Monday, December 21, 2015


Hello. As y'all know, I got to Houston a little while ago. I think it was five days ago. But I've got to say, these past five days have been some of the craziest of my life. (thus, "dead") it's a little hard to handle.
On Wednesday the 16, everyone at the MTC who was going to Houston woke up at 3:00 in the morning. We took our luggage to a bus at 4 a.m. which took us to the frontrunner which took us to SLC and there the trax took us to the airport. After waiting a few hours at the airport, we boarded the plane for Houston. I sat by a guy who was from Fiji but he had lived in L.A. for the last nineteen years working for hotels. We got to Houston at about 1:30 in the afternoon.

The mission president and his wife greeted us at the airport; they took us to a stake center in Houston and after a little orientation they had us take a nap in the chapel (which was sorely needed). After that we went to their house for dinner and more orientation. Sister Mortensen (President Mortensen's wife) had made some brisket for us that was super tasty. They explained to us that Houston is a really productive mission, but we don't just baptize, we try to improve the community a lot. I really liked that; knowing it made me feel a little more like maybe Houston really is the mission for me.
We slept in the president's assistants' apartment on little pads on the floor. There were about two hours where I couldn't sleep at all because the guy next to me was snoring so loud......... haha. Anyway, that next morning is when things started to get a little crazy. When I opened my luggage to get a white shirt, I found that the ink jar I had packed with me (stupid decision) had exploded and ink had seeped out of the bag that was supposed to keep that from happening. So there was a giant ink stain on all of my white shirts. and nothing else in the suitcase. So that was super stressful. Luckily one of the elders from the MTC was kind enough to lend me a similarly-sized shirt.
We had breakfast at the president's house, then we went to the stake center to meet our new trainers. My trainer's name is Elder Jones. He seems like a super cool guy. He's from Cedar City and actually likes some of the music that I do, and we have similar thoughts on the gospel and on society in general, so that's really good. I told Elder Jones we'd have a bit of an adventure because of my shirts. He's taken everything really well. Weirdly, I have too. There was never a moment where I totally freaked out because of everything that was happening. I just felt okay. I knew that the stuff that was happening to me was not good, but I just knew things would work out.
Anyway, Elder Jones and I are assigned to the Sealy area. We live in a city called Belville; Sealy is the largest city in the area and it has a population of about 5,000 people. It's not quite so rural as I thought it would be, it's really suburban, really American, with really few dirt roads and also there are so many trees you feel like you're in the middle of a forest. The humidity isn't so bad most days, and everything is really, really green and beautiful. Hopefully I'll send y'all some pictures once I decide to take some.
I had been feeling pretty sick all day and on the way to Sealy we pulled over and I threw up everything I had eaten in the past few days. So that was good. We got to our apartment and then went tracting; I was still feeling way sick but we managed it. That night we met with a great family (mom & dad, they are the ones who sent you the picture of me feat. Elder Jones) and they fed us amazing biscuits and gravy. Luckily, I didn't throw any of that up but unluckily, I hate brisket now.
Since then, things have been getting better bit by bit. We gave the ink-stained shirts to the local dry cleaners' and they were able to save two of them. Thanks to that and the generosity of people working for the mission, I have 6 white shirts, so I'm surviving. But I lost six white shirts to the ink as well. (this information is more for my parents so we can figure out what to do: I still have both long-sleeved shirts and it's not cold here at all so that's all I need with those, but I believe I only have 4 short-sleeved shirts. So there you go.)
Texas so far is just a really interesting place. It's about a thousand times more diverse than Utah, but everyone loves Jesus and stuff like that. It's a really interesting culture, I just have so much to say about it but I don't even know where to begin. Yep, everyone says y'all, no matter who you are. You can meet some of the classiest people you'll ever meet here and they'll talk like any ordinary person but still just have a few y'alls thrown in. In other households the Southern accent is really strong. We tried to teach a Baptist minister named Mary and I could only tell what she was saying about half the time. She pretty much yelled at us the entire time and kept trying to preach to us about why immigrants are ruining America and stuff like that. It was kind of a discouraging experience. No one likes getting yelled at for an entire hour. Most people are really nice though, um.... yeah! I don't know what else to say about that. If you have any questions about anything on the mission, make sure to let me know.
I love and miss you all. I hope things are going well back in Utah and all the missions people are on and stuff. I really appreciate the e-mails and mail and things like that. 401 E Strauss St #13, Belville TX 77418 is my address if anyone wants to send mail to my apartment. I would love to hear from any of you.
Elder Taylor

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Only P-Day I Get At The MTC, or, The Ritual Rigors of Missionary Studying, or, "What is life?", or, The MTC is Pretty Good, thanks.

Hello all. It's been a pretty long time since I've gotten to talk to any of you. I got to the MTC on Wednesday and I didn't get to have a P-Day until today, so sorry that took so long (blame the MTC though..). I head out to Houston early next week. My next P-Day will be on Monday or Tuesday, I'm not sure which, but it'll be one of those days. Not next week, though, because I will be on a plane or something like that.

Anyway, life at the MTC is pretty crazy. When you get out of the car and say goodbye to everyone you get greeted by this host missionary who carries your luggage and tells you random things about the place. They have kind of an assembly-line setup of women where one will give you your room key, then you move to another one who gives you your tag, stuff like that. Once you drop your luggage off at your room, you head to class. You know how people say their teacher will only talk to them in the mission language the first day and it's way overwhelming? It's true! When I got to class the teacher just started speaking English to me like it was no big deal and I didn't even know what to do. Way Stressful. for real.

