Monday, March 30, 2015

"Without the bitter, the sweet isn't as sweet"


I guess the phrase "Without the bitter, the sweet isn't as sweet" would be my only reaction to each of your emails about Aunt Joyce. I'm more in shock than anything that this occurred, but I think it was best that I found out through email rather than President Hobbs calling me. I'm sure he was going to call me tonight, and then realized you all would be sharing with me the news via email, but I'm glad it worked out that way. Each time he calls me late at night, I always expect the worst, and I don't think the news would have reached me so pleasantly this weekend.
I can hardly believe what kind of changes I've experienced out on the mission, this was quite a surprise to me. At first I was confused and then it turned to grief at the thought of Dad losing another sibling. I feel as though I didn't know Aunt Joyce well enough, but now what a treasure it is to me that I received a letter from her last summer that really 'tickled' her she said. I should've been smarter and less narcissistic before I left on my mission to take the time to thank her for her service to the Lord. I know the things she had to say could've helped me prepare better for this journey. Send my condolences to each of those struggling with the loss of Aunt Joyce, and remind them that earthly words can only do so much and to seek out the solace that comes from the prophets this upcoming weekend.

My good news would have to be that President Hobbs said in my email this week that he tried to move me to a different area this transfer, but he didn't feel right about it, and perhaps this was why. I would've been torn to have to bear this in a different area. Elder Brent H. Nielson visited our mission this weekend and he shared with us a different perspective to the Atonement of Jesus Christ that answered my prayers so immaculately, I was engulfed in the talks we were assigned to read and study prior to his visit. I've been having this paranoia that I'd forgotten what the Atonement feels like. I claimed to understand it, but I couldn't make sense of how to use it when I felt that I wasn't doing anything majorly incorrect. That's when I learned from Elder Bednar that the Atonement is to make bad people good, and good people better, to eventually become the best saints. I also learned this very important concept that will be helpful to those suffering. In all scriptural cases in the Book of Mormon, I learned that each character that understood the Atonement never asked the Lord to make their troubles vanish; but they asked Him to be given the strength to bear through whatever it was that they were troubled with, because if the Lord were to directly take those away from us, we wouldn't be able to be stretched to such capacities that enable us to become better people. In some cases, we pretty much have no other option than to rely, beg, or plead with the Savior for His strength that can be granted to us, and by so doing, we will find strength beyond our own. That revelation I received from this talk has helped me so much this past week and will continue to for the rest of my mortal existence, I am sure of it.

This week we had a really good balance of finding people to teach, and teaching the members/investigators in our ward. This week we also had a long meeting in Rancho and I survived a root canal! whoo! They're not as terrifying as they sound, but I definitely would avoid them at all costs. We started teaching a guy named Hema, who is Brother Moa's cousin. It's not very often we get new investigators in the ward who are actually Tongan, so this is a pretty big deal to us! He was raised catholic, but he has said that he wants to be LDS. He really loves when we come over and is excited to be taking the lessons that are preparing him for baptism. I'm hoping that by the end of this transfer, it will happen, because he's one of the 'dry Mormons', but not for long! The Lord blessed us with the growth of our teaching pool that involves Hema in it; we are very excited about it! We also had a really good lesson with one of our favorites, Ngalu Otuafi. He was in Sacramento for about a month, but is back and now has his Melchizedek priesthood! He will also be going to Utah for conference this weekend, which I myself am so stoked for. I love conference and I've been looking forward to it since October!
On Saturday, we had that meeting down in Rancho for most of the day, and then when we got back we went to dinner at Tui Aholelei's mom's birthday party. She turned 80, which is a big deal in their culture since a lot of Tongans don't make it to that age ha. Her family is mostly Methodist and there were SO MANY Polynesians, it was so great. There was food everywhere, I had some really good pig and octopus and Tongan cake. We took another set of elders because we went to the meeting together and they didn't want to eat any of the food, so we ended up going to Wendy's afterward too ha. The Tongan food is growing on me a lot actually! There was also a wedding on Friday for the Bishop's daughter and that was good too.

I may sound repetitive, but the Tongan ward is really great! There's never really a dull moment around him, they love to joke around, so I often have some type of smile on my face. The ward always takes such good care of us for dinner; it makes me sad to hear other misisonaries don't get fed every day ha. The Lord is still making our ward fruitful, I love seeing the progress in the members who want to make a change in their lives. I look forward to much more interaction with their culture while it still surrounds me. I've embraced so much of what the Tongans are like, maybe I've been around them a little too much (; just teasing, but I think you'd be surprised that when it comes to our punctuality with the Bennion family parties, we behave very similar to Polynesians; always late! haha. I love you all, and really hope everything's okay back home with the Lukers, and of course Dad and Grandma Bennion. I will pray for them and hope the Spirit will find a way to comfort you all at this given time. Take care everybody, have a great conference weekend, pay close attention to what the Lord is trying to tell you. We always need to be progressing in this life and He has the best counsel for us (:

- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion

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