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