I (and all missionaries) spend most of our time at the MTC in a classroom with our districts. I think we spend about 10 hours a day in there on an average day. You have an hour of personal study time, an hour of companion study time, and additional study time to basically learn whatever you want. At different times during the day we will have actual classes taught by teachers which last for about two hours. Basically you are learning about the gospel as constantly as possible.

My companion's name is Elder Tanner Bailey. He's going to Houston too and is from Huntsville, Utah. He is super into hunting, dirt biking, huge trucks, country music, that kinda stuff; his dad sent him elk jerky in the mail so maybe that will tell you something. Oh, and he brought cowboy boots on his mission, which are what he wore all the time at home. So basically he's the complete opposite of me in every way. Being the leftist (leftist means politically moderate) "city" kid that I can be, I don't think I would have been friends with him in high school. I would have judged him so hard. But it didn't take long to realize that we are here for the same purpose, and that's a big thing to have in common. He's done a lot of things that have given me a ton of respect for him and he really cares about being a good missionary. So we don't have a whole ton to talk about all the time, but I think of him as a really good friend. Although our life experiences are so different, I think we work pretty well together as teachers.

It also helps that my district is really awesome. I feel so lucky to have them all the time. Meaning I have to tell you all about all of them. We are all 18 besides our district leader, Elder Vickers, who is 23, a super big (meaning really tall and muscular) redhead who has been to a couple years of college. (Also, there are no sisters in my district.) There's Elder Bailey and I, and then we have Elder Grover, who is super short and did a lot of sports in high school (most of the district did) and really the shortness just makes him so awesome. Elder Arciniaga (arson-yahga) is one of two from California (everyone else is from Utah), and he's really opinionated and talkative, I definitely don't always get him but I like him. Elder Villeda (also from California) is Mexican and fluent in Spanish (he's still going on an English-speaking mission though) and he is just the most hilarious person ever made.

Social life at the MTC is interesting, especially on the first day. It's really different from high school or college. In high school you get there and the cliques are virtually predetermined. Here at the MTC, nobody knows anything about anybody besides that we're here to serve God. So really everyone is pretty friendly with everyone, which I think is kind of similar to the first few days of college is like if what people have told me is true. The major difference from college is your district. They're not just roommates, you are spending pretty much all the time with them. You have spiritual experiences together and share a lot of emotions, which is kinda weird, but it really generates a feeling of closeness and trust between everyone in the district.

Overall, the only thing I can say about the MTC that is truly all-encompassing is that it's exhausting. People say the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days, and it's really true. Going to bed is probably the thing I look forward to most every day. So yeah, it's hard, and tiring, and long, but I am really just so amazed at the amount of growth I've felt here at the MTC. I think my testimony is stronger now than it has ever been and I'm understanding more than I ever have.

For example, I read the Book of Mormon for personal study every day, and I just finished 1 Nephi, and I just can't even believe how much I learned from it. There are so many things I never noticed or understood before. I'd dare to say I have learned more from 1 Nephi in the past week than I have from the entire Book of Mormon in the last year. So I'm excited to see what the rest of it will bring. For example, one of the big questions I've had for a long time is, why would God command the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites? (in the book of Joshua) It made me worry a lot about what the nature of God really is or what it's supposed to be. I don't have my scriptures right now, so I don't remember what chapter it is, but there's one in 1 Nephi that analyzes it so amazingly. The Book of Mormon is so much more solid then I ever really thought of it being. I remember thinking as I read that chapter in Nephi and a couple others, the more "essay"-like ones that teach about the nature of God, and thinking, Joseph Smith was either a prophet who received revelation from God, or he was a complete theological genius who was able to explain and solve major issues regarding religious ideology using only the knowledge he gained from reading the Bible. The Book of Mormon is powerful. It really is the main tool that we can use to learn about Christ and come unto Him. I've learned that here more than anything.

Also, one thing I've come to understand is that the gospel isn't about a bunch of rules and a bunch of meetings. The organizational part is essential, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is a spiritual journey and a way of life. That, in my mind, connects Mormonism more with ancient Judaism and the covenants God has always made with his people than anything else. By choosing to experiment on the word, read the Book of Mormon, and pray to God, you are starting yourself on your journey. We don't always receive clear-cut answers to our prayers, but I know that it's not because God doesn't care. It's because He knows us and He knows the need we have to have our faith tried. Every time we pray, even if we don't get an obvious answer, we will grow closer to God (if we pray with a sincere heart and real intent of course). And when we do get an answer, even if it's delayed, with the answer will come the knowledge that we need to see that we really did have to be alone for a reason at the time. Sometimes God lets us figure things out on our own on purpose. I know that He is there and if you will try yourself on this spiritual journey really amazing things will happen. But don't do anything because I tell you to do it, do it so you can find out the truth (if you want to find out the truth about Mormonism). I know most of you guys are members of the church, so I'm not really sure why I'm saying all this, but there you go.

Anyway, preachiness aside, things have been going good. Sometimes I really feel a little anxious or like I am really missing home. Honestly, though, they keep you busy here. I pretty much think about the gospel all the time because it's always right before you here. Also, you feel the Spirit at least a little bit just about all the time here. It makes it amazing. 

So yeah. I hope things are going great in all of your lives. I'm excited to hear from all of you. It would probably be good to send letters instead of emails because I can read letters any time but I can only read emails on P-Day. Do that? I know the work I'm doing here has been so worth it. I'm so glad to be here with the people I have around me and I really hope to do a little good for the world out on this mission.

I love you all.

Elder Brooks Taylor

me feat. Elder Bailey

Houston Texas mission group: Sister idon'tknow, Elder Vickers, Elder Albertson, Elder Wright, Elder Donos, Elder Seamons, Elder Bailey, elder idon'tknow