Elder Merrill's Current Address

Elder Merrill's Current Address

Elder Nathaniel Merrill
Philippines Baguio Mission
PO Box 7 (po box for letters only)
Brgy: San Vicente East
Urdaneta City, Pangasinan 2428

Saturday, December 31, 2011


It has been a good week at the Missionary Training Center. Thank you for sending a coat, I got it the same day I sent the e-mail requesting it. That is an advantage of being only a few miles away. This week we became the oldest Tagalog speaking district of missionaries. Any other Tagalog speakers have been here for less time than we have. We are the example to all the Tagalog speakers. It seems like just a short time ago we were new, but now we are the oldest district. I am excited to get to leave for the Philippines in a few weeks.

Let me just say that I am glad to have a knowledge of the scriptures. I am pretty familiar with the New Testament, I can find the stories and parables of Jesus fairly easily. I also know where to find essential doctrine written by Paul and Peter in their letters. This is helpful when talking to Christians who already believe the Bible. I am also familiar with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon supports the Bible and so can build upon scriptures found in the Bible. The Book of Mormon also in many cases is clearer than the Bible. I wish I knew the Book of Mormon better than I do now, and I will continue to gain knowledge of it, but my knowledge and familiarity with the Book of Mormon has been very useful to me as I've been teaching lessons. In our most recent lesson while we were teaching a returned missionary he asked some difficult questions. He asked sincere questions about his own life and problems. I was able to answer his questions through the Book of Mormon. Because he already has a testimony and knows the Book of Mormon is true, by answering his questions using the Book of Mormon he knew that we spoke from God and not of our own minds. When you use the scriptures to answer gospel or life questions you can show investigators, or returned missionaries that what you say is true. Because I have a good knowledge of the scriptures in the Book of Mormon I was able to answer his questions. Because I knew the scriptures, the Spirit was able to guide me to the scriptures I needed to use. The scriptures I used were not scriptures I would have thought to use ordinarily, but in the situation they came to my mind and were the very scriptures and insights needed to answer his questions. I believe it is Doctrine and Covenants 100:6 that says the Spirit will bring to your remembrance in the very hour of your need. This is true, but if you never knew the scriptures you can't remember them. The Spirit will help you know which scripture to use but we need to fill ourselves with the knowledge of the Book of Mormon by studying it daily.

My Tagalog teacher told us about some words commonly used in the Philippines that we wouldn't usually learn. They are words that are slang words. There are some words that took him weeks in the Philippines to figure out what they meant so he has passed his knowledge to us so that hopefully we don't go through the same thing. Slang words aren't really found in dictionaries. The words he taught us are similar in nature to words like "gonna" in English. Where the word is really "going to" but when spoken fast is changed. He said some of those words took him a very long time to figure out because it was difficult for his Philipino Companions to understand and answer his questions. He also told us that many mission presidents will always put non-native Tagalog speakers with native speakers. This means that my first companion in the Philippines will likely be a native Philipino whose English is worse than my Tagalog will be. It will be hard, harder than it's been already, but I am looking forward to it, I am looking forward to everything. I love you all and appreciate your support.

