Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Well it's official. We are about to leave Provo. We attended the departure meeting, which was sweltering hot, and was the MTC presidency talking to our district, and a couple hundred missionaries who departed today to their field. The meeting was full of advice on how to get into the field, phrases like, "tomorrow, when you arrive at the field...." and, "we are so proud of you for completing your time at the MTC. But we don't leave until Wednesday, and we don't get to the field for another 6 weeks. Haha.
Today, we start packing. Since today is our P day, and yesterday was Sunday, and tomorrow we are supposed to pack during gym time, we won't be able to go to gym! Though maybe we will pack up today really fast and be able to get to that much needed physical activity. It wasn't exaggeration when someone told me that days here start with shower, then sitting, then eating while sitting, then sitting, then eating while sitting, then sitting, THEN GYM!, then eating while sitting again, and more sitting after that to wrap up the day. Don't get me wrong tho, I love it!
Oh right, I was talking about departure.... The MTC president told us yesterday that if we are late to the travel office and miss the bus to the airport, we have to stay here for an additional 12 weeks as punishment.
Did you get my letter with the pictures? Roland so far has printed them out (it cost a dollar and a half to print those) and mailed them (it took two stamps and an envelope) home so his parents could scan the goodies on to the blog. The computers here are so locked's ridiculous. We can't email pictures because we don't have enough access to the computers to see our camera or card on windows explorer.
Elder Johnson Moody is gone! He flew off in the afternoon of last monday. Elder Chris Holdaway (from our stake) left for the Baltic mission today. He happened to live about 7 doors down from me. By the by, Elder Roland Wood is a floor below me. Elder Elliott Moss... I have no idea when he lives but I saw him this morning on the way to the temple.
I never remember what I have already sent home, so I hope this isn't redudant, but I feel like I haven't given any detail as to who I know and why I know them. Alright I've said who I know, but they are all in my district. That means I see them for most of every day. Our district has our own small 20 by 10 foot classroom in which we spend all of our day that isn't MDT, Teaching, Sleeping, or Eating. I dunno why those are capitalized. Oh, and MDT is "mission directed time," which is to say, anything we need to do that day like extra study on a topic, buying another pen, or whatever. So basically I have been with the people in my district (district 1A, so we are the absolute first of every district in the MTC) since I got here. We all know each other quite well now, and there has been time for tensions to rise, fall, and rise again. I am gunna miss them tho, as we will likely be split up once we get to the Lima Peru MTC.
Which raises the question: If I do get a new companion, will he be a Peruvian?? Probably... Will he speak ingles? MAYBE NOT!!! AAHHHHHHH. More on that in my letter.
P.S. If I don't email y'all on a Monday, it's prob cuz I got time pwnt, so I would log onto this email from home if I was you and check the drafts, since those tend to save more than emails get sent.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28, 2010

Dear Familia,

Oh, so I feel like I should correspond largely by email, since normal mail is so weird.  Oh gosh, I just implied, no I said that email is normal mail.  Sign of the times I guess. Or at least my thinking.

My email was a bit of a rant, mostly over the frustration of dealing with the MTC computer regulations which are abysmal.  So my mood is generally stressed while writing them.  I lost 12 minutes to the system out of my 30 minute time limit today.

Conversely, a letter can be relaxed, paused, resumed, and a happy experience over all.

Speaking of happy experiences, I don't know if my email included this, but the MTC is so great.  Every day is filled with so much growth and learning that I don't even know what to think.

Spanish is going well!  I have been learning, praying, and testifying.  Recently, I was taking notes in English in class, and in a sentence included the word "prayer". I stopped for a second to figure out how the supposedly ER verb should be conjugated.  So crazy.

A Bardzinski-ism:  "There is going to be a loud noise for a while."  That was the warning he gave us preceeding about 30 seconds of nose blowing.

Also a random tidbit, "jagar" [llegar] means "to arrive".  Ligar jagar goooo!  [Can someone explain this one?--besides the fact that his teacher must be Argentine]

Forty people [following the blog]?!  That's amazing.  Probably just random google re-directs or something. [Actually, it's a list of a lot of great friends and family who are following Mark's mission].

Grandma Wolthuis sent me a letter!  Well, not just a letter, but a whole package!!  It's awesome, and I've been eating the chocolately contents for quite a bit now.  It is the best.  On the letter is a picture of me as a two year old!

