Another week has gone by here at the MTC at an alarming speed. The reality that I am going to be in the mission field in 2 weeks is starting to set in. I feel like I have learned so much, but at the same time I have so much more to learn. My Spanish is pretty good, but I got a taste of what it is going to be like talking to native Spanish speakers this week while up at the temple grounds. My companion and I met a Spanish couple from Mesa and talked with them for a little bit. They were speaking so fast I could only make out the last words of what they were saying. I would've been able to understand them better if they just spoke a little bit slower.
That got me thinking that I should listen to talks at lds.org in Spanish to up my comprehension skills when it comes to listening. This past week was really great, especially because of the opportunity we had to listen to General Conference. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been this excited to watch conference, and also the first time I was able to watch or listen to every session.
I'm sure you guys heard they announced plans to build a temple in Hartford. What's really interesting is that I leaned over to the people sitting next to me and said "Hartford, Connecticut", before President Monson announced the 5 new temples. I was so astonished when he actually said it. It is really cool that we are getting a temple in our state . . . even though the Manhattan Temple is still closer. During that same session, I really liked Elder Holland's talk. He talked about how grateful he was for services the members of the church provide each other without recognition and, a lot of the time, anonymously. He related it to an experience he had with his parents paying for his mission expenses without him knowing. He said he didn't know if there was enough money in his bank account to cover the entire cost of his mission but he was never contacted by the bank so he figured there was enough. Upon his return home, he went to the bank and found out all of his money was still in his account, and his parents had paid all the expenses of his whole mission so he could have the money to start his life after his mission.
After that talk I felt impressed to thank you, Mom and Dad, for all of the support you have given and provided me that has gone unrecognized. Being at the MTC around so many people has helped bring me to a greater realization of how blessed my life has been in terms of my family and the types of things that I have taken for granted (not that I was completely ignorant to it before). My best friend here, Elder Duke, has lived on his own since he was 16 and totally provided for himself since then, though he is still very close with his family. He has paid for 3 years of college (started at age 17) and for all of his mission by working. He really reminds me of Dad in terms of his motivation and innate ability to be successful in all of his endeavors. That kind of attitude is something I want too, and know I can develop it on my mission if I try my hardest. So anyway, thank you for all of things you do for me that I have taken for granted, like letting me use your car, paying for my first year of college, all of the other stuff you do for me that I probably don't even realize.
The highlight of my week was easily the opportunity I had to sing in the Priesthood Choir for General Conference. It was so amazing standing there in the Conference Center and feeling the spirit of the Lord as we sang praises to Him and listened to the counsel of His holy Prophet and Apostles. It is something that I will never forget. I read in Mom's letter that you were able to see me in the video afterward. I watched it a bunch of times and saw myself twice. (Video link: http://lds.org/video/gc/index.html?bcpid=613844368001&bctid=621787340001. Mike is more visable when the time counter reaches 02:43 and briefly at 08:37. See photos at right to see where Elder Kinney is sitting the the choir seats.)
Something really cool happened yesterday. I was on the elevator going to the top floor of the building to my class after the Tuesday night devotional and to meet with our Branch Presidency to share things we learned. The elevator door opened on one of the floors to let more people on. To my amazement I was standing face to face with Brother Watkins (now President Watkins since he is a Branch President at the MTC now). I got off the elevator to say a quick "hi". It was really cool to see him. The first thing he said was that I looked like I had put on 60 pounds since the last time he saw me (do you remember he used to call me Skinny Kinney [when I was 12]). Anyway that was really cool! He asked about you, dad, and I told him you are on the High Council now. He was kind of in a hurry too so that's all the time we had to get caught up.
I wanted to let you know the last batch of beef jerky you sent was amazing. So many people said it is the best jerky they have ever had in their lives so definitely send more.
Love you - Mike