Love, Elder Nathaniel Merrill


I appreciate all the letters I´ve been receiving from all of you so far, thank you for sending the letters you´ve sent. Mom asked me if I needed a coat, I have to say it is beginning to get a little cold, and may even snow soon so a jacket or coat would be nice. It´s not bad during the week, but on preparation day the only preparation day clothes I have are short sleeve shirts so a coat would be nice.
I saw Elder Gillespie today, he seemed to be doing well. My district is working hard at speaking Tagalog as much as possible. We try to speak only Tagalog, but usually English words are mixed in a little bit. We declared Saturday (tomorrow) a no English day. Not a single English word, straight Tagalog. We all agreed that it is going to be a hard and frustrating day, but that in the long run it will help us prepare for the Philippines. We are doing difficult things now to better prepare for the future challenges that await. I think the scripture is in D&C 38:30 that says if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
The lessons I´ve been teaching in the MTC have been going well. I feel that I speak the best Tagalog not when I´m preparing for lessons, but when I am there giving the lesson. Every lesson we taught this week was so amazing. In preparing for lessons I try to find every scripture I can about what we will be teaching, I try to think of everything that I might need in the lesson, and then in the middle of the lesson I will think of completely new things during the lesson, I will think of a scripture that I didn´t find. I can come up with scriptures that will help the investigator in the very moment it is needed and will be useful. Even after my careful preparations, when I am teaching the Spirit will help me to find and say things that I never prepared for. This happens many times during Teaching Resource Center when we teach members and Returned Missionaries, or when we teach our progressing investigators. An example from one of our progressing investigators Lenelyn, last week we taught Lenelyn and planned to leave her a specific Book of Mormon passage to read. However I gave a different passage to read at the end of the lesson. I didn´t even know exactly what that passage said, but I asked her to read that before our next visit. My companion was a little annoyed that I didn´t stick to our plan. This week when my companion and I started preparing a lesson for her, we both realized that the scripture we had given her to read was a perfect scripture for our lesson. We had a really good lesson and talked about the importance of the Holy Ghost, she was very receptive to our lesson. (We also had her read a scripture about the Holy Ghost that mentioned baptism by fire, which turned out to be a bad idea because we didn´t anticipate her being very afraid of being baptized by fire and our needing to explain that is was not really fire, but the Holy Ghost and the feeling in our hearts.)
The Progressing Investigators we have are not technically ´´real´´ investigators, they are playing a role as an ongoing investigator, but we are told to treat them as real investigators, and our teachers act as real investigators. The teachers here have been on missions and so play investigators based on real people with real concerns that they taught. One of our investigators named Conrad has a wife who is very Catholic and hates the Mormons, it is hard to resolve these concerns. We have the progressing investigators here to help us learn to teach and resolve investigator´s concerns before reaching the Philippines. When we treat the investigators as if they are real we can feel the spirit and teach effectively in the lessons and will be better prepared in the Philippines. The missionaries who don´t take the MTC seriously will not be prepared when the time comes.


I realized that you have asked a few questions about letters, I also realize that I haven't mentioned anything about my district that I'm in. You shouldn't send me emails because I have limited time on the computer. I read your letters before I wrote mine so I just have less time to write. Are you updating my blog with the letters I send home? You should either write through regular letters, or you can write through dearelder.com. I only read emails once a week anyway and wrote all my letters today before getting on the computer.
The Missionary Training Center schedule is a great schedule to live by. We get up at 630, breakfast is at 710 we work through the day and then go to bed at 1030. There is also a different hour for gym every day to exercise and stay in shape. The Missionary Training Center schedule is so very busy but it is the most productive schedule there is. We plan every night so that there is not any wasted time and can fully devote our time to learning the gospel and the language. The church really uses inspired programs and I am blessed as a missionary. There is no way that anyone could learn as much Tagalog as I have as quickly as I have without the gift of tongues. Any missionary in my district can speak Tagalog. My teacher Bro. Day mentioned that we speak better Tagalog now than any American he has met who tried to learn Tagalog not through a mission. I have learned that we really need to rely on the Lord in all we do, especially when we are doing his work. Proverbs 3:5 says to trust in the Lord and lean not to our own understanding. This is very true as a missionary. I just need to be humble and trust in God and I can do all the things that I am required to do. It has been great to see the increase of the Lord's blessings in my daily life.
I love you all, thank you for your support.
Sincerely, Elder Merrill