I feel like I should include a brief report of lunch today. . . There was as much yellow goya rice as a person could want, and then about 600 times more.  I haven't gone but one meal without drinking at least one cup of chocolate milk, but I average at 3.5 cups or so.

Also today, I met an Elder Johnson, who is in Elder Moss's district.  He went to Orem High.  Also, my district (districts have about 12 people) is the second to oldest district in our zone already (4-5 districts make up a zone). [Mark has been at the MTC almost three weeks now.  I imagine most of this zone is being sent to the Lima Peru MTC after being at the MTC in Provo for about three weeks.  That is probably why his district is second to oldest].

The sentiment around here is that everyone is super glad they decided to go on a mission, despite the face that surprisingly many people in my district didn't even want to go [on a mission] a year ago.  I am certainly glad.  So glad in fact.

I drive stick better than you Paul. IRL and ITG. [In Real Life and In The Game].

I miss my phone. . . but not too much.  Excitement reaches a climax on Mondays as reports of the upcoming week's weather comes in via email. . . ha ha ha.


Elder Mark Johnson

P.S.  I think this is the best form of communication.
P.P.S. I am in Branch 1 District A

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

23 August 2010
Dear family,
This week has been extremely challenging. Not so much the classes, but the companionship. We have had some serious strife, and deep set issues.  But over the week, we gradually worked it out. I was kind of a mediator in it... but was not free from all of the causes of the issue. The problems came from personality differences between my companions, which lead to contention in the companionship. I have learned so much from it, and I better have, because it was not an easy trial to be a part of. We had a companionship inventory, which is what we call it when companions in a nice manner try to resolve conflict. We are supposed to use the "love sandwich" which is a method of saying nice things, loving things, then the problem, then nice things and constructive things. Our first try, how you say, failed.

We met with the Zone Leaders the next day for them to be there and act in a directing role during another companionship inventory. They were so good. It is amazing how wise people can become after 7 weeks here. That helped a lot. I also have put a scripture on my desk, which kinda shows the real source of the problem in a humbling way. It is Proverbs 13:10 [Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.] I really was directed to it during my personal study. I was worried about it being too bold to put it there for all to see, but the Branch Presidency heard and actually commended me for it.

We met with them yesterday, to be sure the bad feelings were behind us. They are so full of love. Especially Brother Jollie. He teaches, as far as we can tell, some sort of chemical bio science at BYU and comes by frequently at around bed time to make sure we are all happy and doing well. HE IS AWESOME.

It's kinda like y’all are seeing the before and after of this issue, but it is resolved almost 100%!!

What else is really important? ... I said goodbye to Elder Moody yesterday. He left today.

I leave in 9 days. What? Yes, 9 days for the Lima MTC. It is crazy,  I know.

My teachers I will say again are EXCELLENT. Every day is so full of uplifting things and educational things and difficult things and awesome things. I now pray in spanish every time with no real difficulty. Saturday we played a game in class where we had to describe to our partner a spanish word that they couldn’t see and try to get them to say it. Me and my partner won! The word was Corbata (tie). Neither of us knew it.

Paul, lento means slow. We say mas lento por favor all the time.


