also, especially tell Skyler to give me updates about our ward and the U through and have him give me an address to respond to.

Thanks. Love you. Miss you. Send pics. I'm the only Elder out without pictures.

Zai jian.

Elder Bruce White


It sucks being a one suit elder, because we're required to wear suits at all times while at the MTC. Had I known that, I would've waited to get one perfect suit. There is a big group of South Koreans that came to this MTC for some reason. They are such a stylish crew. I'm So So So jealous of them. They all have like ridiculous iridescent suits with way cool gold buttons and just all the sweetest details and crazy cool glasses as well.

When you send my brown shoes, send my gray ones that I just bought that are the same as I bought for the girls and I'll send back my blue ones. Tell Veronica that I don't get blueberry or French toast muffins here, so she should shut her mouth. I'm currently sitting in the laundry room, which looks like a sweatshop. Now I'm bored. I think I've covered just about everything, I think. I'm sure I'll think of more while my laundry twirls...

Back. I bought a backpack from the bookstore because that Wal-Mart crap wasn't cutting it and so it looks like everyone else's. I had a backpack mix-up and I returned theirs but mine is still missing. So that's bu hao. I'm done. I'll write again soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hello, Ni Hao,

The MTC is ridiculous, I've heard the mission has it's ups and downs, I just had no idea that they'd come and go so quickly. On two occasions already I've felt extremely down and really wanted to come home, but then I've bounced back and had a breakthrough of some kind. It's hard. Chinese is hard and a little bit stupid. It's by far the hardest thing I've ever done. At home a lot of things came pretty easily for me, and if they didn't I usually just didn't bother myself with them. This is a real challenge, but I have faith I can do it. The Lord will provide a way for me to do it. If I exercise faith and patience I know I can do it.

Now about my companion, room, district, zone.
My companion is an interesting fellow. I can't really read him or tell what he's thinking. I'm continually praying to find ways to connect with him both spiritually and as a friend. When we got here, a couple of the older Elders who are going to Taichung were eating with chop sticks. We wanted to practice. We bought some from the bookstore and we made a rule that if we can't eat it with chop sticks, we can't eat it at all, (I also figured that's a way to avoid gaining the ridiculous MTC weight some Elders gain. There is rumor of an Elder who's gained 40 pounds and he's only an 8 week language.) Anyway, I've actually gotten pretty good at them. It's surprising. The other two Elders in my room are great. I love them so far. Our district is just us 4 plus 2 sisters, all going Taibei. Our zone is made of all the Mandarin speaking missionaries in the MTC, so we're a tight knit group. We all sit in the same place every day at lunch and all the other missionaries know that those tables are for the Mandarin missionaries--its cool. So in the group above us there are only 3 Taibei missionaries and there were only 2 above them. We have 6. The point is there aren't many in Taibei. I heard 48 missionaries in the whole mission. Taichung has tons, it's amazing.

Elder Oakman from my high school Chinese class is going to Taichung. He got here with the older group. He's been an amazing help to me here both spiritually, with the language, and with the ins and outs of this place. I'm so thankful for him. My zone leaders are also amazing. They are brothers who are really smart. They both have graduate degrees. They are from Spain (the southern most tip by Africa, if that means anything to you, Dad). They are French, and studied at English schools so they speak English with British accents, they are learning Chinese as there fourth language and are both going to France Mandarin and French speaking. They are a big help and I love talking with them and receiving guidance from them. They're very nice.

I love gym time. The basketball is pretty good if you're at the right hoop. There is an Elder Barr from Colorado going somewhere stateside Spanish speaking who I always try to play with and have on my team. We play really well with each other and its fun. I can't believe I know so many people here I completely forgot about or didn't know were serving. It's amazing and exciting. I'm loving and hating the MTC already. I really feel enclosed, but there is a great spirit here. Sunday temple walks and going to the temple today helped. I loved the temple today. I feel like I understood it a lot better. It was amazing.

As I said the language is pretty tough. I get so frustrated. Patience isn't my strong suit, but I'm learning faster than I ever thought I would be. I can already pray and bear my testimony in Chinese. I know enough to get me by day to day here at the MTC without needing to speak much English. I'm shocked at how fast it's coming. I'm running out of time and I want to save time to come back and print if you send anything. I also have a list of what I need sent that I forgot so I've got to save time to send you that.

I love you and miss you all. It would be nice to hear from family and friends. Post about on my Facebook, and have people send their addresses when they send letters, please!!!!

I love you. I know I'm forgetting things but this timer is really high pressure.

Zaijian, Elder white.

(Once I get the camera cord I can send you a picture of my nametag. It's amazing, all in Chinese characters.!!!

I need you to send me my brown shoes that were falling apart, I want to wear them around the MTC until they're done and save my other shoes for Taiwan.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bruce Reports to the MTC

After a pretty relaxed morning at home, we picked up the kids at school, came home and ate waffles and then headed for the MTC. First stop was the temple, where we took family pictures. You could tell Bruce was excited to be on his way.
Joe loaned him his nametag, which Bruce planned to wear until he replaced it with his own. He'll send Joe's back.We pulled up to the curb and saw TJ Farr. He ended up being Bruce's host, helping him into the MTC and showing him the ropes. This made his family very happy.

And he's gone. There were a few more tears shed today, but mostly it was a happy occasion. He's going to be a great missionary.