This last week has been pretty busy. My companion and I prepared and taught many lessons this week. Preparing for lessons is hard because of time constraints. We are learning Tagalog, which constitutes a large portion of our time each day, but our lesson also has to be prepared in Tagalog. This means that I can't say whatever I want, I have to carefully plan my statements based on what words I know how to say. Most of the companion ships translate English sentences into Tagalog and then memorize them for their lessons, but I try not to memorize any specific sentences. I have been trying to memorize verbs, words and sentence structure, and then trying to translate from English during the lesson. This can go very well, but can also sometimes be very stressful. I like this way though. I find that it really helps me to answer questions that are asked during a lesson. If I am giving memorized statements it is hard to answer a question, but if instead I know the words that would be useful in this lesson, I can form a new sentence on the spot. My favorite lessons to teach are when we teach returned missionary volunteers. This week we taught a returned missionary and the lesson went very well. During the lesson the spirit was very strong. We had a lesson plan and started to follow our plan, but I remembered a scripture that I decided to share with our "investigator" instead. I shared my scripture, which really had very little to do with what we were doing up until that point, and then explained a little of what it meant. That lesson I was able to speak such good Tagalog, I was able to remember words that I had only ever heard once before, and I remembered how to conjugate verbs, and I was able to do this all without needing to pause and think. After our lesson, the volunteer gives feedback. In the feedback he mentioned that the scriptures shared seemed like weird choices to him, but then he realized that was exactly what was needed. He also mentioned that although we didn't chastise him, he knew we taught with the Spirit because from our testimonies and words we was chastised by the Spirit. It was a really good lesson. I don't think I can adequately describe everything that made this lesson work so well, but it was quite an extraordinary experience. The gift of tongues is real, because I really couldn't remember half the words I used in that lesson. Most of the words I had only seen once before teaching that lesson, but yet I remembered them all for the lesson.
Every Tuesday there is a devotional where someone comes and speaks to the entire missionary body at the Missionary Training Center. This last Tuesday Richard G. Scott came and spoke. Elder Scott spoke about following the Spirit. He talked about how as we follow Spiritual promptings from the Lord, the Lord will be inclined to give us more. He said the best way to receive more promptings and guidance from the Spirit is to act on the promptings already received. He also said to write down our spiritual experiences so that we will not lose them later. He said that when we read back on those experiences we can be reminded of the Lord's blessings in our lives. He started to ask questions of the missionaries in attendance, he would ask a question and then usually expound and reflect upon the answer given. They were not deep doctrinal questions, but just basic principles. I'm not entirely sure why he asked the questions, but nonetheless he did. Guess what... he asked me a question. It was exciting, I got to speak to an apostle and answer a question in front of the whole MTC. Elder Scott gave a really powerful address. It was very cool to get to hear from him. The Spirit while he was speaking was very strong. I love being here and on a mission.
Love, Elder Nathaniel Merrill


So another week has gone by, and I am writing home again. A lot of things have happened this week, I don't know if I can share them all, I have only limited time to write e-mails. I appreciate all the letters and packages I have recieved from everyone, it nice to get mail on occasion. In your letter you asked what scripture to put on my plaque, I would choose 3 Nephi 18:20, that is a scripture I have always liked a lot. This week we learned more about how to teach. We actually eased up a little bit on the Tagalog and focused on teaching this week. While learning about how to teach investigators, I really came to appreciate the Mission Preparation classes I had taken from Bro. Templeman, Bro. Bott, and Sister Wight. Although I am still not completely comfortable teaching in Tagalog, I find that because I am comfortable and familiar with the doctrine, and how to teach in English it becomes less stressful for me than some of the other missionaries. I am so glad that we practiced teaching so much in Mission Preparation. I am also glad I memorized the First Vision, because now I have to memorize it in Tagalog, and it is easier for me because I am the only one in my district who knows it in English.
This week for the first time we taght at the TRC. I think TRC stands for Teaching Resource Center. At the TRC we teach real people who speak Tagalog. In the missionary purpose it states we are to invite others to come unto Christ, in the TRC we are supposed to invite others to come unto Christ. The TRC volunteers are mostly LDS returned missionaries, but when we teach them we can still help them to come unto Christ. When my companion and I were preparing a lesson to give, I felt prompted to give a lesson regarding prayer. We prepared some statements about prayer in Tagalog and looked up some scriptures. We ended up teaching a man who was born in Bagiuo and grew up speaking Tagalog, he went on his mission to Idaho. He was a really nice guy. We ran out of time while talking to him about prayer, and didn't say everything we had wanted to say, but the Spirit was present and we said some things that helped him. Afterwards he said that he was reminded about how important prayer is, and how he can pray at any time for help. I was so glad that we were able to bring others to Christ. The teaching I do is all in Tagalog, which means it is very broken and hard to understand. But even when teaching in broken sloppy Tagalog we can bring the spirit and bring others to Christ. I've come to see that the language is by no means most important. Learning the language will certainly help me to bring others to Christ, but the most important skill is following and teaching with the Spirit. I am glad I have learned to recognize the Holy Ghost in my life, it would be difficult now if I didn't know what the Spirit felt like. I wouldn't be able to follow those promptings, or bring the Spirit in my teaching. I know that what I'm doing is what the Lord wants me to do. I know that because he has told me through the Holy Spirit. I am out of time now, I think I type to slow because there is much more I would like to include. I love the Gospel, I love all of you at home.
Elder Nathaniel Merrill