Monday, August 16, 2010

First MTC letter 8/16/10

Dear Family,
I feel so loved right now, logging into my email on my first Preparation Day ever, and having two whole automatically generated emails! haha err... I still exist.
I jest. It has been so awesome though. Right now I can't convince myself that I have only been here since Wednesday last. Each day really is a week. This morning I woke a little early (6:00) and did some scripture study after getting showered and dressed and all, then we headed off to the temple for three hours.
Oh wait, I should sum up everything so far.
Aunt Carmen was awesome letting me be around. It isn't super convenient hosting a set apart missionary who doesnt have a real companion around because he can't be alone. But they were good. Ryan was in the bed by me. Jared taught me to drive a manual transmission car before I left! I am so glad I can do that now. Finally feel like I can really drive (that means you definitely can't yet Paul). His truck is "really bad" but I only stalled it once!
So we drove to Provo the next day and I had a delicious last lunch comprised of Coldstone ice cream. SO AWESOME. I miss [having] ice cream whenever I want it. Here, I have to wait for a Wednesday or a Sunday. Once we got here, I realized I left my suit jacket (the blue one) at their house, along with my wallet, and my alarm clock. Smooth I know, they still let me in on the condition that I change into my other suit asap.
Aunt Carmen dropped me off at the curb and straightway a "host" elder came to grab my bags. He carried them while instructing me what to do. We headed to the creatively named 1M building and there I basically got everything I needed in a line going through about 8 stations. Pretty awesome. We dropped off my bags, and the host took me to a small room with about 10 computers and desks. There was a training video and little computerized test to make sure we remembered at least some of it. I got one wrong, but it was a technicality.. so basically 100% in my book.
In the room was this weirdo "Elder Cruz" who was like: "Are you Elder Mark Johnson?" But that was basically it before I was sat down. After finishing I was taken to a room in the basement to meet my district. They are awesome. Elder Cruz was there. He is one of my companions. I have two! And guess what mom?! The other is Elder Weaver! Odds of that were not high.
So let me get  back to what I have been working up to. I entered the MTC August 11 at 1:01 pm and I was in class learning spanish with Hermana Scaife at 2:28. She spoke all spanish and quickly. She is soo nice and so spiritual it's kinda crazy. She said she would pay to teach at the MTC and I actually almost believe it. We can all tell how much she loves it here.
There is this red countdown timer in the top right of the screen that has been counting down from 30 minutes (my computer time for the week) haha so crazy. Anyway it's at 10 minutes cuz i FAILED at logging on for 10 minutes.
Just in case, here is my know..if you want to send me like chocolate or anything..
This needs to replace the address I have on facebook cuz I think they are different. It's in the awkward box right now. [Mail sent to the awkward box apparently isn't addressed properly.]
Elder Mark David Johnson
MTC Mailbox # 253
PER-ARE 1014
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

Later the first day we did this super awesome thing where about 40 elders and a few hermanas sat in a half circle around two chairs and a couch. It was a pretend first meeting at the house. There were older guys...WAIT NO WE DONT SAY GUYS, we say, Elders... who pretended to be missionaries who started it off, but after a few minutes they left and we were all supposed to be the missionaries. It was super super awesme! The "investigators" were RMs who were pretending to be somebody from their mission.
All right.  So who is in my district, you ask?
Well, there is Elder Badzinski, who is Australian and really is the character of our district. He is soo funny without really meaning to be. His accent and mannerisms always make us laugh. The other day, he comes back from the bathroom with his companion, and warns Elder Cruz in his Australian way: "Don't use the two toilets on the left, they are, er, blocked up." when Elder Cruz laughed. He said,  "Yea well one was already blocked, and I blocked up the other." I just wish I could send his voice to you all.
Elder Stewart and Bowler play soccer with me and Elder Cruz during Gym. Soccer is the best. We play tagalan speaking vs. spanish speaking, and there are usually around 100 elders playing i think. (i have no idea how to spell tagalan) [I assume he means Tagalog]

We have been blessed and humbled as a district with an hermana three person companionship. I say blessed because every one is more behaved when they are in the room, and humbled cuz it is so apparent how much older they are, and how much more mature they are, and how "elders can never have nearly as much compassion as hermanas."
Speaking of apparent age, the Elders who have been here for about 8 weeks or so seem SOOO MUCH older than us. Even though they are basically the same exact age as us... But I will never be able to make some brand new Provo kid think that because (drum roll)
Our district is being sent to the Lima MTC in 3 or so weeks! And I am the only one who was supprised by that... I have no idea how that happened, but I'm excited. Once we get there, it will really be full language emersion. So where is my spanish now? We have been saying every prayer in espanol for 2 days now, and we had to prepare a talk in spanish yesterday. Though honestly a good portion of mine was to be read out of the Libro de Mormon. We have gone over oso-ing [oso is the spanish word for bear (the animal), by the way] our testimony in spanish and praying in spanish so far. We have done a ton of stuff like practicing approaches and whatnot.

How little eating time there is. We have 45 minutes and I barely get enough food to be full! There are significant lines. The food is a little better than Cannon Center food at Helaman Halls BYU, so I like it! Not to mention, the Chocolate Milk machines are always full!!! I love that liquid.
The amount of space we have: not much. I have about 2 cubic metes of sleeping space, .46 cubic meters of which are used rather inefficiently to make sleep comfortable. The rest is air. I have been waking up every day a few minutes before my alarm because I hear people going to the shower a little earlier than me. What happened to being a heavy sleeper? I have no idea.
How regimented the schedule is. Even Sunday I had stuff I was to be doing literally every 15 minutes of the day if you include sleeping. There are a few minutes throughout the day that cooouuldd be used to take a tiny nap I guess...or laze around... but spending them on scripture study is much better. I have been memorizing a scripture every day btw, today is Alma 29:9, yesterday was my favorite so far, the first vision.
How little (it seems) spanish we do a day. So we learn spanish actively for about 4 hours a day, which doesn't seem like a ton to me, since the other 12 hours are all busy too. But maybe that is just cuz we are still only getting out of the newbie missionary schedule and lessons.
Last night, we decided to go watch LEGACY the mormon movie. It was a truncated version to fit into the amout of time we had, but I have never been so affected by a movie. I've seen it before, but watching with a couple hundred other missionaries was something else. Also, towards the end, I pulled off my missionary name tag, and just stared at the words "Elder Johnson" There are about 1000 Elder Johnsons here, but this one is me, and I finally got here. It was pretty emotional for a bit.
Sorry if this doesnt make so much sense.. my previous attempt probably did, but it got pwned by that red count down timer combined with a failing internet.
Pictures will come next Preparation day I hope! Also, remember to update my facebook mailing address, and also on the blog!
I am having such a great time!
Elder Mark (with a k, yes a k not a c... im the one on the bottom of the stack) Johnson

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sacrament Meeting Talk, Arlington 2nd Ward, 8/8/10

Brothers and sisters, 

Good afternoon. My name is Mark Johnson.  I am nineteen, and Tuesday I leave for the Missionary Training Center. I have been looking forward to this time for just about my whole life. For that long I have felt like this talk was already assigned.

(More introduction about me added impromptu)

In my preparation for today I got to choose my own topic.  Unlike all my previous talks, I actually started really thinking about this one a couple months ago. Each Sunday I took some notes about what seemed like I could include in my talk, and throughout the week I wrote experiences I had, and insight I gained.  About a week and a half ago, my mission prep reading brought me to several chapters on faith. They struck me particularly powerfully. The notes I was making reflect this, as I recorded many points, relevant memories, and learning experiences. I realized that developing true faith is paramount in this life.

Reflecting on my life, during this time, also helped me connect a constellation of key events in my past. These events all dealt with the question: why do I not have more faith and how can I gain more.

I remember long ago laying in my bed one Sunday night. In church we had learned about heavenly messengers visiting one person or another and connected the lesson with the experiences of the brother of Jared, and the appearance of the angle Moroni in young Joseph Smith’s room. I concluded, that if I could muster enough faith, I would be able to see angels too. I was disappointed to find that no angel came to my room that night.

This leads to the question: If I can’t forcibly conjure faith into being, how does it come about?

Alma describes how to gain faith in a familiar Book of Mormon story, comparing faith to a seed. I would like to urge all of you to reserve some time, and carefully read Alma 32 and in particular, verse 21, and verses 26 to the final verse, 43 later today.

Before studying the section in preparation for this talk, I felt I had a good understanding of what is said, but all this time I have missed a crucial point.

Verse 21 contains, “And now as I said concerning faith—afaith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye bhope for things which are cnot seen, which are true.

Faith is in things which are true.

In verse 27, Alma begins the comparison saying: “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words”

The first step, is to have a desire to have faith. To know if this church is true.

Alma assures us that only the smallest amount of faith is required to begin the experiment.

The second step is to plant the seed in your heart, and to not cast it out because of your unbelief. Being rather science-minded, I like the use of the word: experiment. It implies that the seed's progression must be carefully tracked and it must be given the best possible chance.

At this point in the experiment, deciding that the seed will fail before all of the data is recorded, can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, and will doom the experiment to failure, the seed will be cast out because of our unbelief. Closing our mind to the possibility of the seeds growth effectively places a bucket over the seed. We will be unable to see its growth. If we never nourish it, it withers away having never been recognized. 

If we avoid these traps, and properly allow the seed to grow within us, I promise, along with Alma, that we will both know and feel that it is a good seed. That this seed of faith, which when we have nourished, can in fact become a strong thing.

It is important to take the observation at that point. Write it down, and remember it. As of that Sunday night, the seed had been planted, but I had never really made a formal observation: "This seed is good, I should nourish it, so that it can grow and bring forth fruit."

After recognizing the value of the seed, its small green stem should not be forgotten as a successful memory. It should be held close, and nourished, so it can grow and develop into a tree. Noticing the tiny stem poke through the earth is only the beginning. It is important to take the observation of initial success, and goodness of the seed at that point. Write it down, and remember it. 

I was baptized 11 years ago, and I have known about this story since before my memory reaches. I have always assumed that my seed has already been planted, and that it is growing in its own plot of my spiritual back yard. I supposed that my weekly attendance to church was the needed rainfall, trimming, and fertilization that my fledgling tree required.

Alma says in verse 38 of this chapter 32, “ But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.”

The important thing in this verse, is that we must be sure to not become complacent in our faith, no matter how developed the faith is. Attention must be applied very regularly, to the point of habit, to care for the tree representing our faith.

This is the verse that I never understood and internalized. My own faith was not a daily consideration, and therefore my faith languished for several years. Through humbling experiences and time, I once again desired greater faith, unfortunately for me, I did not realize my failure to keep my faith a daily consideration, and prayer frequent. My desire for more faith increased, yet I could not figure out how I could attain such faith.


I wished for a special protein shake to drink, which would give me the faith of Enoch. What my attitude lacked was more than desire. Having desire to have faith is simply the first step in the experiment and yields only the first results on its own.

I needed to prune the faith which had been left on its own for so long

In luke chapter 17 verse 5 the apostles requested of Jesus: “Lord, increase our faith.” Interestingly, he chooses to respond to the question “Lord, how can we increase our faith,” but He does so in a way that does not easily reveal the answer. He speaks of a master, and how the master interacts with his servant. He responds with a parable:

7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
  8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
  9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
  10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

I take this to mean that while we work we must strive to be more and more humble, a point that is reinforced in Mosiah 2:21.

Faith in the Lord, without works, is dead. We must stive to always keep His commandments, and in doing so, our faith is increased. It is a positive feedback loop that is only too easy to break or attenuate. But if we commit ourselves to consistently exercise faith, the faith consistently grows

The index of topics at says that faith is like a muscle. The more it is exercised, the larger and stronger it gets. It is an exercise of faith to labor in the Lords fields, and the labor increases that faith. Our trust in the lord, and our effort, striving to keep His commandments will result in a much stronger tree.


During the past few months, as I have been preparing to leave on my mission, I have been trying to live my life more like a missionary would. In the process, I decided to try to increase my spirituality to the level a missionary needs in order to properly function. I asked myself, "How do I do this?".

What I observed that increased my spirituality daily, was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, keeping a calm mind, and striving to offer prayers frequently. My mission prep reading talked about always having a prayer in our heart.

Always having a prayer in my heart seemed like a simple enough task at first so I went ahead and tried for a day. When I reviewed my progress that day, I was disappointed. Most of the day I hadn’t even considered offering a prayer.  

The problem was that I had engaged in several activities which had shifted the eternal perspective to the back of my mind for an extended period of time. This happened because of a song I listened to, because of a stressful event, or because I did something I was familiar with, and lapsed into old habits of thinking, so not joining the activity with a spiritual mindset. As I examined each day I decided to phase out tv, hulu, stop playing video games, start waking up earlier than 1 pm, and work to reduce idle time by being more productive.

The next day I set about avoiding the activities that had the effect of side tracking my mind from a spiritual focus. I also strived to alter my habit of not reflecting on spiritual matters during the day.

Although I still had several full hours throughout the day without thought of the gospel or a prayer, I had made quite a difference in the mood of my day! Excited, I resolved to improve each day. It can be hard to change habits of though. Moments alone, in the car, on a walk, or otherwise can be used to remember one's testimony and to restore a calm and spiritual mindset to the day's activities, thus approaching the rest of the day with a demeanor that will allow you to keep your eternal progression as a central focus.

If you concentrate each day on improving your relationship with our Heavenly Father, I testify to you that your faith will greatly increase, and your happiness will increase in step.


Sunday, August 8, 2010


Today I give my last talk in sacrament meeting!

(correction: in the Arlington Second Ward, before I leave)

This entry is really more of a test. I have a few people added to the "blog send" list. These people should get an email notification whenever a new post shows up on this blog. If you want to be added to the list, email my mom at

Washington D.C. Temple, Roland Wood and Mark Johnson

June 5, 2010 Barry and Roland Wood.  Mark and Jeff Johnson.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This Blog

Created to relay on my letters from the mission!

My parents will post them right here!

Nine more days until I leave!

Exclamation point!

At the moment I am very excited. I just went through all of the stuff i need to do over the next few days. Its a lot. I can get at least 90% of it done tho... that's an A right? Tis going to be a busy 9 days